There’s one element of Erkut Sogut’s debut novel that, he admits, belongs squarely within the realm of fantasy. Soccer isn’t, he wants to emphasise, actually controlled by a cabal of superagents who will resort to anything — sabotage, match-fixing, kidnapping, murder — to maintain the sport and its riches of their vise.
All the pieces else, he maintains, is real. Greater than that, in truth: The plot of his book, “Deadline,” a thriller set against the backdrop of soccer’s transfer market, is drawn from firsthand experience. Sogut has spent 15 years as an agent, and he’s best known for his longstanding association with Mesut Özil, the onetime Arsenal, Real Madrid and Germany playmaker. It’s a world, he said, that doesn’t demand a terrific deal of poetic license.
The portrait of the industry he paints isn’t a flattering one. His characters are, by and huge, hucksters and vultures, charlatans and sharks, operating in a sport rife with corruption and addled with cronyism. It’s, though, intrinsically familiar: Soccer has grown accustomed to the depiction of agents as puppet masters in sharp suits and designer sunglasses, wielding ultimate influence over the fates of players and teams.
That image, though, the one which suffuses Sogut’s novel, doesn’t quite capture the fact of the industry because it stands now. The likes of Jorge Mendes — consigliere to Cristiano Ronaldo and José Mourinho — could also be solid as rainmakers possessed of sufficient clout to bend the entire market to their will, but they increasingly look like the exception, moderately than the rule. The world of agents is in convulsion, soccer’s latest battleground between latest money and old hands.
Though FIFA’s controversial decision, in 2015, to deregulate the industry opened the doors to any member of the family or friend who wanted to enroll to represent a player — a move that turned a chaotic and irrevocably murky world right into a “complete free-for-all,” as one agent put it — probably the most significant latest entrants lately haven’t been cowboy operators hoping to make a fast buck but established corporations panning for brand spanking new fortunes.