Unlike Josh de Caires, Michael Atherton’s cricketing son who uses his mother’s surname so as not to trade on the ready association with his father, the Argentinian footballer Maxi Biancucchi does not shirk from familial relationship. He likes to be known by the nickname: “El Primo de Messi”, or Messi’s Cousin. 

And over the weekend Messi’s Cousin cheerfully weighed in to the controversy over his relative’s putative move away from Barcelona (oddly Lionel Messi does not go by the reciprocal nickname of Biancucchi’s Cousin).

the gargantuan buy-out clause in the player’s contract represented a restraint of trade. ” data-reactid=”19″>“If he were happy at Barcelona he would have stayed there,” Messi’s Cousin told an Argentinian radio station, arguing that the gargantuan buy-out clause in the player’s contract represented a restraint of trade. 

He did not say so by chance. The organisation that surrounds the world’s most renowned sportsman does not allow unauthorised outbursts. Messi’s people are remarkably careful to ensure nothing untoward happens to damage to the reputation of the man at the centre of the business. That is largely because Messi’s people are, literally, Messi’s people. His father has long controlled his career. His cousin is his spokesman. The family provide a human shield. And they speak as one. Next week don’t be surprised if the man who likes to call himself Messi’s Brother-in-Law reveals that the player once visited Maine Road as a boy and developed a lifelong fascination with the Kippax Stand. Surely it is now time to allow that love to be fulfilled.

And the Messi approach is one being borrowed across the game. Kylian Mbappe’s agent is his father. Neymar Senior is estimated to have earned over £100 million adeptly steering his son’s career. In England, too, Marcus Rashford’s agent is his brother. At Chelsea, when it comes to discussing the terms of Callum Hudson-Odoi’s contract, the club know they will have to negotiate with his father, the formidably named former Ghana international Bismark Hudson-Odoi. And one leading Premier League star recently sent his brothers to a super-agent’s office to discuss signing him on. They simply wrote down the details of what the man insisted he could do to further their sibling’s career, took the necessary online courses and announced themselves their brother’s agents. 

The idea is an attractive one. Why allow an outsider to hoover up large quantities of commission when you could keep it all in house? Far better, too, for a player’s wellbeing not to have a dodgy agent undermining his relationship with his club in order to profit from an unnecessary transfer. Keeping it in the family allows best interests to remain at the heart of the business. 

constantly finding grievance with one employer in order to gain a financially beneficial move to another.” data-reactid=”27″>Or at least that is the theory. It does, however, depend on the family member not becoming intoxicated by wheeling and dealing. A recent Netflix documentary attempted to launder the reputation of Nicolas Anelka, casting him as a misunderstood romantic who merely loved the game. Unfortunately, the more you watched, the more you realised he was actually a willing collaborator with his brothers in a deliberate business strategy: constantly finding grievance with one employer in order to gain a financially beneficial move to another.

It was a modus operandi that clearly appealed to Danijel Arnautovic. He brilliantly wangled his brother Marko out of Stoke City to make a lucrative move to West Ham. Within moments of him arriving, however, the brotherly agent was at it again, insisting his client wanted to head to China. West Ham initially capitulated to the threat and increased Marko’s wages. So far, so clever. Until Danijel upped the ante six months on, eventually moving his brother to the far east before he had opportunity to make his mark in east London. Marko’s career is now treading water in the cash reservoir that is the Chinese Superleague. Oh well, it made them both rich. 

And at least they are still together. Unlike the mistress of insider agenting and her first client. A former showgirl called Wanda Lara was fruitfully looking after her husband Maxi Lopez’s affairs until she spotted a more lucrative opportunity in the same Inter Milan dressing room. When she signed up Mauro Icardi, she dumped Lopez not only as a client but as a husband too. She is now known as Wanda Icardi. Which is proof that in football, business and pleasure do sometimes mix.

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