Marc Madiot has responded with outrage to the new that football ‘super-agent’ Jorge Mendes is making a foray into professional cycling.
In a typically impassioned appearance on French radio station RMC, the Groupama-FDJ manager said it would be “catastrophic” if Mendes and others sought to bring a football-style transfer market to cycling.
Last week it was announced that Mendes’ Polaris Sport agency, which represents star footballers such as Cristiano Ronaldo, had partnered with the Corso Sports agency run by João Correia. Portuguese riders João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Rubén Guerreiro (EF Education-Nippo) will be represented by Polaris, while the riders on Corso’s books include Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo).
“If Mendes is Almeida’s agent, then Almeida will never come to my team,” Madiot said on RMC.
When it was pointed out that Giro d’Italia champion Geoghegan Hart and former world champion Pedersen were part of the wider agency, he responded: “Well they won’t be coming here either then.”
Madiot made the point that football agents like Mendes have cashed in by brokering deals in a transfer market that has inflated massively in recent years.
“I don’t want the football system,” Madiot said. “The system of agents in football, what’s that? It’s having a portfolio of players and making them move as often as possible in order to go to the bank as often as possible.
“They gamble in an expanding financial bubble. Where is football right now with that financial bubble, with everything that’s going on at the moment with COVID? They are staring into the abyss. And we want to let people like Mendes into cycling? I don’t want Mendes in cycling. He can stay in Portugal with his footballers.”
Cycling’s transfer market operates in a different way to football, where players are commonly traded for multi-million fees while still under contract. While the ‘Bosman ruling’ allows players to run down their contracts and move without a fee being paid, long-term contracts are commonly negotiated so that the club can command a fee if the player does seek to leave.
In cycling, despite rare discrepancies, riders are given short-term contracts and are not considered ‘on the market’ until they approach the end of them, at which point they move on without money changing hands between teams.
“Of course we have agents already in cycling, but there is one extremely important element in cycling, which is that a contract has a fixed duration, and you respect the duration of the contract,” Madiot said.
“That means that if a rider signs with me for two years, he does his two years. At the end of that, he is free and I am free. If I have 10 euros, I spend 10 euros – I don’t gamble on the five euros I could potentially earn upon the re-sale of a rider.”
At the moment, Polaris Sports itself only officially represents two Portuguese riders, but Madiot warned of the dangers of Mendes and others expanding their influence.
“There’s one thing he needs to learn but I think he knows already… he’s not going to earn in cycling what he earns from football. Maybe he has other ideas in the background, and they’re not good. I think these people want, at a given moment, to take over the general system in cycling, and that’s even more catastrophic.”