By Robson Sharuko
The Scottish agent, who brokered Benjani Mwaruwari’s £15.6 million moves to Manchester City and Portsmouth, hoodwinked clubs into paying inflated transfer fees amid widespread fears he could also have ripped off footballers he represented.
Willie McKay, who claims to have sealed more than 600 transfers, represented Benjani as the forward set a benchmark for transfer fees for Zimbabwean footballers, with his multi-million-dollar moves to Pompey and the Citizens.
The agent also represented a number of high-profile footballers like Senegal’s Henri Camara, Pascal Chimbonda, Charles N’Zogbia and Amdy Faye.
He also took El Hadji Diouf and Habib Beye to Doncaster Rovers in an ambitious, but ultimately futile, campaign to help them retain their place in the English Championship during the 2011-2012 season.
Agents have been thrust back into the limelight in recent days after the tragedy in which Argentine footballer, Emiliano Sala, was killed in a plane crash on the English Channel.
McKay was part of the team of agents who represented Sala.
A FIFA report revealed that, last year alone, US$548 million went into the pockets of the agents while, since 2013, US$2.14 billion has filtered into the bank accounts of agents in the game.
The 59-year-old McKay is now in the eye of a raging storm after stunning revelations about his business model, which bordered on extorting the clubs he was dealing with, amid fears he could also have conned the football stars he represented.
This follows revelations in the French daily sports newspaper, L’Equipe, where e-mails generated by McKay showed he hoodwinked scores of clubs into paying inflated transfer fees, were published.
McKay’s agency brokered Sala’s transfer despite the Scottish agent’s licence having been revoked four years ago.
Since the expose, which followed Sala’s death, a train of events has been triggered.
They include, but are not limited to, revelations that:
The decision by Cardiff to pursue legal proceedings against McKay followed the publication of material which showed the agent repeatedly sold them a dummy to ensure the Welsh side would pay an inflated club record-breaking transfer fee for Sala.
The Scotsman would falsely suggest his player was also wanted by some of Europe’s major teams, leaking such false information to the media, for the transfer figure to be inflated, with him benefitting prominently in the transactions.
McKay even offered Sala’s mother, or any member of his family, to consider coming on board for the sealing of the transfer so that they could benefit from a £1 million one-off payment from Cardiff.
There are growing questions McKay’s model, which clearly tested the borders of transparency and integrity, could have placed the very players he represented under the possibility of considerable financial prejudice from him.
The new developments now cast a huge doubt over the accuracy of the information he provided back, when he was handling Benjani’s move from Pompey to Manchester City, that the Zimbabwean forward was being chased by Paris Saint-Germain, Marseille and Lyon.
Fears that Benjani, just like some of the players whose transfers were handled by McKay, could have fallen victim to the agent’s questionable business model and, possibly, suffered financial prejudice in the transactions, have arisen.
McKay would even gatecrash into deals, using his vast network, usually taking over from the agent of the player, and this would result in the proceeds being shared among a bloated group of individuals, at times, with players suffering a significant loss of proceeds.
In some cases, other agents would then be paid from the earnings of the players with some of the footballers being tied into making such payments, from their direct earnings, for the entire duration of their contracts.
A colourful, and flawed character, McKay was pulled off by police in England in August 2012 and they found he was driving despite serving a ban while a search of his car revealed he had cocaine inside the vehicle.
He pleaded guilty, claiming he believed his ban from driving had expired, was fined £6 115, which he promptly paid, with the judge warning that, in future, he risked being sent to jail for his conduct.
Although his licence to operate as an agent had been revoked by the Football Association, McKay still continued to be heavily involved in deals, including Sala’s transfer to Cardiff.
Even in that transfer, McKay sold a dummy to Cardiff by claiming the Argentine player was also wanted by heavyweight English clubs which forced the Premiership club agreed an inflated fee for the striker.
‘’My name is Willie McKay,’’ he introduced himself to Sala by email. ‘’First of all, I tried to reach (your agent) Meissa (N’Diaye) by call and SMS in the last few days without success.
‘’We are not interested in looking after your personal interests, finance, holidays, baby-sitting is not our market. We do transfers — to this date, over 600 from Didier Drogba and Anelka to Payet, Seri, Anguissa.
‘’Let us tell you how we operate and how the Cardiff City situation came around because you must be wondering.
‘’We will explain, we work for clubs in France, including PSG, Marseille, Lyon, Nice, Lille, Toulouse, Le Harve, Nantes and others, for players to be transferred to England.
‘’On your case we have spoken to every club, including Manchester, Chelsea, Liverpool. We think eventually you could play in these clubs. ‘’We have had West Ham, Everton, Leicester, Burnley, Fulham and Cardiff watching you at Nantes and away matches, Cardiff have been told you don’t want to go there. That’s probably our fault.
“It was us who put in the media about other clubs wanting you — West Ham, Everton, etc to create an interest in you. That’s what we do. It can be misleading for the player himself, but unless we do this, most people would not know you because nobody follows the French League.’’
Interestingly, when the FA handed McKay a ban in 2008, after being found guilty of breaking their transfer rules during Benjani’s move to Portsmouth from French club Auxerre and from Pompey to Manchester City, he also claimed PSG and Lyon were interested in the Zimbabwean forward.
‘’Portsmouth only asked me to do the deal because I knew the French market,’’ he told The Guardian newspaper. ‘’Really, he (Benjani) was meant to go to Marseille or Lyon or Paris St Germain, and Manchester City came in and got him.’’ The Herald