In this edition of The Talking Game, editor Aditya Balaram interviews the head of acta7 and agent of the likes of Philipp Lahm and Owen Hargreaves.
Player agents play a massive role in the world of football by helping players choose their next professional destinations, ensuring that the players are valued right and facilitating for the meeting of all parties involved. Having started his football career with Bayern Munich and then moving on to coaching, Roman Grill decided to start acta7, an agency that helps top professional athletes. With the star players such as Bayern Munich and Germany captain Philipp Lahm, former Manchester United midfielder Owen Hargreaves and Piotr Trochowski among Grill’s clients, he has established acta7 as one of the top player consultancy agencies in the world.
1. Could you run us through how a transfer works, right from the point of a club admitting interest in a player to the player actually moving to the club?
Grill: Well, the process depends on different factors, so not every transfer works totally similarly. But normally the club contacts the agency of a player to indicate its interest. Our next step is to meet all acting persons of the club to recheck the interest and motivation. The following proceeding depends on the player`s present contract situation. If the club wants to engage the player after the end of contract the agent and the responsible contact person of the club only have to negotiate the conditions of a contract for the player in a second meeting. If the player has to be bought out of a contract the new club has to achieve agreement about a transfer fee with the current club in addition.
2. What is the role of an agent in a transfer?
Grill: To assess the player`s value for the club.
3. How much of a role do you, as an agent, have in helping a player decide which club to move to?
Grill: An agent is a consultant. It is his job to point out the risks and opportunities to help the player to make a good and safe decision.
4. What are the major differences in having professional agents like yourself and having a family member as an agent?
Grill: This question cannot be answered generally. It depends totally on the background and qualification of the managing family member and on the relationship between the player and his relative. The close contact could be blessing or curse.
5. How important a role did your stint with Bayern Munich play in helping you form a good relationship with the likes of Philipp Lahm and Owen Hargreaves?
Grill: Well, my time at Bayern Munich gave Philipp and Owen the opportunity to convince them of my professional competence. I obtained their confidence. In my opinion that`s the most important thing to build up a successful and long-term collaboration.
6. What are the factors that you take into consideration when deciding your cut in a transfer? Do agents ever end up incurring losses during transfers?
Grill: The factors that we take into consideration depend on the club and the player. First of all we conform to the usual practice of the club. Of course another important point is the player`s development and the question of whether we have made a substantial contribution to his career. In other words: Did we scout the player? Did we bring the player to the club`s attention and so on? And last but not least – even football observes to the law of supply and demand, meaning: What player are we talking about? Are we glad that the transfer takes place anyway or are we in the happy position to choose between different options? Taking in to account all these factors we decide about our commission.
You always suffer a loss during a transfer if one contracting party fails to fulfill the agreements.
7. What attracted Owen Hargreaves to trade the Bundesliga for the Premier League? How much of a say did you have in his move to England?
Grill: There have been especially two main causes for Owen`s decision: First, of course, was the attractiveness of Manchester United at that time and second a very personal motive as England is the country of birth of his parents. My task was – as described some minutes ago – to give him an overview about the pros and cons and to go through the formalities after Owen`s decision to change the club. It was not my intention to influence the decision process in one direction.
8. Are there any regrets from your side regarding the shift that Hargreaves made from the Bundesliga to the Premier League?
Grill: No. The Premier League is as attractive as the Bundesliga and Mancester United as a club is as interesting and attractive for a top athlete as Bayern Munich. Against his family background it was easily comprehensible for me that he decided to move to England. I think there are no reasons to regret this step.
9. Is it very different being the agent of Philipp Lahm? Could we ever see him leave Bayern Munich?
Grill: Not really. Of course different players have different characters and origins. But our job remains the same: to give advice and support to a player with excellent skills and to ensure that he makes a career corresponding to his talent.
Philipp`s contract with Bayern Munich expires in 2016. He feels more than comfortable playing for “his” club. So I cannot answer this question at the moment.
10. What are the craziest offers that you have ever received for any of your clients?
Grill: As it is well established that we are not crazy, we neither do receive crazy offers.
11. Talking about crazy, the amounts being spent on players today is growing incredibly fast. Do you think that there must be strict action taken in order to curb such spending? Would it hurt agents if this happened?
Grill: Well, I think, you cannot tell a company how it should pay its employees. Investment and risk will always be part of the game. For that reason I am sure that restrictions never will be too strict. A brilliant athlete will always earn enough money to ensure the basis of transaction of agencies.
12. How do you decide on which players become your clients?
Grill: Acta7 means “agency and consulting for top athletes”. So the name is already the answer to your question. We are looking for outstanding talents. Due to the long work with young and talented players we are able to develop trustworthy procedures for dealing with remarkable potential. The starting point is always the personality of the player and his football ability. Our target is to develop the young talent and lead him into the professional football.
TheHardTackle would like to thank Roman Grill for answering our questions and Katharina Schrott for helping conduct the interview. Do check out the acta7 website