On August 5, Rasmus Højlund became Denmark's most expensive footballer, by a long way. The young Dane followed in the footsteps of current international team-mate Christian Eriksen and joined Manchester United. Frederik Bruhn, Partner at DAHL, was part of Højlund’s contract negotiations, and he spoke to Pundit to tell us about his work as a football lawyer.
By: Sajeev Shankar
Translated by: Patrick Johnson
Bruhn is one of Denmark's leading football lawyers and has also been a passionate Manchester City fan for more than 30 years. In his work at DAHL over the last decade, he’s seen his number of tasks with football at their center increasing.
THE HEAT WAS ON FROM THE START
Among other things, he has advised several clubs during player transfers, given input around ownership relationships within clubs, represented the fan section of Brøndby in connection with their American takeover (for a majority shareholding) - and, last but not least, assisted several players in connection with their personal contractual relationships. Still, it was something very special to work on Rasmus Højlund's move to Manchester United, which was, in every way, more significant than what he has previously experienced.
"Generally, the work in connection with transfers does not differ from other advice I assist with. But as a football lawyer and football lover, it is still something special to come into Carrington together with Manchester United's skilled lawyers and the player's representatives. The volume in the Højlund trade was large, and in other transfer negotiations you typically only meet with a sporting director and possibly a single lawyer. This time it was really on a different level," says Frederik Bruhn.
SKILLS OF A FOOTBALL LAWYER
When working as a football lawyer with player contracts, it is typically in close interaction with the players' agents. Still, as a lawyer, Bruhn has some specific skills that the agents do not have.
"My job consists of, among other things, helping the player get what he expects and ensuring everything is described in the contract in a concrete way, so that no disagreements arise later. In this way, I help align expectations and ensure that all relevant topics have been addressed. Neither club nor player will always get everything they want, but it’s important that all aspects have been discussed. In addition to topics such as salary and bonus, fringe benefits, etc., the question of the player's image rights has become particularly important," says Bruhn and elaborates on image rights in the world of football.
"Especially in the Premier League, image rights are an important point in the contract, and as football has developed commercially, there is a lot of money associated with them. Everyone probably remembers David Beckham's move to Real Madrid. It was not only because of Becks’ abilities on the pitch that Real signed an agreement with him. In that context, I must also ensure that the player's contract does not conflict with the obligations that the player has towards private sponsors. Normally, the player will choose his own boot brand, but if the player has an agreement with the clothing brand Boss, then it is problematic if the club has a clothing partner like Armani or Paul Smith," he says.
WHEN MAN UNIDTED CALLS - YOU PICK UP (!)
Although Bruhn is highly experienced in juggling several tasks simultaneously, the process during contract negotiations is often so intense that they take up all of his time.
"When you work with a case like this, it is clear that you don't have time for much else. With player contracts, it is extremely important to be present 'on location'. There is significant pressure from both clubs and agents and therefore it is necessary to have a person who can say stop if the demands on the player become unreasonable," he says.
It’s for this reason that the 50-year-old lawyer interrupted his private family holiday to fly to Manchester and participate in the contract negotiations, when the English club agreed terms with Atalanta. At the same time, he says that the significant media attention also helped to put additional pressure on all parties.
"With major transfers, there is intense attention from the press. The situation can then easily become hectic. You must be extra careful and aware that nothing gets out to the media. When Thomas Delaney moved to Dortmund, there was a photo of us on Bild (German newspaper) before we had even started negotiations."
WHAT COLOUR IS HE NOW?
We asked Bruhn if the pride of working on this record deal trumps club loyalty, particularly if Højlund scores the winner in the next Manchester derby, but the ardent City supporter replied diplomatically. “I will be happy about all the goals Rasmus scores - including the ones he scores against City. But undoubtedly, I still hope that City win.” Who could expect anything else from a lawyer who turned up wearing a blue striped tie at Carrington.
Hopefully, Rasmus Højlund will be ready for action when the first Manchester derby of the season takes place at Old Trafford on October 29th.
FREDERIK BRUHN'S PUNDIT CHALLENGE
This legendary Manchester City striker started his English career in the red end of Manchester, where he never got an official match. In his last game against Manchester United at Maine Road he scored his 99th and 100th goals for Man City.