Top agent: The next Messi will be African

Victor Osimhen
Victor Osimhen

A prominent agent has shared why he believes the "next Lionel Messi" will be African, and also offered insight into the challenges players from the continent face when moving to Europe.  

The African continent has often been a source of great footballing talent in recent decades, with many going on to ply their trade for the biggest teams in Europe.  

We have seen the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah narrowly miss out on the Ballon d'Or in recent years – an award that has been won by only one player from the continent, Liberia's George Weah. 

While household names such as Mane, Salah, Riyad Mahrez, Victor Osimhen and Kalidou Koulibaly are reaching the latter stages of their professional careers, there is a plethora of African prospects who are ready to replace them at the top of the game, including Stade Rennais and Ghana's Kamaldeen Sulemana, Bayer Leverkusen and Ivory Coast star Odilon Kossounou, and many more.  

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Guilherme von Cupper, chief executive officer of football agency Berlin Sports – Bridge for Talents, has predicted that the "next Lionel Messi" will be African and explained why. 

"This is an interesting topic, here at Berlin Sports we actually studied this phenomenon because we believe the next [Lionel] Messi will be African," he told KickOff.

"There is a huge talent pool in Africa, the population will double by 2050 and this means that there are way more footballers in Europe. Technically and physically, the African players are so talented. 

"You can also see that there is a lot of new investment in Africa but it is still not perfect but with the help of improving training grounds and right to compensation for the clubs who produce these talents, it can only improve.

"Clubs in Europe are starting to see that to find the quality in Africa, they need to scout better.

"There is a higher percentage of Africans coming to big leagues and the perception of African players is changing."  

However, while there are reportedly more than 500 players from Africa scattered around Europe, there are also many unsuccessful stories of aspiring or professional footballers who struggled to adapt after leaving their home continent.  

Von Cupper gave his expert opinion as to why African players can struggle to make the grade overseas.  

"The role of the agent is very important because the environment that the player joins is crucial," he elaborated.

"Instead of focusing on the biggest deal you can get, focus on putting the footballer with the right club.

"These days, we are talking more about mental health, nutrition, club adaptation, less phone time. There are several things that can help the adaptation of the player.  

"Most importantly, we, as agents, need to make sure that the club taking our star is actually going to take care of him.  

"If a player joins a club where the club do not care much for the player, then the adaptation period will be much more difficult because he could not feel welcomed and taken care of.  

"If you can combine having an agent that looks at these topics and a club that cares about a footballer's well-being, then it's easy." 

Von Cupper's Berlin Sports – Bridge for Talents agency has a number of African players based all over the continent, as well as some plying their trade in Europe. 

Footballers on the agency's books include Ghana international Emmanuel Boateng and Orlando Pirates' on-loan star Kwame Peprah.

Having vast experience in dealing with different personalities, Von Cupper added that a player's mentality is also a key factor in whether or not he or she can be successful in Europe.

"Having a club that cares is not enough, a lot depends on the player's mentality," he continued.

"A footballer's career is short and they need to put everything into making it professionally. So things such as learning the language is important. When you go to a new country, you have to try to learn the language so you can understand the environment, culture and people.  

"The other aspect is if a player is surrounding himself with the right people; is he eating the right food? 

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"All these things are important but it is our role as agents to be the psychologist of the player.

"Previously, FIFA called agents 'intermediaries', and for a long time there were agents who saw themselves as an intermediary.  

"So if you are calling yourself an agent but you are only interested in transfers, that's not what being one is about.

"You have to be there for the day-to-day of the player."

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