Staying in football after retiring as a player brings few options for those coming to the end of their careers. Traditionally, the choices were going into coaching, becoming a pundit or buying a pub for your former teammates to drink in.
Some former professionals are taking a different path by looking after the next generation of footballers as agents. After careers of high and lows, paying it forward while earning a livelihood is becoming a more appealing prospect.
When Mikkel Beck retired as a player in 2004, he considered how he could continue in football. The usual options were not appealing to the former Denmark and Middlesbrough striker. The prospect of managing footballers, しかしながら, was tempting for a man who wanted to decide his own fate, while helping others with theirs.
“The profession as an agent was not very well seen,」と彼は言います. “There had been some bad stories about agents who had not looked after their players and television programmes showing the bad side of some agents’ work. It was an important decision to take as I was going down a path where people were negative.
“If you become a coach, nothing really changes from being a player. You cannot really organise your daily hours; everything is more or less scheduled, you can’t do what you want with your family. It is the same as being a footballer or even worse.
“I wanted a little bit of freedom. I was ready to work hard and I thought there would be a lot of travelling, meeting different people and I could use the five languages I speak. I like to meet young, talented footballers and try to help guide them to have big careers – that was something that looked interesting to me.”
Beck’s company, Beckster, works with clients including Simon Kjær, Mat Ryan and Lucas Digne. He knows the many pitfalls facing players, even at the top. It is not a philanthropic business but Beck insists he is in it to use his experience to save others from mistakes rather than for the money.
“I believe those agents that think it’s all about making money are very, very wrong, as I don’t think negotiating a contract for a football player is the only thing that the agent has to do – it plays a small part,」と彼は言います. “You have to be able to help the player find the right club and negotiate the best possible contract for him, but the work just starts there for a player at a new club. There are so many issues that arise and so many questions he will ask you and you have to have answers for all of them.
“You need a team around you of different people: lawyers, tax advisers, financial advisers, people that can help with finding accommodation. The role of the agent is to help the player concentrate on playing football. Whatever happens on or off the pitch, you have to help them to solve the problems asap, so he can then concentrate on his football. Good agents are very good at that.”
At the other end of the spectrum is the former Watford and Brighton winger Will Buckley, who has just started out in the profession after becoming fascinated with his own contract negotiations and clauses later in his career. The 31-year-old retired from playing in 2020 to set up WEB Sports Management and he is looking to emulate Beck’s success on his own, battling the big agencies for young talent.
Although he had good experiences with agents during his career, Buckley spotted a gap in the market. “I did not have any ex-footballers as an agent and that was the only downside,」と彼は言います. “I didn’t have anyone to speak to about things that were going on on the pitch – their expertise was in contracts and knowing managers. No one could help me on the pitch.
“I thought, there needs to be more ex-players going into it. You go through things as a player which everyone will at certain points in their careers. So if we, as agents, can give our knowledge back to players early in their career then it can only help them.”
Buckley’s roster of clients is small, consisting mainly of youth players and young professionals. New players arrive via word of mouth or from matches where Buckley spots potential future professionals, as he looks to expand. A 12-year career as a professional also means contacts in the game are not hard to come by.
“My take on it is, ‘What else, as an agent, can I offer the player?’ especially when it comes to things I didn’t get help with. I’ve got a sports psychologist on board with me and a nutritionist. I was at some clubs where you wouldn’t get help with nutrition or boot deals. It is good to specify the areas I didn’t get help with and give that to my players to help build their careers and mindsets.”
While Beck and Buckley are trying to guide the current generation, they may be unwittingly doing the same for others in their life after football, あまりにも.