Groupama-FDJ head sports director Marc Madiot has said that he does not want the 'football system' of athlete transfers in cycling, to the point that he will refuse to deal with the so-called football 'super-agents'.
SBS Cycling Central

11 Jan - 1:47 PM 

Last week saw the announcement of Jorge Mendes and his Polaris Sports set-up entry into cycling, with the Portuguese super-agent - who some regard as one of the most influential figures within football - making his first foray into cycling. Polaris and established rider agency Corso Sports have an agreement which allows Polaris and Mendes to promote Giro d'Italia star Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Ruben Guerreiro (EF Education-Nippo).

Rider agents exist in cycling, operating behind the scenes with either a few clients per agent, or as part of growing rider agencies that are taking more of a hold on riders' contract negotiations.

Madiot spoke to French broadcaster RMC Sport about the entry and the potential influence of Mendes on cycling, a subject that Cycling Central tackled with SBS The World Game football expert Nick Stoll. 

What it could mean: Mendes the 'super agent' comes to cycling
Jorge Mendes, one of the biggest agents in the world of football, is having his first dip in the world of cycling, with his company Polaris Sports - which operates his star clients commercial rights -.developing a partnership with established rider agency Corso Sports.

Madiot took a hard line when it came to potential deals with riders represented by Mendes.

“If Mendes is Almeida’s agent, then Almeida will never come to my team,” Madiot said on RMC. "“There’s one thing he needs to learn but I think he knows already… he’s not going to earn in cycling what he earns from football.

"Maybe he has other ideas in the background, and they’re not good. I think these people want, at a given moment, to take over the general system in cycling, and that’s even more catastrophic."

The football system of transfers is a lot more dynamic, with player transfers mid-season common, and player contracts being bought out regularly and fetching large sums. Money flows particularly into agents and player's pockets under the system, but cycling has a more team-friendly structure, where fewer teams compete for the top riders.

“I don’t want the football system,” Madiot said. “The system of agents in football, what’s that? It’s having a portfolio of players and making them move as often as possible in order to go to the bank as often as possible.

“They gamble in an expanding financial bubble. Where is football right now with that financial bubble, with everything that’s going on at the moment with COVID? They are staring into the abyss. And we want to let people like Mendes into cycling? I don’t want Mendes in cycling. He can stay in Portugal with his footballers."

The impassioned Madiot is renowned for his strongly held views, passion for the sport and outbursts, but had reasoning beyond his dislike of football transfers for the objections.

“Of course we have agents already in cycling," said Madiot, "but there is one extremely important element in cycling, which is that a contract has a fixed duration, and you respect the duration of the contract.”

“That means that if a rider signs with me for two years, he does his two years. At the end of that, he is free and I am free. If I have 10 euros, I spend 10 euros - I don’t gamble on the five euros I could potentially earn upon the re-sale of a rider.”

Rider transfers mid-way through a contract are rare, but increasingly are happening within the sport. Marc Hirschi is the most recent high-profile example, with a suggestion that he bought his way out of his contract with Team DSM to make a lot more money at UAE Team Emirates. From the same team, Australian Michael Matthews also departed the then Team Sunweb to join Australian team BikeExchange in 2021, with still a year on his deal. There's been no suggestion of a 'transfer fee' paid in either case, but contract negotiations in cycling are notoriously secretive.