Wilbur's glorious reputation has been earned through absolute transparency at every stage and a genuine concern for the well-being of his clients.
Mino Raiola may be considered one of the top agents in world football currently. However, he certainly does not enjoy a reputation of being solely focussed on the interests of his clients, with Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku opting to fire him having been misled. Lukaku was led to believe that Raiola was conducting negotiations with Chelsea whom he wished to join from Everton. In reality, the agent was looking to earn a hefty commission through a transfer to Manchester United. However, the same attitude does not extend across to others, with some looking to genuinely serve their clients in the best way possible. Wilbur Lasrado of Inventive Sports is one of them. He has been an integral part of the UK based agency for 3 years and works alongside partners Shakeel Abdulla from Kerala and Baljit Rihal from London.
The 25-year-old is considered one of the most prominent agents in Indian football. This glorious reputation has been earned through absolute transparency at every stage and a genuine concern for the well-being of his clients. “If they grow, you grow,” he says. The youngster believes that his main responsibility is to make the lives of his clients better and maintain utmost honesty with regard to every aspect.
There is a lot of mystery surrounding agents, especially among Indian football fans. Some even wonder about their role barring being asked to sit on a comfortable sofa, with a pay-cheque handed over. Wilbur is determined to address this misconception and take a step in the right direction over the perception held by the masses over his profession.
He isn’t your typical agent from an accounting background. However, what makes him special is the glorious relationship shared with his clients, who he terms as akin to family. Wilbur has a passion for the game, a winner’s mentality and the desire to never give up at any cost. The 25-year-old knows what it is like to be a player and the need for somebody to represent and watch out for him.
Wilbur has seen his fair share of struggle in life. However, hard work and diligence are virtues to which he gives utmost importance, with the same reflecting in his rapid growth as a super-agent in the world of Indian football. In an exclusive interaction with sportslumo.com, he opened up on his journey so far gifting insights to Indian football fans who are eager to make a career through the game they are largely passionate about but don’t know how to proceed.
Here are the excerpts from the exclusive chat with Wilbur.
Q) Can you tell us about the life of a football agent?
The life of a football agent involves taking responsibility with regard to work behind the scenes at all levels of the game. As it is said, behind every great footballer in the modern game, you can be certain about an agent pulling strings in their favour. Broadly speaking, the role of a football agent is to look after every aspect of their client’s career, enabling them to concentrate on playing the game. One thing I am very particular about is maintaining an extremely close bond with my clients. I treat them like a family member. Their happiness will reflect on my face, the sadness they experience will give me heartache as well.
A player will definitely note an effort from your side, resulting in a growth of confidence and the formation of a beautiful relationship. Sahal Abdul Samad, Rahul KP and Jobby Justin are some of our major clients. However, there is no partiality involved.
Q) Who is that one player whose surge to glory provided ultimate satisfaction?
To name one is going to be difficult, but to be honest there are a few like Sahal Abdul Samad, Rahul KP who have been a revelation not just for their respective clubs but also for Indian football. They are not only great players but also great characters on and off the field. The special thing about them is they are simply never satisfied with what they have done or achieved over the years. They want to improve all the time and never let complacency creep into their system.
Sahal was the first Indian footballer to be featured on any global sports brand’s Twitter handle, having been signed by PUMA as a brand ambassador. That is an indication of the impact and the eyeballs he is grabbing. His success augurs well for Indian football. Witnessing him feature alongside the likes of French superstar Antoine Griezmann, Uruguay attacker Luis Suarez, Barcelona striker Sergio Aguero is definitely a big deal. The Indian football ecosystem is changing and there is a lot more to come.
Q) How do you go about identifying young talents with promise?
Talent identification is the holy grail of scouting. I have been a part of Indian football for quite some time now, The ability to unearth a diamond in the rough, whether it be spotting the next Sunil Chhetri or a Sandesh Jhingan playing in a local game is always a work in progress. We sometimes identify young talents by attending or watching a few games. Our eyes are always open with a close network of people keeping a constant look simultaneously.
Q) Being thick-skinned is considered an important trait across different professions. How much importance do you attribute to the same in your role?
The sports agent and media representation business is a tough industry and a highly competitive field to survive in. As a football agent, there will be a lot of challenges and adversities one would face and a person should be prepared to overcome a bad day with a strong mentality. Numerous deals fall flat on the deadline day for the smallest of reasons, which results in a lot of pain. You have to accept and move on. It’s important not to lose your self-confidence in tough situations like these. We should be prepared to never give up, as there will be another opportunity and the Sun will rise again. For that one needs to be thick-skinned, courageous and strong.
Q) What are the vital attributes that a football agent needs to have?
First and foremost, you have to be a good communicator. It is a very important prerequisite in this job. You have to be honest otherwise it can get very dirty. Like any business of course trust, integrity and a good relationship with your clients is fundamental. You have to get to know your players and understand what is important to them. My philosophy has always been to keep the client list small so that I can manage everyone equally and give them the attention they need. I prefer to not just be an agent to them, but a guide across every phase of their career, even when the going isn’t easy.
Q) There are agents who simply look to make a quick buck through their clients, and leave them in case of a tough scenario. How do you look to differentiate yourself and emerge as a reliable name?
I encourage each and every client to be outspoken and feel free to discuss anything that’s on their mind. I want to see them happy, no matter what. There is nothing more vital than the bond you share with someone, and no aspect more important than simply being there when they need you the most. I don’t just want to be a deal broker who leaves the player to one side, and only appears when there is a contract renewal or negotiation to be indulged in. You’ve got to be prepared for the worst and capitalize on what comes.
For example, I accompanied Raphael Augusto and Jobby Justin for a check-up and an operation respectively, having coordinated with their clubs. There was a supreme emphasis on ensuring that all the formalities were sorted out astutely so that the players could rest and recover in the best manner possible. This is an example of a scenario where an agent’s utility comes into account.
Q) How do you go about gaining a player’s trust in a nation where agents battle a certain degree of distrust?
Earning the trust of a player can be difficult. At the same time, it depends on your experience and the situation you are dealing with. I believe that you can develop trust in the mind of a new client by creating a culture of consistency and by working towards realistic goals. Treat every player with respect. It is important to be a clear communicator and maintain accountability for everything you do or want to do for them. If they grow, you grow.
Q) What is your advice for some emerging youngster who wishes to become a football agent?
My first and most important instruction would be to stay humble. Secondly, one should be ready to slog it out and work extremely hard. The glamorous representation by the media is hardly a realistic indication of the determination and intensity behind the scenes. There are numerous factors that need to be sorted out for a deal to reach its final conclusion. It can get frustrating at times. Thirdly, one should not be afraid to leverage their network. My final advice would be to have a clear understanding regarding the skillset and the core competencies that they enjoy. There are numerous roles out there and having proper clarity will help you select the perfect opportunity. One could well emerge as an integral member of a team.
It is not difficult for a football enthusiast to become an agent in India, especially with the emergence of the Indian Super League (ISL), which has ensured a degree of professionalism and openness. There were exams earlier. However, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) currently has a standard registration process. There is no need to even have a formal education in order to become a football agent. The sky is the limit, once you gain an understanding over the role and develop a desire to deliver as per requirements at any cost.