Wenger, Taylor, Mamic, Joorabchian, Lynch among Most Influential 50-41
ESPN FC is counting down the top 50 most influential men and women in football, as compiled by our editors and writers from around the world.
MOST INFLUENTIAL: 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-6 | 5-1
50. David Chung, president of the Oceania Football Confederation
A Blatter loyalist, which was made clear when Chung assumed the OFC presidency unopposed in early 2011. "To the FIFA president, we are indebted to you for your continued support," Chung, 52, said in his acceptance speech. "We are behind you 100 percent." Chung's mission has included trying to prevent the Asian federation from "swallowing" OFC, drawing a line in the sand that has made his role an influential one.
Indeed, while most of the confederation's teams are classed as "minnows," the footballing world would not have been treated to the impressive exploits of the New Zealand team at the 2010 World Cup -- as they so nearly sealed a place in the knockout stages -- if they had been in Asia.
49. Loretta Lynch, Prosecutor heading DOJ inquiry
On the morning of May 27, 2015, as a combination of Swiss and FBI agents arrested 14 FIFA officials, the fight against corruption in the world's governing body gained a new public face. Lynch, who was only a month into her U.S. government position, announced "the unsealing of charges and the arrests of individuals as part of our long-running investigation into bribery and corruption in the world of organised soccer."
At her news conference, Lynch announced a 47-count indictment and the unravelling of world football governing body began, with president Sepp Blatter's resignation announced the following Monday. Lynch, 56, has previously successfully prosecuted cases against sex traffickers, Mafia bosses and terrorists. Now FIFA are in her sights as everyone waits for the next big revelation to drop in the scandal.
48. Kia Joorabchian, intermediary
He is not a registered FIFA agent (that designation belongs to his business partner at Media Sports Investment, Nojan Bedroud) but that means little in the often back-room game of transfers. Joorabchian, 43, heads the operation and has played an influential -- and, at times, controversial -- role in some of the biggest transfers over the past decade.
In the mid-2000s, Joorabchian, a London-based businessman, rose to public prominence when representing the interests of Carlos Tevez, as the Argentinian striker moved from Boca Juniors to Corinthians, West Ham, Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus. During that time, when it was unclear who actually owned Carlos Tevez, Joorabchian was the first public face of third-party ownership, which would become more well-known (and notorious) with the emergence of Doyen Sports.
He is also involved with a number of other leading players, including Chelsea's Ramires. When Manchester United signed Juan Mata from Chelsea in January 2013, Joorabchian was employed as a middle man and he also played a role in Douglas Costa's €30m move to Bayern Munich from Shakhtar Donetsk this summer.
47. Barney Francis, Sky Sports managing director
The English Premier League is the richest in world football and the majority of its money comes from the huge TV deals it has struck with its UK partner broadcasters. Of the £5.1 billion paid for the three seasons from 2016 to 2019, Sky, which has held rights since the league's inception in 1992, paid £4.2 billion under the aegis of 43-year-old Francis, who has been managing director since 2009. That deal was announced in February 2015 and having been associated with the Rupert Murdoch-owned company for two decades, Francis faces a balancing act following that vast payout.
Sky is still the dominant power in British sports TV -- and has paid handsomely to retain its primacy -- but is involved in a battle for customers with BT, the other holder of the remaining Premier League rights in the UK, in a multi-platform battle over broadband contracts and TV carriage deals that goes far deeper than showing football.
46. Zdravko Mamic, executive director Dinamo Zagreb, Croatian powerbroker
Under Mamic, a character who's never far from controversy, Dinamo Zagreb have won 10 consecutive domestic titles. The club's domination of domestic football has raised Mamic's influence in the game in general, to the point that for all intents and purposes he also runs the Croatian Football Federation with a rod of iron rather than the president, legendary striker Davor Suker. That power means Mamic has a close involvement with the players that Croatia exports across the world, including Real Madrid's Luka Modric, for whom his son Mario is an agent.
ESPN FC'S 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN FOOTBALL
- The list: 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-6 | 5-1 | FC TV
- Marcotti: The power is ultimately derived from the fans
- Brassell: Jorge Mendes -- A national hero in Portugal
- Chaudhary: Jerome Valcke -- The man who makes FIFA tick
- Kuper: Johan Cruyff -- Modern game's father fades from view
- Honigstein: Pep Guardiola -- Bayern boss has more to prove
- Mitten: Gary Neville -- From playing to punditry, coaching
- Merrill: Loretta Lynch -- The face of the FIFA investigation
45. Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the English PFA
On a reported salary of £1m, Taylor is famously (or perhaps infamously) said to be the highest-paid union official in the football world. He is certainly at the head of one of the most powerful unions in the world, the English Professional Footballers' Association, which has made him more and more high profile since assuming the role in 1981. He also has been a voice in many controversies down through the years, including Eric Cantona's kung-fu kick in 1994 and Luis Suarez's bite in 2013.
Some players have accused him of only caring about the elite side of the game, and there have been threats of breakaway movements. Taylor's judgment hasn't always been (shall we say) spot on, either. Despite some high profile gaffes, he retains one of the most influential roles in the sport and is also a member of FIFA's football committee. At the PFA, Taylor is at the forefront of the organisation's work to educate young players in how to live their lives and places himself at the centre of debates of ethics and morality in the modern game in an attempt to shape public opinion.
44. Sheikh Ahmed Al Fahad Al Sabah, powerbroker in Asia and potential FIFA presidential candidate
Once the FIFA crisis caused Sepp Blatter to step down from the presidency, this 51-year-old was swiftly pushed to the fore. Sheikh Ahmad is a possible candidate for the presidency, with his Asian Confederation forming a significant bloc in helping to define and decide the shape of football's brave new world.
The Sheikh, a member of the ruling Kuwaiti family and a one-time coach of the Kuwait national team, remained a Blatter loyalist to the end, keeping votes away from Jordanian Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, in the election Blatter won on May 29. Along with Africa, Asia was the electorate on which Blatter relied and Sheikh Ahmed is viewed, instead of AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa, as the real powerbroker in that region. He is a vocal supporter of Qatar 2022, has recently been elected to FIFA's executive committee and could, in the end, throw his support to Platini. Either way, Sheikh Ahmad will be a force in the sport's future.
43. Philippe Blatter, president, InFront, holders of FIFA media rights and nephew of the FIFA president
Nephew of president Sepp, Philippe happens to run the company that wholesales World Cup TV rights and sells them to individual broadcasters. It is a link that has caused deep controversy and has been defended by FIFA chiefs on the grounds that FIFA did business with InFront before Philippe Blatter came on board in 2005.
Blatter, 51, joined InFront having already enjoyed a long career in sports business. Bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups reached a mammoth $1.85 billion while controversy was caused earlier this year when the rights for 2026 were awarded in the United States and Canada without bids being invited.
42. Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa, president of Porto
If there is a club in European football that has a consistent reputation for sharp transfer business, as well as making the careers of top coaching talent such as Jose Mourinho and Andre Villas-Boas, it is Porto. And if there's one man who deserves credit, it's Pinto Da Costa, 77, who has been president since 1982.
Under Da Costa, Porto have made a specialty of honing South American talent and made use of third-party ownership to compete with far richer clubs to become a constant Champions League presence and menace. Among the players who have passed through the club by virtue of the system are Radamel Falcao and Deco, while they just made a huge profit in selling Colombian Jackson Martinez to Atletico Madrid for €35m.
FIFA's pledge to ban TPO, however, brings into question whether Porto can continue to function using this model. Pinto Da Costa's influence might soon be reduced.
41. Arsene Wenger, Arsenal manager
People love to laugh at Arsenal (and their manager, Wenger) for going years without a trophy. Well, you'd be forgiven if Wenger took a bit of inspiration from Lil' Wayne and started singing "How you like me now?" Arsenal are now a financial juggernaut and, to many, legitimate title contenders because of Wenger's prudent approach to transfer spending, commitment to building a new stadium and commercial considerations that were ahead of his time.
Indeed, few managers have had an effect on a country's, or a club's, football like the Frenchman did when he arrived in England in 1996. From revamping his side's dietary habits to a renewed commitment to stylish football, Wenger changed Arsenal's brand from years of negativity and blazed a trail for a host of young French stars who would go on to become world-beaters. His zenith came as his "Invincibles" finished the 2003-04 season unbeaten.
Wenger ended the club's nine-year title drought in 2013 with the FA Cup, and added another at the end of last season. And you can forget the days when Wenger put out sides of unknown teenagers. He heads into this campaign with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Petr Cech, poised to return Arsenal back to English football's summit.
MOST INFLUENTIAL: 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-6 | 5-1
Information from Miguel Delaney and John Brewin was used in this report.