Rodriguez's switch eased Reyes' route to Highbury

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Jesus Rodriguez Jnr has an understanding with Arsenal that is rare between agents and clubs. Arsène Wenger says that without Rodriguez's "positive influence", the recent £16.5m move of Jose Antonio Reyes to Highbury "would not have taken place". David Dein, Arsenal's vice-chairman, says "The agent was on our side". Their pronouncements tell only part of a fascinating story behind the most expensive purchase in Arsenal's history.

The transfer ultimately revolved around the special relationship between two Andalucian families. That bond also partly explains why Rodriguez will never receive a penny from Reyes for brokering the transfer, despite securing his 20-year-old friend an Arsenal contract worth a reported £38,000 per week until 2008.

Reyes and Rodriguez had contrasting upbringings. Reyes was born into a poor gypsy clan in Utrera, a small town south-east of Seville where he shared a two-bedroom flat with his mother, Mari, his brother, Jesus, and his father, Francisco, an electrician. His formal education was limited and he left school at 14. At 15, he signed his first contract with Seville, where he had been part of the youth set-up since he was 10. He made his Seville debut in January 2000 and was spotted by Arsenal soon afterwards. Arsenal had him watched 40 times between then and January this year, when Wenger finally got his man.

Rodriguez, the son of a sports agent, Jesus Snr, came to know the player when his father began looking after Jose's affairs when Jose was 12. A close bond grew between the Reyes family and Rodriguez Snr, who became a de facto rich uncle, benefactor and positive influence. It was natural that when Reyes needed a trusted personal representative, Jesus Jnr got the job.

Arsenal first made a bid for Reyes last summer. "I told David Dein, for that money [around £10m] we wouldn't give him Reyes' boots," Jose Maria Del Nido, Seville's president, said.

Del Nido did not anticipate that Seville would soon be on their uppers. By early December, Rodriguez Jnr was all ears to offers. He said the only teams in England who could afford Reyes were Chelsea and possibly Manchester United. Seville have confirmed to The Independent that Barcelona and Real Madrid also made inquiries about Reyes.

Wenger had originally not intended to buy during the transfer window but changed his mind due to injury worries. Dein flew to Spain in the last week of January, saying later: "When we first went over, we thought the door was closed."

The key turned out to be Rodriguez Jnr. At some stage (Dein has declined to say when), Arsenal hired him as their representative in the deal. Given Dein's "door was closed" statement, that might have been as late as the weekend of 24-25 January. Whenever it was, the deal "fell into place" by Tuesday 27 January. It had an innovative structure.

Under Articles 14 and 12 of Fifa's rules, an agent can represent only one party when negotiating a transfer and can only be paid by the party engaging his services. No other party, including his player, may remunerate him. The regulations are in place to prevent conflicts of interest. Without them, potential losers are threefold. The selling club could lose out if an agent, paid by an interested club, acts anti-competitively in influencing his player. The other two potential losers are rival bidding clubs and the player himself, for the same reason.

Arsenal's solution was to hire Rodriguez Jnr but ask him to renounce his right to earn from Reyes during the deal. He did. In accordance with Fifa rules, that meant he was paid - a sum thought to be around £600,000 - by only one party, Arsenal, and was not Reyes' agent in the deal.

"We can confirm that Arsenal has paid a fee to an agent in relation with the transfer," an Arsenal spokesperson said. "It was specifically agreed that the agent was not to receive any payment in respect of the transaction from any other person."

Arsenal will make ongoing payments to Rodriguez Jnr throughout the duration of Reyes' contract, but Arsenal stress this is not to compensate the agent for any loss of a percentage of Reyes' earnings. Rather it is part of Dein's wider philosophy of keeping agents in line - and acting in Arsenal's interests - by linking their earnings to players' long-term stability at the club.

Seville were happy with the deal. A spokesman said the club got the best price despite late interest from elsewhere, reportedly from Chelsea. The spokesman said that Seville will receive between €24.5m (£16.5m) and €28.5m (£19.2m), depending on Reyes' success.

Arsenal are happy, as is Reyes, who has settled in London with his family and girlfriend. The only distraught people are Seville's fans. But that is a family matter for Del Nido to resolve.