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Wednesday, 17 July, 2002, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Agents of fortune
Ridsdale (right) is angry about Ferdinand request

Peter Ridsdale is too polite to spell it out in capital letters - but it is not hard to detect he feels Rio Ferdinand is being driven from Leeds United accompanied by dark dealings.

Leeds United's chairman is a firm believer in an open-door policy when it comes to Elland Road affairs.

It has earned him the tag of a publicity-seeker in some eyes, but in reality he is a breath of fresh air in a game that is shrouded in so much unneccessary secrecy.

But even Ridsdale's patience is being tested by suggestions that Ferdinand faces the toughest choice of his life deciding between Leeds United and Manchester United.

Ridsdale's fury is understandable when he remains adamant in his belief Ferdinand actually has no choice to make.

He said: "Someone, somewhere seems to be conducting this whole business through the media and I find that very disturbing."

Disturbing maybe - but hardly new.

Of course there is no suggestion from Ridsdale that Manchester United are the force behind the manouevrings, but this brutal fact of football life will come as no surprise to the worldly-wise Leeds chairman.

Anyone with even limited media experience has a story to tell about the twists and turns of a transfer before the player in question is pictured holding the scarf aloft and pledging undying love to his new employers.

Managers. Agents. Players. Media.

We are all as guilty as each other. We know the rules - and play the game.

Media contacts agent. Agent floats idea. Story appears. There are several variations on this theme.

And don't pin all the blame on agents, they can be used as much by managers as the other way around.

Everton's manager David Moyes came under fire from Richard Wright's agent Jonathan Barnett last week, who claimed the Scot's interest in in Arsenal's goalkeeper was a tranparent attempt to force Derby to sell top target Mart Poom.

Managers will tip the media off about players they are interested in, much like throwing a pebble on a pond and seeing how far the ripples spread.

One famous manager, renowned for his obstructive attitude to the media, contacted a journalist to pour his heart out about missing out on a major signing to his nearest and fiercest rivals.

"You can use that," he said in an act of rare co-operation and generosity.

Imagine the reporter's surprise when he discovered 24 hours later that the reverse was true and the player in question had already signed for the supposedly mournful and defeated manager.

"That's the way the game goes - and it made them look bad," a sadder and wiser journalist was told.

In recent times, when a Premier League club was holding out for a higher fee for an international midfield man who has just figured prominently at the World Cup, a call was made to the media by a high-ranking official of the buying club.

A reporter was told: "It wouldn't do any harm to link us with X - and feel free to tell your opposite number in that city."

The call had a duel effect.

It prompted a swift resolution of the financial difficulties, but also almost sabotaged another deal involving a Premiership club when poor innocent X suddenly, but mistakenly, believed a spot of Champions League football might be on the horizon.

Of course all this is done in secret and in complete confidentiality, with the full knowledge of all participants.

Agents cop most of the flak when the talk turns to dirty dealings, but let he who is without sin cast the first stone - and football is packed with those of us who are throwing bricks from a very large greenhouse.

Of course agents enter into the spirit of the game, linking their players with clubs and giving regular updates on contract negotiations in order to cut the best deal for their clients.

It is all fair game.

Managers, players, agents and media cannot live with each other - but they can't live without each other either.

It's not exactly the beautiful game, but everybody takes part with relish.


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