Ex Nigerian international Stephen Ayodele Makinwa whose decision to become a football agent was influenced by Henty Ezekiel’s advice that he quits football and manage him. He had one agent all through his football career, Silvano Martina, who is also goalkeeping legend, Gianluigi Buffon’s agent. “I always trust whatever he brings to me, mine is just to focus on my own playing.”
Talking about his model of agency, he said “What I realised then that helped me was that I quickly realised that agents are not the ones that makes the players but the players make the agent. I always tell my players and that’s why I think Ezekiel loves me so much. I tell my players to give me something to work with and if you give me something to work with then I’d use my own connections, experience and expertise to do something. I’m always open with my players and we’re friends and brothers.”
His experiences as a young boy who left Nigeria to Europe helped shape his mentality, this is same mentality Makinwa is imbibing in his players. “I remember what I noticed, sometimes when you’re living in Nigeria you think about some things. I remember one day when we just got to Reggio Calabria, that’s where Reggina is, we lived in the training complex. We saw coaches arrive in bicycles and we were like what’s going on here? We were like they are poor, that’s our mentality. It was summer then. Everything was amazing.”
He doesn’t think Nigerian players respect Nigerian agents enough, but he sees it as an understandable situation because everyone have done different things and has their experiences. So he doesn’t blame anyone who doesn’t trust because of a bad experience. Another influencing factor he sees to it is the African mentality of underrating each other and seeing whites as superior. “I don’t think they respect us but I don’t know how to feel as a player with black agent because I never had one but then as an agent I’ve tried speaking to many people, to convince them even though I was in a very good position to help them but they preferred white agents.”
Reputation precedes you in football when you hear a Brazilian the first thing that comes to mind is a fantastic player, but when you hear Nigerian players you’d think he’d be physical, strong and can be an age cheat. This prompted the question on whether it’s why white agents are more sought after. “I think the best way to answer that is you cannot also put everybody in the same category. So many white agents are as bad as so many black agents. There are many black agents as good as the white agents. The only difference is in the opportunity is what we lack.
If the black agent has good players and connection then he is as relevant as the white agent. If you have good players, you don’t need big agents. If I have a player that is scoring 20 goals a season I don’t even need to make calls, they’d call me, that is how it is. It is when the players are not doing well that you find it difficult.” In Serie A today, my colleagues from playing days hold positions in all clubs, coaches, sporting director especially Lazio. I only need the quality to talk there.
Makinwa on whether an agent can do a deal alone or in collaboration with other agents said; “It’s not possible to make a deal alone, the last one I did in collaboration with other white agents, we were about three that did the deal but normally and generally when you’re making all these transfers, for example, Ezekiel’s move to Slovakia, I did that alone because I know the club and they’ve been begging to sign him for years and for some reasons we’ve not been able to achieve it but finally we did it.” He’s always open to working with other agents provided they’re serious. That’s why most of his players move a lot, he’s not greedy and doesn’t always want to do the deals alone.
He as a Nigerian that understands the mentality and sensibility of young Nigerian players think it is better for Nigerian players to work with Nigerian agents because if the level of connection is the same, you have that advantage as a player to work with somebody that understands your culture and your feeling and responsibility. He sees that as an advantage for both player and agent.
He’d consider it a breakthrough to have his players play in top leagues. He believes It’s about the quality of the player. “It takes time for some players to get to their peak and some never reach the peak, but as time goes on it’s football anything can happen. It also depends on how things work for you, how dedicated you are. For example, look at Ighalo, that is one blessed player. He made his way gradually to the top.”
Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen has been linked to the Italian club, Napoli. Osimhen has debunked rumours of his move to Napoli but Makinwa believes Napoli would offer him a good platform for his growth and advised him to consider the move. He also hinted that another Italian club had also earlier shown interest in Victor Osimhen.
“Victor Osimhen, when he was doing well, Lazio wanted him, I have the papers but they didn’t see the reason to spend the money,” Makinwa concluded.