Yesterday evening, Radamel Falcao, the 27 year old Colombian superstar who was predicted to make a move to one of the European giants this summer, scored on his competitive debut for AS Monaco in a 2-0 win over Bordeaux. The French Ligue 1 team, whose average attendance last year was just over 6,000 and are now owned by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, were making their return to the top flight after a summer of big-name, extremely-expensive signings.
Back in 2009, Falcao left River Plate for Portuguese side Porto, and in doing so, became 55% owned by a private fund called Doyen Sports. The company, founded by super agent Jorge Mendez who also represents Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho, "provide support and funding, in a very visible way" to clubs across Europe. In essence, they assist clubs to make signings by introducing private finance in return for a proportion of the players registration.
After two blistering seasons at Porto which included scoring 41 goals in just 51 matches, Radamel moved to Atletico Madrid. The Spanish club have had their own financial problems and disclosed they had liabilities of just over €500m at the end of 2011, were aided by Doyen's third party ownership of Falcao. In order to sign the striker they were able to agree a fixed fee with Porto for the 45% of his registration and a private arrangement with Doyen to allow them to register him with the league.
In this deal Doyen did not relinquish their control of Falcao - they held onto their 55% ownership with Madrid effectively paying "yearly royalties" to Doyen (who also take a healthy cut of Falcao's salary).
Falcao's ability has never been questioned. Over the last 5 years he has boasted one of the most impressive goalscoring ratios across all competitions (0.79 goals per appearance in fact) but his latest move has raised questions about the level of influence that these third-party companies can have on a player's choice of club.
Doyen's vested interest in Falcao comes in two forms; firstly they take a fixed percentage of his (after tax) wages and secondly, they still hold 55% of his registration.
In moving to AS Monaco Falcao is expected to earn £12 million pa tax free thanks to Monaco's principality status - a bigger slice for Doyen to pocket. In comparison, if Falcao signed for an English club he would be required to pay income tax of around £4 million pa.
Ultimately, Falcao's ability to negotiate with clubs has been severely diminished. Doyen are a private equity company whose purpose is to maximise return for it's shareholders. They have and will have the last say on any transfer relating to Falcao. Never has one player had so little control over his own future.