Behind every great footballer in the modern game you can be sure that there is an agent pulling strings in their favour.
From Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to Gareth Bale and Mohamed Salah, agents carry out an important role in the background as they work to secure the best deals for their clients.
Film and television depictions of agents such as Jerry Maguire, starring Tom Cruise, and HBO's Ballers have served to boost the appeal of the job in the past few decades, not to mention the prestige of working with the biggest stars in sport.
There's no doubt that it can be a fairly lucrative business to get into, but it can be cutthroat too and involves a particular set of skills in order to excel in the role.
If you're pondering becoming a football agent, Goal has provided an overview of what is involved.
What is a football agent?
In football, an agent is a representative and intermediary who handles the interests of a player or multiple players. An agent's core responsibilities include:
- Negotiating contracts to achieve the best possible outcome for their client
- Securing lucrative endorsement and sponsorship deals
- Organising TV, radio and digital media appearances
- Providing journalists with access to players for interviews or newspaper columns
As well as taking care of the intricacies of financial issues, agents are sometimes tasked with managing a player's public relations as well by arranging interviews and curating their social media accounts.
Aside from matters of business, some agents form deeper relationships with their clients and they can occasionally become close friends who offer pastoral support in times of personal crisis.
While it is not unusual to encounter an individual agent working alone, they are more often than not part of larger agencies which manage hundreds of clients.
Family members will occasionally act as agents for players, often at the early stages of their careers.
How to become a football agent
It is a demanding role, so embarking on a career as a football agent is not something to be undertaken lightly.
Before you start looking, there is no course to complete or exams to undertake in order to become a football agent.
However, due to the nature of the job it is important to have extensive knowledge and understanding of contract law, as well as business management, so a suitable education is a step in the right direction.
Since 2001, there has been no such thing as a FIFA-licensed agent, with the world governing body trusting individual associations to handle the granting of licences to and monitoring of intermediaries.
In order to become an official agent or intermediary an individual must be registered to operate as such by the association of the country where their clients are working.
In England, where the Football Association (FA) handles the process of registration, those wishing to act as agents must comply with a test of 'Good Character and Reputation', as well as a criminal record check.
There is also a fee of £500, with a further annual registration fee of £250.
How much do football agents get paid?
How much money a football agent earns depends entirely on who their clients are and how many clients they represent.
Agents take a commission (generally anywhere up to 10 per cent) from the athletes they represent, so someone who acts on behalf of stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi will earn a significant fee.
According to Sports Management Worldwide, an agent can earn anywhere between £1,200 to £550,000 per Premier League client annually.
For agents of Major League Soccer players that figure ranges from $1,300 to $260,000.
Of course, some agents make millions each year, but that is an exclusive club.
What is a 'super agent'?
'Super agent' is the term used to describe an agent who is highly effective at their job to the point where they earn huge sums of money - in the millions - and wield significant influence.
They tend to boast an extensive client profile, which usually includes the biggest stars - and thus earners - in the game.
Their roster and reputation, in addition to their negotiation skills and contacts, marks them out as powerful - and sometimes difficult - individuals for clubs to deal with.
Individuals who have been referred to as 'super agents' in recent years include Jorge Mendes (whose clients include Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho), Mino Raiola (who has represented Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba) and Jonathan Barnett (Gareth Bale and Jesse Lingard).
How to find an agent
The football industry is packed full of agents and agencies who are eager to establish relationships with players so individuals normally don't have to look far in order to find representation.
However, sometimes a player may find themselves at the end of a contract with no intermediary, which can create problems when looking for a new club or negotiating a new deal.
Luckily, there are a number of agencies operating across the world and it is simply a case of reaching out to them for a meeting before making an informed decision on who to go with.
The likes of Gestifute, Triple S Sports and Entertainment and Stellar Football are among the biggest agencies in football, but there are plenty of others to assess too.
To help players, their families and clubs, the FA publishes a list of licensed intermediaries each year, which can be consulted.
Players should attempt to learn about pre-existing relationships between clubs and agents when considering their options.