Tony Gillan: Manchester United’s Anthony Martial affair show agents are divisive presence

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho
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We knew it would happen one day. The law of averages dictated it. But it was still a shock when it happened on Saturday.

José Mourinho said something that wasn’t wilful gibberish.

The Manchester United manager is understandably narked by the crude attempts of Anthony Martial’s less-than-subtle agent to effect a transfer of the player that would doubtless stuff even more unneeded cash into his own insatiable bank account.

Mourinho said bluntly: “I know he’s a top talent, but he needs to listen to me, not his agent.”

United pay Martial’s wages. His agent does the opposite. The sponger in question is Monsieur Philippe Lamboley, who has been filling Martial’s head with hocus-pocus for a while.

Last November he tried to start a fight between player and club with some hot air about Martial being “hurt” at losing his number nine shirt to Zlatan Ibrahimović, who is apparently quite good.

Lamboley now wants to “help” Martial, who is coming across as a very naive 21 year-old, by “studying the Sevilla option in detail;” blithely indifferent to the player being contracted until 2019 and that there is no “option” if United say otherwise.

As often happens with agents, the tail is wagging the dog.

Martial is understandably frustrated at being on the bench, where he was pointedly left by Mourinho at West Ham on Monday for the entire game.

But for such a young, hugely paid player to understudy Ibrahimović, who has won 11 league titles in four different countries, does not sound like the purgatorial torture that his agent seems to believe.

Added to the fact that Sevilla are not half the club that Manchester United are (winners of La Liga just once – in 1946), a move to Spain makes no sense in footballing terms. In agent-trousering-cash terms it makes eminent sense.

I won’t feign a particular interest in the welfare of Martial, Manchester United or, heaven forfend, José Mourinho. But this grubby state of affairs is emblematic of the disease in the game that is agents.

The players have it in their power to immunise the game by simply having nothing to do with them. It has been done. Transfers and negotiations can be conducted without agents. Proper use of lawyers, accountants and the PFA could see to that.

But it won’t happen. The egregious presence of agents will continue and they will remain impervious to attaining the same level of respect as politicians, bankers, Philip Green, “spiritualists,” train operators, people who smash up bus shelters...