Pini Zahavi: Who is the superagent representing Robert Lewandowski? | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 30.05.2018
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Pini Zahavi: Who is the superagent representing Robert Lewandowski?

One of the world’s most powerful agents is now stiring things up in Germany, as Pini Zahavi goes public with what he says is Robert Lewandowski's demand to leave Bayern. But who is this journalist turned superagent?

So just who is the man who seems to be trying to pry the Bundesliga's leading scorer away from the league's most successful team?

Pini Zahavi was born in Ness Ziona, a city which is now central Israel, in 1943. After finishing his mandatory army service, he worked as a sports writer for some of Israel's top media outlets at the time. He used his years covering Israeli football to make contacts that would be useful to him in his later career as a player agent.

That career started in 1979, when he brokered the move of Israeli international defender Avi Cohen from Maccabi Tel Aviv to Liverpool. In a rare interview, Zahavi told the British daily The Guardian in 2006 that he had run into the then-secretary of Liverpool Football Club, Peter Robinson, while waiting for a delayed flight at London's Heathrow Airport. Zahavi approached Robinson, and asked him to "take a look" at Cohen. Liverpool's manager at the time, Bob Paisley, was so impressed with Cohen that he signed him up.  

Right place, right time

A source that knows Zahavi personally but asked not to be named, still recalls how, Zahavi not only made the deal happen, but also ran the story as his exclusive as part of his job as a sports journalist.

"It was as if he had taken a corner kick, ran to get onto the end of it, and headed the ball into the goal," he told DW. "This shows what sort of person he is."

In other words, Zahavi was always looking for new ways to make money.

"He was always thinking about business, even as a journalist," the source recalled.

Having developed contacts with club executives and players in England, Zahavi also brokered the deal that brought Israeli international striker Ronny Rosenthal to Liverpool in 1990. This came just two years before the Premier League was founded, ushering in the era of big money in football. Throughout the years that followed, Zahavi used his connections to establish himself in English football, making friends in high places, along the way. This included former Manchester United CEO Peter Kenyon, and the club's legendary former manager, Sir Alex Ferguson.

Bildergalerie Sir Alex Ferguson (PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson. A friend of Zahavi.

Zahavi was also one of the reasons Kenyon, one of the most respected executives in the game at the time, decided to join the Roman Abramovich revolution at Chelsea in 2003.

"Zahavi cares about money, without having sentiments for a certain person or a club," the source said.

Not just a football agent

His sense for a good bit of business doesn't begin and end with the transfer market. Zahavi is one of the owners of Charlton Ltd, a media company that purchased the Israeli television rights for the Premier League in 2005. According to the Israeli online news website Walla!, Charlton paid in excess of $8 million (€6.9 million) for Premier League rights over a three-year period, a hefty sum at the time. By comparison, the Premier League's TV rights in Turkey, a country that has more than 10 times the number of inhabitants of Israel, went for $1.5 million in 2005.

Zahavi also has interests in Aspire Global, a Malta-based betting company, whose executives are almost exclusively Israeli, and is currently being traded on the Stockholm Stock Exchange.

As DW's unnamed source mentioned earlier, Zahavi's aspirations of making as much money as he could were obvious from the start. Yossi Melman, a well-known Israeli journalist, told The Guardian that Zahavi once suggested that moving between newspapers every couple of years would be a good way to earn more money, something that might help explain the approach he tends to take with his clients in the transfer market.

'He knows when to talk'

Back in February, Robert Lewandowski announced that he was replacing his long-time agent Cezary Kucharski with Zahavi. This came just months after Zahavi's most famous client, Brazilian superstar Neymar moved to Paris Saint-Germain, after the French club had triggered his €222 million release clause at Barcelona. 

Zahavi has the reputation of frequently looking at new clubs to buy up his clients' services, and what he has said in the Wednesday's edition of the German weekly SportBild looks like a clear indication that he is now trying to do just that with Robert Lewandowski. But is this to be taken seriously, or is it just another football agent trying to get attention for him and his client?

Deutschland 1. FC Köln - FC Bayern München | Robert Lewandowski (picture-alliance/Fotostand/Ellerbrake)

Robert Lewandowski. Set to move away from Bayern Munich?

As a former journalist, Zahavi certainly understands the media landscape, and he only speaks to certain media outlets. It is not only about whom he talks to talk to. This superagent tends to prefer to avoid the spotlight, apart from when he thinks he needs to use the media to further a particular agenda.

"I think he knows that too much chatter is unproductive, but he does know when to talk," the source said.

Unlike some agents in the business, Zahavi also has the reputation of being truthful, and not saying anything unless he means it.

"Generally speaking, he's true to his word," the source said. "Zahavi is certainly no liar."

Put that all together, and you have to think that there is more than just hot air, when it comes to Robert Lewandowski's reported desire to leave Bayern Munich this summer. But only time will truly tell.

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