Football: FA chief says record transfer fee is Manchester United's prerogative

LONDON • Football Association (FA) chairman Greg Clarke has defended Manchester United's right to pay agents multi-million pound fees amid reports that the Premier League club contributed to Mino Raiola pocketing £41 million (S$74.5 million) when they signed Paul Pogba.

"If that's what they're going to pay, that's what they're going to pay," he told the BBC at the Fifa congress in Bahrain. "They are accountable to their owners, they're accountable to their fans. "

France international Pogba joined United from Serie A giants Juventus for a world-record fee of £89 million in August. Fifa revealed on Tuesday that the world football governing body has asked United for information about the deal.

The transfer is being looked into after a new book called Football Leaks: The Dirty Business Of Football claimed Raiola was paid €27 million (S$41.3 million) by Juventus for the player's sale, €19.4 million by United on a contract to secure the player's signing, and €2.6 million by United on behalf of Pogba for negotiating his wage package.

Raiola's lawyers are preparing to defend their client amid concerns the agent may have breached third-party ownership (TPO) regulations. It is thought that part of his defence could centre on his claim, made during an interview with The Financial Times, that he did not hold any ownership of any of his clients' economic rights after Fifa outlawed the practice in 2015.

Raiola hinted that he or another party was involved in the ownership of Pogba when he joined Juventus from United in 2012.

"In this deal Juventus was not the only owner of the player's rights," the agent told The Financial Times in October. When it was put to him that TPO was banned, Raiola replied: "Not then (in 2012). Only afterwards." When asked if he owned a stake in any of his players before 2015, Raiola said: "Not often. But sometimes." Asked if Pogba was one of them, Raiola replied: "It's not TPO. Be careful with the legal definition of TPO."

Despite Pogba's arrival, United failed to contend for the Premier League title and former United skipper Roy Keane believes Jose Mourinho's first year in charge cannot be considered a success.

"They are now sixth in the league, I think they are 19 points behind Chelsea," Keane told ITV. "The manager and the players should be embarrassed by that."

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2017, with the headline 'FA chief says record transfer fee is United's prerogative'. Print Edition | Subscribe