Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s second son is among the foreigners moving to represent Mexican soccer players in what some see as an untapped market.
Mexico faces the host nation in their second group game at the World Cup in Fortaleza, Brazil today. Nicky Blair, 28, and business partner Gabriel Moraes, 27, run London-based Magnitude Sports, which according to its website has offices in Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro.
Mexican players such as Oribe Peralta and Raul Jimenez, who play for Club America in the capital, are attracting more interest since the nation’s Under-23 team beat Brazil to win the 2012 Olympics title, according to Matias Bunge, an agent who represents Mexico midfielder Diego Reyes.
“Mexican soccer players have been undervalued for a long time, but it’s now becoming an interesting market,” Bunge said by phone from Madrid, where he’s based. “There are more and more agents working there.”
According to FIFA’s website, there are 13 Mexico-based agents compared to 220 in Brazil. Interest from agents abroad, which aren’t included in the FIFA data, is rising since Mexico’s Olympics title, Bunge said. A year earlier, its Under-17 team won the world title for a second time.
Blair’s Magnitude brokered the trade of winger Hector Herrera from Pachuca to Porto of Portugal last year, the player said. A Porto filing, which listed “Magnitude Partnership” as an intermediary, said it paid a 300,000 euro ($407,000) agent fee in the 8 million-euro transaction. Nicky Blair didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment for this story.
In an interview, Herrera said he chose Blair as his representative after the Englishman came to meet him in Pachuca, about 50 miles from Mexico City.
“He was a serious person, even though he is inexperienced and just starting out like me,” Herrera, 24, said. “It’s worked out well.”
Among other foreigners who have started operating in Mexico recently is Pini Zahavi, an Israeli who has bought transfer rights of Brazilian, Argentine and Colombia players on behalf of investors for more than a decade. On a visit to Mexico last year, Zahavi told ESPN.com last year that he was looking at players.
To be sure, it’s difficult for some European clubs to afford to sign Mexican players because they can earn a salary of $2 million playing for teams in the top Mexican league, according to Luis Enrique Garcia, who works for Mexican television station TV Azteca.
Several of the biggest Mexican teams have backing from wealthy investors. Billionaire Carlos Slim, who owns America Movil SAB, acquired a 30 percent stake in Pachuca and Club Leon in 2012 as part of a plan to acquire sports content. Emilio Azcarraga, who controls Mexico’s biggest television station Televisa SA, owns Club America.
Fifteen of Mexico’s 23-man World Cup squad play in Mexico. Still, Slim’s Pachuca traded winger Herrera to Porto last year and America striker Jimenez has been linked with a move to an English Premier League team, according to Garcia. Herrera said all his teammates want to play in Europe and the World Cup is a “shop window” for them.
“Some players may be better off in Mexico, but the young ones can make a lot more money in the long run if they move to Europe,” Bunge said.