The Secret Footballer: Dodgy deals rife

The Secret Footballer claims dodgy deals are still rife in football, talks racism in the game and wonders what the future holds for Newcastle.

Last Updated: 17/09/14 at 15:33 Post Comment

Neymar: Barcelona charged with tax fraud over signing

Neymar: Barcelona charged with tax fraud over signing

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As a footballer playing in the Premier League, the Secret Footballer wondered whether people would be interested in knowing what life is really inside the game.

After a hugely popular weekly column in a national newspaper and two best-selling books, he has now joined TEAMtalk.

His anonymity allows him to tell fans how it is, from inside the game without the shackles of pre-conception or fan bias.

Read the Secret Footballer's regular insights from inside the world of football at and follow his views on Twitter @TSF.

- Meulensteen mistake: Last week, TSF criticised Fulham's decision to ever appoint Rene Meulensteen and explained how Manchester United can fund Wayne Rooney's deal.

- Fergie to blame: In his first column for TEAMtalk, TSF gave his thoughts on Michael Laudrup's exit, Leeds, Manchester United and Lee Cattermole.

Dodgy dealings common in football

The transfer of the Brazilian Neymar has been raising eyebrows ever since it went through but now Barcelona have been officially charged with committing tax fraud and forced to pay an extra €13.5million.

The fallout has already cost Sandro Rosell his position as president of the Catalan club. His replacement, Josep Maria Bartomeu, has since gone on record as saying that the actual fee paid for Neymar is in fact €86.2 million, which includes payments to the player and his family. That figure is much higher than the €57.1million that the club first announced.

A company that is owned by Neymar Jr has allegedly received €40million from the transfer, while the sum paid to Santos, Neymar's former club, stands at a relatively paltry €17.1million.

It won't surprise you to learn that securing a player through his parents has been going on for years and still goes on regularly.

At my first club, there was a very promising young player whose exploits in the youth cup that season had not gone unnoticed by the biggest clubs in the country.

One day, he brought in a bunch of business cards with the names of representatives of each of these clubs on one side and the club crest on the other. I vividly remember seeing him waving around a Manchester United card.

It is completely illegal but, at the same time, very easy to defend in court. You could have said that you wanted to talk to him about anything. Or you could have said that you'd posted the card through the wrong door. That practice still exists today.

Later, his parents would be offered cars, holidays and even houses, all designed to secure their son's signature. That still happens, more than you would think.

Also, clubs routinely give jobs within their corporate structure to the parents of promising kids. Even the father of the great Lionel Messi was given a job at Barcelona when his son signed for the club.

These 'gifts' are dressed up as doing the right thing for the player. After all, young players need a support network around them in a new area, otherwise they can easily go off the rails.

By the way, that 16-year old kid at my first club with all the business cards signed with the Professional Footballers' Association's agency - against everybody's advice - and was never heard of again.

Ashley investment may be over

Back at home, Newcastle United are really struggling - despite the 1-0 home win over Aston Villa on Sunday.

The loss of Yohan Cabaye was a big blow - but the £19million price was reasonable - and there are rumours that 10 more players could leave the club in the summer, many of them first-teamers.

That will understandably have many Newcastle fans worried given the lack of investment by Mike Ashley in recent times.

Sports Direct International, Ashley's discount sporting goods outlet, made a profit of £280.7million in the last quarter alone, and there are very few chairmen in the Premier League bringing in that kind of cash right now.

But the big question is whether or not Ashley still feels like using some of it to bankroll the club?

After all, he has invested heavily in Newcastle over the years and has received an awful lot of abuse in the process.

A few years ago, when he was really taking a lot of flak for Newcastle's performances and general state of affairs, I happened to bump into Derek Llambias, who at that time was Newcastle's managing director, in a bar in Soho.

I have to say that he was a really decent fella, and one thing that he said to me has stuck in my head: "Mike has invested over £200 million of his own money in Newcastle. I keep telling him that he's very unlikely to get it back but he's a fan. So what can you do?"

He probably won't get the money back, but you have to be lucky in business, especially the business of football.

For example, when Andy Carroll was a 19-year-old, Derby County bid £1million for him. Ashley wanted to sell but Dennis Wise, who was then tasked with reducing the wage bill at St James' Park, said "no".

Wise was adamant that Carroll 'had something about him' and that for £1million the club should keep the player and let him develop on Tyneside.

When Liverpool bought Carroll to replace Chelsea-bound Fernando Torres, Ashley sent a text to Wise. It read: "35 big ones. Cheers, Den."

As for the manager, Alan Pardew, he seems to take the praise with ease when Newcastle win and finds a lot of excuses that point blame as far away from himself as possible during the tougher times.

Chris Hughton's sacking at Newcastle came as a surprise to many but I was told that Pardew had been working on Ashley for months by hanging around the Ritz casino and gambling with him until they'd formed some sort of friendship. Suddenly, he's the Newcastle manager.

He is an interesting character but not my favourite person.

Racism campaigners must aid discussion

I can't let Carlton Palmer's recent comments go, I'm afraid. You may have seen the former Leeds United midfielder say that players who have racist comments aimed at them should "grow up and accept it".

He added: "If you want to intimidate me about my colour, which has happened loads of times, then I'll just laugh it off.

"If I'm stupid enough to get involved with you because you're calling me a black something or other, I'll just laugh it off. I played at West Ham and they were chucking bananas on the pitch. I ate the bananas, I love them!

"It doesn't worry me. I'm not interested in that. I'm just interested in winning the football game."

Now Carlton may have been able to position his mind to accept racist comments on the pitch, through years of experience and simply because he is a strong character.

But what about the talented 16-year-old black kid who plays football lower down the leagues and is being abused every week and simply can't handle it?

What about the black teenager who told me only last week that he wanted to walk off a pitch in Sweden, while he was on loan with a team there, because the crowd were calling him a "monkey"? He was too scared to do it because the crowd would have followed him and he'd have been on his own.

This is a different era to that of Palmer. The point is that nobody should be expected to "accept" racism.

People like Steve Biko, the South African activist in the 1960s and 70s, lost their lives fighting against apartheid and racism precisely because they refused to "accept it".

Palmer's comments became interesting when he said: "Some people for me - and some players, some black players - have used this as an excuse. And then the ones who have actually been racially abused, those incidents are not being dealt with."

Everybody who I speak to believes that these quotes were directed squarely at Jason Roberts, the Reading striker and a man who it is felt among some players talks about racism almost as often as John Obi Mikel plays a sideways pass.

People who talk that much about one subject, in the manner that they do, don't aid discussion.

Instead, they risk hindering it, because everybody else becomes too petrified to pass comment. It is as if they feel they're going to be held up as a racist, no matter what they say about the subject.

Certainly, I've seen players being interviewed who have stopped themselves from saying the word "black" because they are so unsure of the ground they're standing on. It has become ridiculous.

Nobody is sure what is the right thing to say because they are repeatedly bashed over the head from one side in an aggressive and know-all way. So they say nothing.

And for me, that is not only a very sad place to be but also an extremely dangerous place to be.

We must stand up to racism in all its forms. But there has to be a way of engaging and educating ignorant people that would ultimately be better than stumbling blindly from one individual case to another while pointing the finger wildly at anybody in between and scaring the vast majority of decent people into silence.

When that happens, relations between people do not narrow. Invariably, they become wider.

Read the Secret Footballer's regular insights from inside the world of football at and follow his views on Twitter @TSF.

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