As I grab my trusty grey coat and make motions to leave Perk de L’Abre Sec, a short, smartly dressed woman enters the café, prompting a small ‘Ding-a-ling’ from one of those old shopkeeper’s bells above the door. She makes a beeline for me and sits down at my table in the seat opposite, grinning a wide, Cheshire cat grin in my direction. She’s an odd looking lady; Fairly young with a round face, big brown eyes and a pair of trendy-looking glasses perched on the end of her slightly crooked nose. Her hair is short, dark and spiky and like the glasses I assume the style is “in vogue” at the minute. I suddenly feel much older than I am.
Now as many of you will know by now, I hail from a country called England, where speaking to strangers in public was made illegal several decades ago. There are exceptions to the rule of course, like if one of you is on fire or if you happen to be walking towards each other in a corridor and you both try to step out of the way, but end up still being in each other’s way (Repeat until you’re both suitably embarrassed), or if somebody isn’t looking where they’re going and bumps into you, in which case you should always apologise profusely because you’re so fucking English that you cry Earl Grey tears and shit scones.
“Franjo?” Says the smartly dressed woman, invoking the politeness clause that forces me to acknowledge her. It’s a complicated law.
“Oui?” I reply weakly.
“It is OK, I speak the finest English” she says flamboyantly and through a thick French accent.
“Ah, that’s lucky. I’m still learning.” I say, feeling slightly more relieved as I sit back down at the table. “Can I help you?”
“My name is Sylvania”, she begins, sliding a business card across the tabletop towards me. “I represent the finest people in football.” I glance at the card. It reads:
Professional Football Agent”
I have to squint to read it as the whole card is written in an especially loopy sort of calligraphic font and the phone number below the writing is pretty illegible.
“I’m fine thank you,” I say, smiling as I make to stand back up. “I represent myself.”
“In South Africa you did, yes! In Poland and Portugal and Sweden, but this is France! The finest footballing nation in the World!” I pause mid-stand and look at her curiously. She’s done her research on me. She uses the word ‘finest’ far too often and I choose to flat out ignore the last thing she says, but she does know my career. She grins again, aware that she’s caught my attention. “Not one Manager in Ligue 2 represents themselves. Not one. Not even the finest ones.” I roll my eyes. “These clubs will eat you alive, Monsieur Franjo. They’ll pay you a quarter of what a fine Manager like you should receive!”
“I’m only on a year’s contract, I hardly think Auxerre will want to offer me…”
“UNE ANÉE?!” She gasps, making the other patrons in the tiny café turn around with surprise. Sylvania claps her hands over her mouth. “You should have received a contract of 2 or 3 years!” She whispers, “And on 10 times the salary!”
“Well steady on,” I raise a hand to try and stop her verbal momentum, “You don’t even know what my salary…”
“93.6 thousand pounds.” She says abruptly.
“OK fine, keep it down.” I lean in, exasperated.
“How much of a bonus did you receive for keeping Auxerre in Ligue 2?” She asks, and for some reason I feel like she already knows the answer. I look awkwardly down at the table. “NO BONUS”, she cries dramatically, making heads swivel around once again.
“Alright, you’ve made your point”, I hiss desperately. “Please calm down!”
“C’est incroyable.” She whimpers. “I would get you so much more! More time, more money, more everything!”
“I’m happy with what I…”
“JAMAIS!” She cries once again, prompting a couple of people to slam down their cutlery and storm out of the café altogether. She holds out her forefinger and leans awkwardly across the table to press it against my lips as she continues “Never be happy with what you have, not when I can get you so much more!”
“Alright, fine.” I say quietly, brushing her finger away, “Look, I’ll give you a trial, OK? You speak to Auxerre and see what you can…”
“I WILL GET YOU THE FINEST DEAL!” She beams back at me across the table, then stands, picks up her business card and sweeps out of the café in one fluid movement.
“Wait, don’t I need…” The door slams shut as the old shopkeeper’s bell rings. “…That?”