Of course we want to do deals, but in my opinion that is a consequence of a good relationship. So that is the priority for us. Good players, good relationships and then, afterwards, good deals.
The Lone Battle
Rodrygo Silva de Goes' incredible injury-time double in Real Madrid's semi-final win over Manchester City not only played a key role in their successful campaign to win the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League.
It was also a 120-second spell that firmly established a Los Blancos career for a player who, arguably, sparked an agent’s business.
Rodrygo’s record-breaking €45m transfer (the most expensive sale for a South American club) from Sao Paulo in June 2019 when he was just 18 was also the credibility catalyst that has helped propel Un1que Football into one of the leading player agencies in Brazil.
“Clubs don’t respect you much because they think you’re a small agent and don’t have enough players to introduce. When you start proving that you have good players and can start doing big deals, the market changes a lot. But it is a real challenge,” Arcuri tells TransferRoom.
Nick Arcuri at the TransferRoom Madrid Summit
Arcuri set up Un1que Football in 2015 and is well-versed in knowing the importance of having a top client to open doors to clubs.
The Brazilian executive started his agency career with Base Soccer (now CAA Base), moving to England in 2002 to help his World Cup winning client Gilberto Silva adjust to life in the Premier League with Arsenal.
In 2004 he returned home to launch a Base operation with a focus on signing young talent that could eventually be sold to Europe.
Eleven years later he decided to go it alone, buying out part of the agency’s operations in the country. While he retained a few clients, most Europe-based players stayed with Base meaning Arcuri essentially had to start all over again.
Making his way as an independent agent meant building up a portfolio and making new connections with clubs worldwide.
Reflecting on those early days, Arcuri says: “I made the decision to move to Italy to open the market. Before I had Base opening up those connections, then suddenly I had to put my face to it.
“It was a good experience, but a big investment. It’s expensive at the beginning to travel to meet the clubs. The clubs don’t respect you much because they think you’re a small agent and don’t have enough players to introduce. When you start proving that you have good players and can start doing big deals, the market changes a lot. But it is a real challenge.
“The one thing I always come back to is my credibility. It's not easy to open doors, but when they are open you must have good players and do your job well.”
Rodrygo the record-breaker
After three years growing the business from Italy, came the major moment for Un1que Football - the record-breaking sale of Rodrygo to Real Madrid in July 2019.
So, Arcuri followed him to the Spanish capital.
“I wanted to be close to Rodrygo, to make it easier for him to adapt to play football here and to make sure it was as successful a moment as possible for our company.
“It was the biggest ever transaction for a young talent in the history of South American football, which gave us the credibility to sign more young Brazilian players. Now we have a lot of Brazilian players from the U20 and U17 national teams. Really good players with great potential to be in the market worldwide.”
Rodrygo was only 11 years old when he signed with Un1que Football.
Having such a close connection with a player throughout the early stages of his career is what attracted Arcuri to break away from a huge agency in the first place.
“The biggest benefit of going out on your own is the relationship you create with your clients,” he notes. “When you have a big agency they are just worried about the specific moment of specific players. If that player is doing really well, you have to look after that player because there’s a ‘deal opportunity’.
“When you are a small agent, you do not have a lot of players. It’s not about quantity but quality, and the relationship you create with these players is like family. They become like your son. It changes their lives. You don’t see them just as a product, but as a human being.
“That is why I decided to create that system from the beginning, to create a real relationship with the players, with their parents. If you have that you cannot just do a good deal, but you can create a good relationship with them.”
Signing up such young clients requires, in Arcuri’s words, “credibility, transparency and a strong sense of family.”
He explains: “My market is a specific one: I’m from South America, from Brazil, so most of the players come from poor backgrounds. Sometimes the parents don’t even know how to sign the paperwork, or how to read. They are really poor. They need people they really trust to look after them, not just their sons but their entire families. That is why I try to create a relationship that is more than football.
“When you create this, and people think you are honest and you are transparent with them, you create a relationship that is more than an agent and a player, more than an agent and a family. You become a part of their family. That is why I'm confident in our work because when we go to speak to a player’s family when they’re young, my relationship becomes with the father, with the parents, and I have to create that. I cannot play with their careers and their dreams.
“Of course we want to do deals, but in my opinion that is a consequence of a good relationship. So that is the priority for us. Good players, good relationships and then, afterwards, good deals.”
Un1que, a TransferRoom Trusted Agent, is now one of the biggest and most successful agencies in Brazil, with around 100 players on its books, where Rodrygo is joined by another couple of young talents in Palmeiras midfielder Gabriel Menino and Shakhtar Donetsk’s Red Bull Salzburg-bound striker Fernando.
New Salzburg signing Fernando with Arcuri (right) and Un1que rep Luiz Cardoso (left) (credit: @nick.arcuri76)
Managing that portfolio of players are 10 agents, and Arcuri is conscious that despite the business growing in size, it sticks to the principles he established when he founded the agency.
He continues: “We were small maybe five or seven years ago. Now we are one of the biggest agencies in Brazil, so I have to ensure I have enough people employed to look after the boys, look after the families, to help them grow and develop and at the right moment we can sell them.
“But I think the ideal situation is every agent has around 12 to maximum 15 players, between young and professional. Otherwise you lose your principles and values, and how you are going to manage these players.”