According to multiple reports in Spain and elsewhere, Tottenham Hotspur are close to signing their second promising young midfielder of the summer transfer in 18-year old Ilaix Moriba from Barcelona. However, there’s one major complication: Moriba’s agents.
Moriba, a Guinean international and La Masia graduate, has been declared surplus to requirements by Barcelona due to his unwillingness to sign a new contract at the Nou Camp. The acrimony between Moriba and Barca has been simmering for months now and reached a point such that he is unlikely to play a minute of action for Barca’s first team this coming season and would be banished to Barca B should he stay. His contract expires next summer.
That, plus Barca’s ongoing COVID-related financial difficulties means that Moriba is a target for any club that’s looking for an exciting young player on a deal. Tottenham Director of Football Fabio Paratici has apparently been working on hoovering up Moriba for Spurs for a while now, and such is Barcelona’s eagerness to cut bait on him that the two clubs have agreed a ludicrously low transfer fee of €15m for a four year contract.
But there’s a problem — Moriba’s agents. The Athletic has an excellent look at the complex situation, though it’s behind a paywall. To summarize: Ilaix is represented by ROGON, a notoriously difficult agency to work with. Apparently Moriba’s agents acknowledge the deal struck between Spurs and Barca, but are pushing Moriba to instead stay at Barca for another season so that he can move to RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga next summer on a free transfer. And why do that? Because ROGON has a deal in place that would ensue the agents receive a substantial agents’ fee from Leipzig, even if it means that Moriba languishes in Barca’s reserves for a whole season. They also think that if they can kick the can down the road a summer there’s a strong possibility that they’ll have more, better options than a choice between Tottenham and Leipzig.
But Moriba just wants to play football. As of late Friday night, Moriba was set to consider his options and would be making a decision by the end of the weekend. It’s a bit of an infuriating situation — Moriba’s primary advisor is his father, and it seems that his dad is the one who fired Ilaix’ previous agency, Stellar (Gareth Bale’s agency) to hire ROGON because he thought they’d get him a more lucrative contract at Barcelona. That seems to have spectacularly backfired.
There are currently three possibilities, and all of them seem possible. The first is that Ilaix convinces his agents to go along with the agreement made between Tottenham and Barca, and then agrees personal terms with Spurs before the close of the window. The second is to convince Leipzig to meet or exceed Tottenham’s €15m bid to Barcelona so Moriba can move to Germany instead of to London. And the third, which would be the most lucrative for the agency but the worst for the player, is to stay at Barca, play in the reserves with no chance of first team football for the season, and then move to Leipzig or assess his options in a hopefully more favorable financial environment. Moriba, meanwhile, appears to be caught in the middle.
Tottenham landing Moriba would be considered a huge coup — he’s a monster talent (compared to Paul Pogba) who with the right development could end up playing at the highest levels of the sport. He’s the kind of player who even at age 18 could push for a role in Spurs’ starting midfield, and even if he pushes to a bigger club down the road is a player whom Spurs would likely make a huge profit on in a couple of years.
More recent Twitter updates have seemed to paint a hopeful picture for Tottenham, but it’s far from finished. Hopefully we’ll get more clarity on the situation in the coming days.