It’s the morning after Chelsea eased past Malmo 4-0 and at a west London hotel, Romelu Lukaku’s agent assesses the damage.
“I have the same problem as Romelu but mine is the left ankle,” Federico Pastorello tells Sky Sports News as he also shows us the scrapes on his hands from a running injury.
The unfortunate moment occurred hours after his highest profile client, Lukaku, left the Stamford Bridge pitch after taking the full weight of Lasse Nielsen, but Pastorello, like the Belgian striker, is eager to get on with things.
In a wide-ranging interview, the immaculately dressed Italian discusses a number of topics including:
• Why Antonio Conte was the perfect manager for Lukaku and how Thomas Tuchel has similar qualities.
• The reasons the Belgium striker chose Chelsea and which other club could be an option for him one day.
• Why Newcastle should avoid a PSG approach to the transfer market.
• Regulating agents and why they need to be involved in the discussions.
Chelsea “were the love of his childhood”
Pastorello negotiated the club-record £97m deal that took Lukaku back to Chelsea after they initially sold him to Everton in 2014.
“The market can offer you certain opportunities. I consider them like trains passing and when the right train stops at the right place, you need to step in and leave,” Pastorello said.
“I could tell summer 2021 would be an important market for him. Three or four top clubs were looking for important strikers and on the market there was not one for each club.”
Lukaku ended up back at Stamford Bridge, motivated to make the same kind of impact as one of his football inspirations, Didier Drogba. It wasn’t possible as a 21-year old, but now 28, he’s returned as a more “mature” striker.
“During his last season at Man United he always had Chelsea in his head. Real Madrid as well I have to admit. That is another dream of his in terms of imagining his career, but Chelsea was always 100 per cent his target,” Pastorello said.
“They were the love of his childhood so there was always this desire to come back. It was a question of pride. He had that in his head and his heart.”
“He has completed himself as a striker working with Mr Conte”
Last season, Lukaku scored 42 goals in 58 games for club and country, including 30 at Inter Milan under Antonio Conte. Conte’s influence was a major contributing factor in moving to Milan and a similar theme is developing in London.
“Two years of work with Mr Conte helped him. He can score left, right, head. He has completed himself as a striker working with Mr Conte. He also had the opportunity to improve himself personally,” Pastorello said.
“He felt wanted. This is what he was not able to feel at Man United. That happens. It was actually another reason he decided to come here because Mr Tuchel really made a fantastic speech with him.
“He gave him the feeling that he really wanted him, that he was the perfect last piece in the puzzle. It’s very crucial for a player to decide to go in a team with a coach that really wants him.”
The Belgian striker made an instant impact on his return, scoring at the Emirates Stadium against Arsenal, before further adding to his tally against Aston Villa and Zenit. He was without a goal in seven games before his injury.
“Expectation is very high and when a player of his level returns, people think he will score every game,” Pastorello said.
“He got used to doing that (in Milan). He is very committed so I am not worried. I’m 100 per cent sure without the injury he’d have scored more than one. He was born to score goals.”
Thomas Tuchel recently suggested Lukaku was mentally fatigued after a summer of football, followed by the Nations League competition. Injury recovery to one side, does the time out offer a chance to reset?
“If Mr Tuchel said that he knows more than everybody because he’s training with him every day. Rom’s brain and his mind is very focused with Chelsea. He will rest a little bit but he’ll be back with more will to win trophies,” Pastorello said.
“Not all the games are possible to play the same way and some games in the Premier League have a physical impact. Romelu is perfect for both because tactically he is very clever, playing fantastic with his team-mates with goals but also assists. He has completed himself by becoming an assist man.
“He is also able to give this incredible power and physical impact. Remember the goal vs Arsenal? It was an amazing example of that. He can interpret both situations during the game.”
Lukaku’s team-mate Malang Sarr is another of Pastorello’s clients, so what does the future hold for him following an impressive debut in the win at Brentford earlier this month?
“I’m sure he will end up playing for this team because of his mentality, his professionalism, he’s such a humble and lovely guy. He’s very focused on reaching his target and his target is to be a Chelsea player,” Pastorello added.
“The winter market will arrive so we will decide with the club what is the best for him because he probably needs more experience before coming back but I’m 100 per cent sure about him.”
“Newcastle have great potential”
One club that will almost certainly be in the mix for players following their takeover is Newcastle United. Pastorello, with 26 years’ experience of the transfer market, believes it’s important they get the project right.
“Newcastle have great potential but they should not be driven by only the money. They really need to invest in the club, to grow the club facilities and infrastructure, in terms of service. After that slowly start to invest in the players. Of course they need to pay more than Chelsea, Man Utd, this kind of club but they need to create a feeling of a project over time,” Pastorello said.
“Obliging the top players to come to Newcastle because of money is dangerous because after the first difficulties they will give up. It’s a little bit like the problem they have in Paris now. They are paying a lot of money, more than others, probably to convince because the league is not the same level as the Premier League, or Serie A or LaLiga.
“At the end of the day, if players move only for the money and not the feeling of being happy and to be part of a project, then it will be complicated to reach a high level of success.
“Newcastle should not make this mistake. Newcastle is not Paris in terms of beauty of city. Supporters should not put too much pressure because it’s really a slow project, like for example they are doing in Nice. They are doing that in a process. They are creating a strong base.”
Agents “are not responsible for everything bad”
Pastorello is a member of the European Football Agents Association and also on the Italian Association of Football Agents board of directors. FIFA has previously said it was a mistake to deregulate agents in 2015 and wants greater transparency around agent fees.
“We are not responsible for everything bad in this business and the good agents have helped improve things. We are a big part of this business but we are not recognised as part of it,” he said.
“The stars of this movie are the players, clubs and supporters but we are an important part of it, particularly in the transfer market which generates the most important part of the income with the television money. We need to be respected for that.
“We are not against finding the right compromise. With FIFA they are really trying to keep their beautiful business as it is and I think UEFA are a little more open-minded.
“We need to find a level that the commission does not go over, also with the social problem and Covid because there is a huge crisis. We need to be more sensitive so I’m not against that.”
FIFA has told Sky Sports News it has conducted a “robust consultation process” with a large number of stakeholders on this subject. It includes sharing a draft of its Football Agent Regulations in November 2020. FIFA says it “has yet to receive any formal feedback on its draft regulations from the European Football Agents Association.”
That could rumble on for some time, but what is more clear-cut for Pastorello are certain clauses in player contract negotiations after we asked him how footballer lifestyles can be restricted in this short career.
“You cannot do certain dangerous sports. They are normally well paid so they can wait to the end of the career to go skiing or go on bikes! If you get injured going skiing you could lose six months from the championship,” he said.
“The levels of professionalism from players is great and they know they cannot escape from cameras and social media. The players know they need to be focused on their job.”
Pastorello enjoys a good relationship with Chelsea, praising Roman Abramovich’s “passion towards the club” and fondly remembers his time negotiating with Sir Alex Ferguson.
“We had Patrice Evra, Giuseppe Rossi and for a short time, Nani, and to work with Sir Alex was like going to university,” he said.
“I was only 26 or 27 and I was listening with the mouth open like you listen to a professor at university. He was incredible, humble and so modest for what he did. David Gill was also great as a CEO. Now the club is still managed in a fantastic way.”
As the chat draws to a close, we are interrupted briefly by the sound of a passing helicopter. There always seems to be a mode of transport involved with Pastorello. The conductor of the transfer train is always on the platform waiting for the next opportunity.