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"The agent is the 10% man who is trying to earn his money by hook or by crook..."

This week the Siya crew caught up with top UK football agent, Matt Kleinman. 

Having been indirectly introduced to the football agency world through Lucas Radebe, Mark Fish and Shaun Bartlett, Kleinman is the man who looks after Bafana Bafana captain, Dean Furman.

In this week’s edition of Soccer Laduma, issue 898, we invited you, our readers, to log on to the Soccer Laduma Supporters Club, where you can read an exclusive interview with Kleinman. 

Kleiman explains why Furman is not playing at a higher level of football in England, and touches on the lack of loyalty in football. 

The Siya crew’s Joe Crann got in touch with the football agent.

Hope you enjoy the read. Cheers... Eddie.

 

Joe Crann: Matt, cheers for taking the time to chat from the UK. First up, can you tell us how you ended up in the agent game in the first place?

Matt Kleinman: I was very fortunate. I used to play Sunday league football and one of the guys that played there happened to be a lawyer who acted as an agent for players like Lucas Radebe, Mark Fish and Shaun Bartlett. This was back in 1998 when Mark was moving from Lazio to Bolton, Shaun was at FC Zurich and Lucas was at Leeds.

JC: Right…

MK: This chap, Gary Blumberg, very kindly offered me the opportunity to work with him effectively as his PA, where I got to know the players and learn about the South African market, even though I was working in the UK.

JC: So there has always been a South African connection with you, was that one of your reasons for choosing to work with Dean Furman?

MK: I have actually known Dean since he was about eight-years-old, I was coaching him when I was a teenager when my brother asked me to go help out at their team. They had a very strong U9 team and three of the boys got picked up by Chelsea, Dean being one of them, and Dean was the only one that got kept on after that trial period. 

JC: Oh okay, interesting.

MK: You could always see with him that he had ability, and more importantly, a desire and a hunger to win. I knew he was South African, but I actually only reconnected with him again when he was about 15, when he was at Chelsea.

JC: There was talk of him coming back to South Africa at one point. What happened there?

MK: I’ll be honest, there was nothing too serious in South Africa. There were tentative talks but I think there is always the understanding that players want to play their football in England.

JC: Yeah…

MK: The top players want to play in places like Spain and England, largely because of the lure of the Premiership and La Liga, but also because it’s where most of the money is. They want to look after themselves financially.

JC: One thing that a lot of people here are asking is why Dean doesn’t play at a higher level in England? Why is he in England’s third tier?

MK: The type of player that Dean is, there are a number of them available, and on free transfers like him. He’s the sort of player that is combative, somebody that will win the ball in midfield, do it simply and be very efficient.

JC: Sure.

MK: He’s always very critical of his own performance, but I think his strongest trait is his consistency. He’s very rarely less than a 7 out of 10 in games. Where Dean is different from 99% of players is his attitude, he is on a totally different level to most. 

JC: Definitely. We’ve seen that first hand for Bafana Bafana…

MK: One thing I’ve always said this about Dean, ever since he was 15, is that he has an innate ability to adapt to the level that he’s playing at, he’s like a chameleon. I think that’s why he’s been so successful at international level with South Africa, for instance playing against a world-class team like Spain, where he was outstanding. I have no doubt that, whatever level he’s asked to play at, he could cope.

JC: Yeah…

MK: Unfortunately there are plenty of players like Dean Furman in England, whereas there aren’t many in South Africa, and that’s why he stands out.

JC: For sure man. I presume you’ve got some sort of contact in South Africa given your links with SA players?

MK: I wouldn’t be representing the South African players that I do if it hadn’t been for Glyn Binkin. He was the one that introduced the likes of Mark and Eric Tinkler to Gary in the first place when he was the Bafana admin manager, a role he later left to become an agent.

JC: Yep, he’s very well known nowadays.

MK: Since then he’s gone from strength to strength and has been very successful in South Africa. It’s very rare in the business that I’m in for me to say that I can trust someone implicitly, Glyn I can.

JC: Why is that?

MK: He looks after his players with a duty of care that you rarely see over here in the UK. He’s since introduced the likes of Bongani (Khumalo) and KG (Kagisho Dikgacoi) to us, and we basically look after Glyn’s players here, just as he would do for us if we had any in South Africa.

JC: What do you feel is the most difficult thing about your industry?

MK: I think that, like any business where there is a middleman, like estate agents of football agents, we’re all tarred with the same brush. The agent is the 10% man who is trying to earn his money by hook or by crook, who is totally immoral, and yes, it does happen in this industry, but it can come from agents, from clubs, from managers, or even from players.

JC: Go on…

MK: Loyalty is rare. You only have to look at how long a manager gets these days, six games is pretty much all the time they get. I personally think people need time to prove their worth. The lack of loyalty between players, agents and clubs, is not a very nice aspect, there’s not much of it out there.

JC: I’m sure.

MK: We sign contracts with our players, we want to honour them and do everything that we can for the players, and hope that that is reciprocated. Some players unfortunately don’t want to honour their contracts and leave. 

JC: Finally, have you had any strange requests from your players in the past? What’s the weirdest?

MK: Absolutely! I’ve had to put dogs in kennels before while players have been away on holiday. I’ve also had to bail players out of some strange situations too over the years, but we’re not just there for the players in the good times.

JC: Of course.

MK: I think people show their true colours, Joe, in times of adversity, and that’s when we’re asked to step forward and show our true worth. I don’t think it’s good luck that we look after our players for 10 years or more. What good is the warmth of the sunshine without the cold and the rain to make it sweet?

JC: Well said dude! Thanks again for your time man.

MK: My pleasure Joe, chat soon.

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