Good Ol’ Fashioned Rant: Falcao, Monaco And The Perils Of Third-Party Ownership

By Chris Wright

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Look at that face. That is the face of a man who knows he’s made a huge ruddy mistake somewhere down the line.

After scoring 80-odd goals in two seasons at Atletico Madrid, it’s fair to say that Radamel Falcao could pretty much have his pick of who to join next – Barca, Real, Milan, Bayern, Forest – yet still he finds himself on the verge of signing a five-year deal at AS Monaco.

Now why is that?

Well, firstly, it’s because Monaco – who are these days owned by Dmitry Rybolovlev, Russian potash magnate and the 79th richest man in the world – will be chucking a fair chunk of a €60 million transfer fee at debt-ridden Atletico (who esteemed football finance blog Swiss Ramble once deemed “one of the worst run clubs in Europe“) in exchange for the Colombian striker, which we imagine helped smooth over the initial negotiations somewhat.

Secondly, it’s because Falcao has somewhere close to zero say in his destiny, thanks solely to the third-party ownership deal he has with The Doyen Group which was hammered out when he moved from River Plate to Porto in 2009. The ownership deal means that Falcao is now essentially owned by his agent, Jorge Mendes, who has purchased a controlling stake in the player and therefore has the right to do with his commodity as he sees fit.

These ownership deals mean that the third-party group make a large investment in the player; buying out his registration and image rights, giving him a better agent, bumping up or even paying his salary outright, hooking him up with top-line sponsors, increasing his exposure, subsidising transfer fees, etc and essentially putting him in the continental shop window (think Tevez and Mascherano at West Ham) in the hope that one day their man will become a star – as Falcao has since making his professional debut at the age of 13 – and they’ll make a tidy wee profit. It’s all incredibly cynical.

In return for this kind of lucrative career supervision, the player simply has to take his hands off the rudder and let his new overlords steer.

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Now, at this point we should be careful that this doesn’t turn into a “poor old Radamel Falcao” heart string tug-a-thon as the forward is definitely not suffering. On top of the money he’s already tucked away so far in his career, he’ll stand to make a further (tax free) £160,000-a-week at Monaco if reports are to be believed so he’s still a vastly wealthy man living in the lap of luxury when all is said and done.

The sad aspect is that a player with his obvious talent, poised on the cusp of becoming an elite global star, is going to be stuck playing on the notoriously mangy turf of Monaco’s Stade Louis II stadium in front of 15,000 Ligue 1 fans every week, rather than fulfilling his potential at one of Europe’s elite clubs.

We don’t wish to demean Monaco’s project – it’s kind of exciting in a “Fantasy Football to the Nth degree” way – or French domestic football in general but, despite what PSG and Les Rouge et Blanc are doing, it’s just not quite as illustrious or accomplished as the top end of La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga or the Npower Championship.

It just seems a terrible waste is all.

There are reports that Falcao is merely joining Monaco as a stepping stone on his way to Real Madrid as Atletico were unwilling to trade with their city rivals directly (a la Robert Jarni‘s brief sojourn in Coventry) but we’re fairly certain that Monaco’s legal bods would close any loophole allowing that.

And if it does turn out to have been engineered so that Falcao winds up at the Bernabeu in eight month’s time, with Monaco complicit in the whole ordeal, then football’s even more rotten and vile than we thought.

It’s one of those “lose/lose/lose” situations.

Posted in Featured, La Liga, Ligue 1, Opinion

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  1. Anabelle says:

    Chris, excellent article. Thank you for being one of the very few journalists to shed a light on these type of financial arrangements.

    I believe Neymar has one of these arrangements, only difference he’ll be playing for Barcelona.

  2. siucok says:

    Football is indeed rotten. I’m very sad if everything you write there is true. Someone should do something about this.

  3. Greg Evans says:

    Are they still lobbying for Monaco moving the club away from the tax haven that it is? I remember hearing something about it due to the financial problems of Ligue 1 and it basically being incredibly unfair on the other teams.

    • J.R. Gallagher says:

      How is it unfair to the other teams? If they’re at a disadvantage, take it up with the French government that’s taxing them out of business.

      It’s not Monaco’s fault that they’re doing things right.

  4. Martin says:

    +1 to Anabelle’s comment.

  5. J.R. Gallagher says:

    There’s one issue here that should be addressed:

    No matter what he signed on paper, no court would uphold an agreement so restrictive of his personal liberty to go and ply his trade wherever he sees fit. What you’re suggesting here is pretty much slavery, albeit expensive slavery.

    If Falcao wanted to play for Real Madrid, he’d be playing for Real Madrid.

  6. usrick says:

    A court in the United States or England would likely not uphold such an agreement, but I’m not so sure it would be the same in Chile, where the contract was apparently worked out and signed.
    There is also one other factor that deserves consideration: what does Falcao about the transfer to Monaco and about the third party ownership? As odious as the ownership arrangement is, Falcao may have his own reasons for preferring it to the arrangements we are accustomed to. And he may also have his own reasons for preferring to play in Monaco rather than in Madrid, Barcelona, Munich, or somewhere in England.

  7. sleeba says:

    He should do a Prince and change his name to a symbol like $ and write ‘Slave’ on his cheek for every game…or play shit on purpose.

  8. Nuno says:

    Great article Chris. It’s yet another billionaire with “too much money on his hands” (whatever that is, for us mere mortals) building a team from zero. Does Monaco already have a coach definitely appointed for next season? Or is this guy just buying players and the coming coach that deals with it?
    Thing is the reports are still contraditory on this deal, as there is now mentioned in Spain that the deal is “only” for 45 million (“only” because that’s what Atletico paid Porto a couple years ago), but Falcao would be earning some 14 million a year (270k per week, tax-free).
    Well, at least the newpapers are certainly going to have some great weeks for them, not only the usual transfer “rumors” (mostly inventions), now with this guy they even have the “potential 11” built (I’ve seen Valdes, Ivanovic, Coentrao and Tevez rumoured, joining the already confirmed Falcao, Moutinho, James Rodriguez and… yes, Ricado Carvalho – still alive as it seems…)

  9. Jarren says:

    Yes, an excellent & interesting article Chris.

    It may sound awful, but I really only know Falcao through FIFA.

    I really need to check him out on Youtube or something.

    As you say, no disrespect to Ligue 1 but it’s not the first league people turn to after their own domestic.

    Fair play to Falcao, there’s worse places in the world to be than Monaco.

    With the money he’ll be on, there’s probably few better.

    I’m sure Joey will welcome him with open arms.

  10. Maria Babbin says:

    Isn’t third party ownership banned by the EPL? I’m sure the Tevez/ Mascherano affair put paid to this.

  11. Sjakie Meulemans says:

    @ Jarren: So you have never seen Falcao play, but you do know Joey Barton? There have to be some fundamental changes in your life, sir.

  12. BW says:

    Yes, something global really needs to be done about third party ownership by FIFA, aside from the unsettling idea of owning and controlling another person it also means that an awful lot of money leaves football altogether. I’ve read that Santos only received 55% of the Neymar transfer money due to all of the third parties owning slices. Clubs, especially in South America, are selling percentages of their most promising players for a short term gain which results in “dead money” once they are sold that will go to private investors rather than remaining in football.

  13. Jarren says:

    @Sjakie Meulemans: I have to admit, you have me there.

    I await Falcao’s singular attacks on other teams :P

  14. brownie says:

    i thought falcao was edinson cavani for about 2 years. also, football manager players, does anyone know what ever happened to khouma babacar? is he even still alive?

  15. Emmanuel says:

    I have no gripes with Falcao joining AS Monaco. In fact I welcome it, and I’m rapidly embracing fine footballing talent being spread across throughout Europe. It’s a breath of fresh air to see world class talents playing in leagues outside the English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga.

    Yes, the aforementioned leagues are without a doubt the creme de la creme. But they aren’t the only leagues we football fans watch! France’s Ligue 1 is great — and has had 5 different clubs lift the league title for 5-6 years running! Talk about a competitive league! And Germany’s Bundesliga is also an exciting league to watch too!

  16. Manchester is Red says:

    Before Abramovich and Sheikh, there were no third party ownership. Their arrival saw the emergence of these dodgy arrangements. coincidence?

    I can’t wait enough for FFP to kick in.

  17. Damola Aderinwale says:

    Why is 3rd party ownership being blamed nobody forced him he gave away his rights , I dont know if he got paid for his rights or the club did ,he was made aware of this from the start . Why could not he bet on his talents like players like higuain. He got a good life now its time to pay the piper PLUS he gets 12 million a year!!! he is an adult not a 16 year old !!

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