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On the spot

Lars-Wilhelm Baumgarten

Agent Lars Wilhelm Baumgarten is the head of “Stars and Friends”, which represents more than 200 football players throughout Europe. His clients have a combined market value of 165 million euros.

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DW: Should the best players make the big bucks?

Baumgarten: If certain players draw the crowds, ensure the stadium is full, that TV stations broadcast the match, that football shirts get sold - they are like modern gladiators - and they should benefit personally. Obviously it's not like in ancient Rome where the gladiators in the arena had to fight for their lives as well, that wouldn't be right.

So it's about fighting for justice?

Well we represent the interests of these modern gladiators. Justice is a big word, what is just? We certainly seek to represent the interests of the footballers.

Can you remember when you first heard the name Vedad Ibisevic?

Two and a half years ago.

Two and a half years ago, when he was completely unknown in Germany. What happened after that?

We got hold of some video material and watched it together with Vedad. He then authorized us to negotiate with Alemannia Aachen on his behalf.

He's still relatively young. Today everyone wants to see players turning into international stars at 19 or 20. He first went from Bosnia to Switzerland, from Switzerland to the US, from the US to France and from France to Germany. It takes more than a week to settle down after all that. Then as a young person you're keen to make a good impression, and so you put yourself under added pressure - and this summer he was finally able to shake off that pressure. We always knew he was a good, fast and versatile striker. And he benefited from being at Hoffenheim. He did great - now he's relaxed and scores goals every week.

Let's talk money. Your fee as an agent is a percentage of the contracts agreed for the players…

That's right. Normally the club will ask us to negotiate a contract and the club then pays up. That's the normal case - rather like headhunting. The one who commissions the job pays. We only get paid when a licensed or professional player signs a contract. We don't get a cut of any transfer fee, but we do get a percentage of the player's salary - not immediately but on an annual basis. People often claim that agents just want to sell players back and forth as quickly as possible - but in fact there would be no advantage to us in doing that, unless the player earns considerably more in the new club. Five percent of one million is of course a lot less than five percent of two million.

So the cut you get is between five and ten percent?

Between five and ten percent is the going rate in Germany. It's negotiable, it depends on demand. If a club really wants a player, it is often prepared to pay more than five or seven percent.

Your profession doesn't have the best reputation.

What work DOES have a good reputation right now? Our job is to help the players, and to make the most of their career opportunities and their lives. We are there to ensure they get lots of money - and obviously that doesn't always go down well with those who have to pay. But the clubs need agents just like we need the clubs. The players need good contracts - and it's our job to ensure they get them.

We're often accused of having a mercenary mentality. People often imagine that a player could start at Eintracht Braunschweig at 17 and stay there for the rest of his career. But that's not the way it works in a globalized world, where companies are bought and sold. It's not like that in other jobs either - no one starts work at the post office and stays there till he retires.

Players can fire their agent at any time - how stiff is the competition?

There's a lot of competition. There are over two hundred licensed player agencies in Germany. We have about 30 serious competitors and if a promising young player turns up on the under 15s national team, for example, 15 agencies will try to sign him up. There's a lot of hype around these young players, because if you can build a relationship with them at that age, and you don't disappoint them, you can continue as their agent throughout their career. And obviously that's the nicest scenario, you can follow their progress right from the start to the highpoint of their career, their retirement and beyond.

So there's no time to get bored then - you're covering a huge field.

It's not just a job, it's my life.

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