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    5. Special Report: On the court case that puts agent Erik ..


    Special Report: On the court case that puts agent Erik ten Hag in the spotlight

    Kes Vos' Sports Entertainment Group boasts a stable of several elite footballers

    A landmark case in European football reaches its second act in December with €4.75m (£4.1m) at stake and the reputation of one of the the most influential players in football. The agents are Kees Vos, who represents Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag.

    Vos and his Dutch agency Sports Entertainment Group (SEG) will appear at the Dutch appeals court in Amsterdam to face one of their most vocal agents. famous former clients, defender of Inter Milan and the Dutch national team Stefan De Vrij. It promises to be an intriguing repeat of last February's hearing, when De Vrij won a civil claim against Vos and SEG over his free transfer to Inter Milan in 2018. De Vrij received compensation of 4.75 million euros plus interest. .

    On one side is Dutch agent Vos, who represents the United manager and has been a key figure in some of Old Trafford's big deals, including the £72m summer move of Rasmus Hoylund. On the other hand, there's the 62-cap Dutch international who believes his former agency profited at his expense on his lucrative free transfer.

    This poses a broader question that many top players might consider: who gets paid what in a transfer deal? And what kind of alliances can be struck between agents and clubs to secure the services of players – especially those who are free agents like De Vrij?

    Last April, a Dutch court found that De Vrij was not was made aware of the full €9.5 million commission SEG received from the deal in which he joined Inter four years earlier. It subsequently awarded him compensation in the amount of half that amount.

    Vos and SEG rejected the accusation that their commission meant De Vrij missed out on a better contract than the deal he eventually signed. It was SEG that took the case to the Amsterdam appeal court – Hof van Beerop – before three judges, and Vos believes he will be acquitted.

    De Vrij and his representatives declined to comment on the case before it goes to trial next month. It is clear that de Vrij views his position as fundamental for players who are not aware of all the details of negotiations between influential agents and clubs. Those close to him say he feels betrayed by the way he is treated at an agency where some employees have become friends.

    Vos, whose agency is also represented by Hoylund, Cody Gakpo, Daley Blind and Robin Van Persie – and including Pep Guardiola's agent brother Pere as director – take a very different view. Vos says the first hearing fundamentally misunderstood the nature of elite football's deal-making and the rules that govern it.

    Both sides say they have tried to resolve the dispute but have been unsuccessful. The case will be heard in court for the second time on December 1.

    Vos and his SEG colleague Jeroen Hoogewerf deny any wrongdoing. However, the second round of the case is likely to increase scrutiny of Ten Hag's agent, the man who brokered the deal to bring him to Old Trafford and won the race between top agents last summer to represent Hoylund.

    “It hurts”. that people doubt my honesty'

    Neither the player nor the agency refers to poverty – both received huge benefits from the deal. The question goes deeper: who had the right to receive what and what De Vries knew about the whole deal. Details that came to light last year revealed the amazing rewards for agents, as well as players, behind the big deals.

    “It pains me that people doubt my integrity,” Vos told Telegraph Sport. “This is the only thing I have in life. Money is money and it's just a discussion where someone wants more. You can talk about it – no problem – but if you start to doubt my integrity, you will get to my core. I didn't do anything wrong, so this upsets me.”

    The matter will be watched with interest at Old Trafford, where the results have increased pressure on Ten Hag and the possibility of Sir Jim Ratcliffe acquiring a 25 per cent stake in the club looms. Billionaire Ineos is understood to want full control of football operations and chief executive Richard Arnold has already announced his departure. Although what this means for Ten Hag is still unclear.

    Meanwhile, Vos appears to have some degree of influence at the club he is manager of. In an Instagram post in August, Vos shared a photo of himself outside the Old Trafford home dressing room with the comment: “My wife and I have different definitions of the word home these days.” He was also involved in a loan deal to bring Moroccan Dutchman Sofiane Amrabat from Fiorentina in the summer.

    View this post on Instagram

    Post by Kees Voss (@keesvosseg)

    “Cried all the way to the bank”

    De Vrij, 31, grew up in the village of Ouderkerk aan den IJssel, east of Rotterdam. At the age of 10, Feyenoord scouts noticed his talent and he joined their academy. He made his debut for the first team in 2009 at the age of 17 and three years later became a member of the Dutch national team. At the 2014 World Cup, in which Holland finished third, he was one of two Dutchmen included in the FIFA team for the tournament. That summer he signed a contract with Lazio.

    By the spring of 2018, De Vrij was entering the final six months of his contract with the Serie A club. At the end of February 2018, he signed a five-year contract with Inter, which will begin on 30 June. He signed a five-year gross base salary of 37.5 million euros, court documents say. His annual bonus, if fully reached, would be €2.15 million, although reaching the maximum would require Inter to win the league and cup, as well as the Champions League. The maximum income he could earn over five years, including bonuses, was €47.3 million gross. He was represented (or he said he thought so) by Vos and SEG.

    This maximum amount was critical: De Vrij said, without his knowledge, that SEG's own fee was based on them convincing the player to sign for less than the total base salary of €50 million gross over the life of the contract. The reward for this was significant. In return, the agency will receive:

    • A total of €7.5 million will be paid in three installments over 12 months.
    • A further €2 million will be paid in installments of €200,000 each six months. months during De Vrij's entire stay at Inter.
    • 7.5% of De Vrij's future transfer fee.

    SEG says it has demonstrated in court that the base amount of €50 million is irrelevant. They had to enter into a contract with a number of conditions that had to be met in order for Inter to pay the fee. The figure of €50 million was chosen not because it was achievable for De Vrij, but because it was impossible. Inter have agreed a guaranteed net fee for the player. SEG said this means there is a possibility that the gross package could rise if there is a change in the top income tax rate. They chose the amount of 50 million euros because it was out of reach.

    “We made an amazing deal,” says Vos, “and it sounds strange, but I think he [De Vrij] should be very grateful to me. It was a five-year contract. His club [Lazio] offered him a one-year contract with a net amount of €2 million, and he could sign a five-year contract with a net amount of €4 million and [potential] bonuses of €1 million at Inter, who are a bigger name and in the Champions League. It was an amazing achievement. The first year he was very happy. He cried all the way to the bank.”

    De Vrij's lawyers say the deal offered to the Lazio player was also worth an additional €4 million net. Lazio offered to extend De Vrij's contract by one year, which would allow them to sell him for a transfer fee in the summer of 2018. -for the bonus.

    De Vrij's team stated that their client was in demand enough to expect the level of wages that Inter offered without being a free agent. Vos and SEG say otherwise. They claim they scuppered the deal with Inter after De Vrij canceled routine medical treatment for the club in January 2018.

    De Vrij sues

    De Vrij immediately became a regular in the Inter side in 2018, who went on to win Serie A in the 2020–21 season. But he became suspicious of his deal when Inter teammates asked him how much he received as a signing fee – a common bonus paid to players who join as free agents. The fee is paid by clubs in recognition of the transfer fee saved. De Vrij said he received nothing. A year after the move, De Vrij assigned new lawyers to conduct the investigation.

    It was these lawyers, Belgian firm Cresta, which represented De Vrij's then teammate Romelu Lukaku, who secured the disclosure of the commission agreement between Inter and SEG. De Vrij's side later successfully argued that SEG had not informed him of the full amount of the commission. Although he was told there was a fee for the sale, De Vrij's lawyers said he never saw any contract detailing the amount or formalizing the agreement. SEG says it has informed De Vrij of the details of its assignment.

    De Vrij's side argued that a much larger share of Inter's overall budget for his signing should have gone to the player rather than those he believed were acting on his behalf. They also stated that their client bears all risks associated with tax penalties under Italian law, despite Inter having agreed to a guaranteed net salary. SEG said that the compensation provided by Inter means there is no threat.

    In May 2021, De Vrij, then 29, filed a lawsuit against the agency that had represented him throughout his professional career up to that point. More than two years later, he remains a member of the Inter main team. He is no longer an automatic starter for Holland, although he started both Euro 2024 qualifiers this month. Together with his brother Nils, he runs a successful real estate investment company. His football career has been lucrative and his future is certainly secure. However, he took the legal battle very seriously.

    “In Italy, most agents work for the clubs.”

    The key part of the case came down to which side SEG was working on. According to the documents, Vos and SEG worked for Inter, not De Vrij. Regarding the relationship, De Vrij assumed that SEG were his agents. They negotiated both De Vrij's professional contract at Feyenoord and his move to Lazio. Additionally, while negotiations with Inter were ongoing in early 2018, SEG was also negotiating a possible extension with Lazio. In private internal emails and public social media posts submitted to the court, SEG identified De Vrij as its client in relation to these separate negotiations.

    When he learned of the agreement, De Vrij saw it as a betrayal of his relationship with the agency that had represented him since he was a 16-year-old at Feyenoord. For Vos and SEG, it was simply a way of doing business—specifically, a way of doing business in Italy. Vos said SEG entered into the same agreement with Lazio (officially working on their behalf, not De Vrij's) when they negotiated his move to Lazio from Feyenoord in 2014.

    < p>What did SEG tell De Vries and how did he understand his relationship with SEG? De Vrij signed just three pages of his employment contract with Inter, which stated that it was the club, not the player, who officially represented SEG, as well as the commission. Vos says De Vrij would not have signed the club-player agreement if he were not happy with all parts of it.

    Vos says having an agent representing the club was common practice in Italian football. He said the agreement differs from England and other countries, where a representation agreement between player and agent must be signed and registered for the latter to be paid. Vos says he does not currently have a formal representation agreement with Ten Hag or Van Persie, manager of Feyenoord's under-18 team. In other cases, he said, clients sign representation agreements that are negotiated with national associations – in accordance with local convention.

    In Italy, Vos says, clubs prefer to have an agent officially working for them so that the tax liability does not fall on the player. He told Telegraph Sport: “In Italy, 95 per cent of transactions are carried out by agents on behalf of clubs. To say that it is strange that we acted on behalf of the club is not true. To say that he didn't know about it would be a lie. He knew about this and signed a labor agreement [with Inter], according to which we [SEG] represented the club. We represent the club in its interests because there are no tax consequences for it.”

    According to Vos, Inter would not pay more than what was agreed. The commission was agreed with Inter after De Vrij's salary terms were agreed and SEG said the two cases were unrelated. SEG lawyers said in court that the deal made De Vrij Inter's highest-paid defender at the time. SEG argued that his salary could not exceed that of the club's highest paid player at the time, Argentine striker Mauro Icardi.

    De Vrij's side believes the agreement failed the player on two counts – in terms of the benefit it brought to the player, as well as the potential tax liability it created. If SEG were to claim that they were working for Inter rather than the player, then, regardless of convention, this would not accurately reflect the reality for the tax authorities.

    De Vrij was a member of Inter Milan, which reached the Champions League final last season. Photo: Getty Images/Marco Luzzani “We have been involved in more than 2,200 transactions”

    Vos and SEG argued in court that they were not there to represent DeVrij, but instead were brokers in the transfer – “market makers” as documented in court documents, bringing both parties together. SEG claimed that De Vrij never paid them for their services. It said that since no agreement had been reached with them and De Vries, there could be no accusations of shortcomings on the part of SEG.

    Vos says on this matter: “No player on earth is happy to will sign a representation agreement because it says that if the deal goes through, he will pay you – and they don't like that. Traditionally, clubs pay a fee. In the music industry, in cycling, in e-sports, the client pays. Only in football does a team or club pay for a player.”

    As for the additional signing fee, Vos claims it was included in the overall wage package, as was the case with other free signings at Inter, including Davy Klaassen and Andre Onana, now at Manchester United. Vos says: “In 23 years we have been involved in more than 2,200 transactions. Salary, entry fee or loyalty fee is a fixed part of the player's compensation, and it does not matter what it is called… The discussion about the entry fee is semantic. We are talking about the total fixed reward that the player receives.”

    De Vrij's team reported losses of 12.5 million euros. They did this by calculating how much he would have earned on a salary of €10 million per year for five years (€50 million in the contract between SEG and Inter) minus the €37.5 million salary Inter was paying him. The court limited De Vrij's claim to €9.5 million, the amount of commission received by SEG. De Vrij also sought damages from SEG to protect him from investigation by Italian tax authorities.

    Previously, when De Vrij was at Feyenoord, SEG were paid a commission of five percent and then six percent of the value of his contract for negotiations. FIFA's commission recommendation in the new rules for agents is three percent. SEG said the €9.5 million figure was simply an agreed lump sum and not a percentage. De Vrij's lawyers say the commission paid by SEG for the deal is far in excess of what is reasonable. This 9.5 million euros equals 25 percent of De Vrij's gross salary of 37.5 million euros.

    In addition, De Vrij's lawyers noted that if, for example, De Vrij were sold a year later, In 2019, SEG would still have earned the guaranteed 7.9 million euros. On De Vrij's annual base salary of €7.5 million, this would represent a 105 per cent commission. Then the agency would also receive 3.75 percent of the transfer amount.

    The court ruled that there was no guarantee that Inter would be willing to pay De Vrij a total of €50 million over five years. However, it found that De Vrij had not been informed of the full amount of the fee and was therefore entitled to what is known in Dutch law as “kans schade” – “lost damages”. In short, De Vrij was denied the opportunity to negotiate a better deal with Inter because he was not familiar with the entire SEG commission.

    “This is not uncommon”

    In court next month, SEG will seek to have the damages overturned. De Vrij has emerged as a leading figure in a key case for high-profile players who do not fully understand the complex deals that can be struck between clubs and powerful agencies. SEG argues that it simply brought benefits to all parties involved, including De Vrij. As for Inter, they revealed in their financial results last month that they paid an agent's fee of €8 million to sign France international Marcus Thuram on a free transfer. There is no suggestion of any irregularities in the Thuram deal.

    De Vrij signed a new two-year contract with Inter in July, negotiated by his new agent, Italian Federico Pastorello. De Vrij, however, has refused to budge in his dispute with SEG.

    Relying on the fee for the deal with De Vrij, Vos admits that representing the best players is a lucrative business. “I'm not trying to say it's not a lot of money,” he says. “But it’s not uncommon in this industry.”

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