On 5th January 2018, Ross Barkley left Everton to join Chelsea for £15 million. Everton fans were angry as the deal could have been done on deadline day the previous summer, meaning Everton could have had at least double the fee that time as his contract was going to expire in the summer and Barkley refused to sign a new one, so Everton had to sell him for a cut price. On the eleventh hour, Farhad Moshiri said Barkley’s agent Paul Martin told him he changed his mind and would consider his options in January. A few days after the transfer, it has been revealed that Paul Martin raked in £7 million from the deal.
The Barkley rigmarole has raised a few questions. Why did he change his mind? Why did he sign for Chelsea, seemingly making his mind up once the transfer window re-opened? Did Paul Martin have something to do with it? He does have history…
In 2014, Paul Martin became John Stones’ agent. The following year, there was a huge transfer saga about John Stones potentially joining Chelsea. Stones even submitted a transfer request, which Everton refused. Everton rejected three bids from Chelsea – reportedly £20 million, £26 million and £30 million – and he remained at Everton for another season. He subsequently joined Manchester City in 2016 for £47.5 million.
However, according to Farhad Moshiri in Everton’s AGM a few days after the Barkley transfer, Paul Martin promised that Ross Barkley would sign a new contract at Everton providing that John Stones moves to Chelsea. Whether Martin would have kept his promise and Barkley would still be wearing an Everton shirt, we will never know. But if Moshiri’s words were to be trusted, did Martin not take Everton’s refusal to allow Stones to join Chelsea too kindly and played a key role in Barkley leaving his beloved team?
In a similar situation to John Stones, Everton rejected bids from Manchester City for Joleon Lescott and refused his transfer request. Lescott did eventually move to Manchester City for a fee of up to £22 million in 2009. The deal didn’t go without a hitch though; there were issues regarding payments to agents and representatives. Who was his agent? Paul Martin. Lescott had recently hired him in the end, the deal was worth around £50 million including agent fees.
Paul Martin had been Tim Cahill’s agent since early in his football career. Before he joined Everton, he came close to joining Crystal Palace. However, the deal fell through after, according to then-Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan, Paul Martin’s agent fee was too high.
One player we desperately tried to sign was Tim Cahill from Millwall. I knew the player well from watching him frequently and had agreed a fee with the club of £1.5 million, and offered the player three times he was currently earning. Cahill came to the training ground to meet [Crystal Palace manager] Iain [Dowie], while I had the dubious pleasure of engaging with his agent Paul Martin from SFX.
Martin was an argumentative, cocky, flash agent, all Burberry and man bags, and the type I really loved! He told me exactly what he would accept for his client, which bore little resemblance to my offer. Despite an hour trying to find a middle ground, I agreed to his terms.
Then came the ludicrous demand for an agent’s fee of £150,000 for an hour’s worth of arguments. He expected me to pay for a deal that was considerably more expensive than I had wanted and hadn’t given me a single concession. What I really wanted to give him was a punch on the nose, not a bag of money.
The deal stalled and the atmosphere became very testy. Martin suggested I ask Theo Paphitis, the Millwall chairman, to pick up some of his fee. I phoned Theo in amusement, already knowing the likely outcome, and held the phone from my car as he screamed obscenities down it, questioning the parentage of this agent.
The deal fell through against a backdrop of recriminations in the press led by my outrage at agents and their demands. Everton had been looking at Cahill for some time and stepped in and bought him. In my view, I think we were being used to flush out Everton and Cahill was destined to go there anyway.
Another incident was when Tim Cahill rejected an improved contract at Everton a year after he joined. Everton offered to increase his £15,000-a-week wage by around 50% to 60% but was refused by Cahill and Paul Martin. Cahill had three years left on his contract and his worth had risen significantly after a very successful first season with the Blues. The club was determined to get Cahill to sign on the dotted line.
Over a week later, Tim Cahill did sign a new five-year contract with an 80% wage rise. However, he didn’t like being accused of being greedy after rejecting the first offer.
The club put a gesture forward and it didn’t seem right to be adding on years to a contract where I wasn’t absolutely comfortable. If I was greedy then I would put in a transfer request and ask for a move, but it is not the case at all. Different people are saying things against me but it is just small-minded people who don’t understand football.
The first incident was all Paul Martin. The second incident is too inconclusive to pin on Martin, but we don’t know the full details of the new contract.
In 2008, contract negotiations stalled between Wes Brown and Manchester United. Manchester United were running out of time as Brown’s contract was going to expire in the summer. Paul Martin had advised Brown to hold out for a contract that would earn him more than £50,000 a week. Sir Alex Ferguson was not pleased.
Players of today live in their agents’ pockets – it’s a situation which really depresses me. It’s in his hands. It’s not in our hands.
We have given him his offer. It’s amazing really, given that he has had such a good season and has had such a good run of games while Gary [Neville] has been injured. We wouldn’t have made the offer if we hadn’t had faith in him. Wes knows this and the other players have told him.
Wes has been with us since he was 12 but I don’t think that matters these days. Their agents live their lives for them and if you are happy to go along with that then you get the situation that you have got just now
Wes Brown eventually signed a new contract at Manchester United, earning him reportedly just shy of £50,000 a week. However, this wasn’t the first time Wes Brown and Manchester United were involved a contract dispute.
In 2004, Wes Brown parted with an agent called Michael Kennedy, who had a close relationship with Manchester United. He then hired Paul Martin and the dispute began. Sir Alex Ferguson questioned Wes Brown’s decision to change his agent.
He changed his agent – I don’t know why. He’s got an agent that has given him advice that I do not understand. I think the problem is with the agent, not the player.
The Ross Barkley situation isn’t the first time Paul Martin seemed to have played an important role in. But will it be the last? He is currently the agent of promising Everton youngster Kieran Dowell. Who’s to say a similar thing won’t happen to him? Or maybe I’m adding 2 and 2 and coming up with 5. The point is a lot of Everton fans are suspicious of Paul Martin; and given his history, it is understandable why.