On the day the junior footballer Thierno Mamadou Ballo turned 16, the youth section of Chelsea FC sent out a tweet. It was January 2, 2018. The club will "seal the contract with the Austrian youth national player this week," it said in the statement, then Ballo will first be used for the U18 selection of the Premier League club.
At this time Ballo played in the B-juniors of Viktoria Köln in the Bundesliga West. One and a half years earlier, in the summer of 2016, he was, surprisingly, transferred from the youth performance center Bayer Leverkusen in the junior division of the Cologne club.
Also Bayern and Leipzig should have been interested
The regional football magazine "Reviersport" was worth the transfer of the talented offensive player to England a small story. Viktoria Köln's patron Franz-Josef Wernze, a tax consultant, enthused: "Almost everyone wanted to have him in the summer of 2016. It was the turn of Bayern, RB Leipzig and 1. FC Köln, but his guardian decided to change to FC Chelsea. "
Since Thierno was not yet old enough to move to England, "Chelsea parked him with us and of course we enjoyed doing that and did not have to pay any expense allowance for the boy." He is a great, close-to-the-people boy When talking about child prodigies in football, Thierno Ballo is one of those, "said Wernze.
Price query time:
26.08.2019, 17:13 clock
Rafael Buschmann, Michael Wulzinger
Football Leaks 2: New revelations from the world of professional football - A SPIEGEL book
German publishing house
Also available as an audiobook.
Buy from Amazon Buy from Thalia
Product information is purely editorial and independent. The so-called affiliate links above, we usually receive a commission from the dealer when buying. More information here.
As reported so far, the story of Thierno Ballo sounds like one of those football fairy tales. The boy from Fresco, a town on the Ivory Coast, comes to Linz in Austria at the age of four. There he falls on a football pitch to a youth coach, who immediately takes him into his club. Ballo's first coach, Peter Huemerlehner, later becomes his guardian. The man moves to Germany for professional reasons. The eleven-year-old boy joins in, so he finally comes through Bayer Leverkusen and Viktoria Köln to Chelsea to London.
The business with underage talent
"We narrowed down a few clubs and looked closely at not only the infrastructure but also the training work," said Huemerlehner, "and Chelsea left the best impression." Ballo said in an interview with the Dazn streaming service about his guardian, "He's like a second dad to me, I'm always having fun with him and he's helping me out at every opportunity."
But behind the career Ballos hides a completely different story. She talks about the business with underage talent. And it's a lesson in how club officials push through their interests: with a lot of money and an attitude not to see the existing rules to protect teens.
The Ballo case, which is part of Football Leaks' record, is just one of many. But he is a particularly drastic.
Ballo (right) also plays for the youth national team of Austria
On 21 June 2016, he is just fourteen and a half years old, signs Ballo, then living in Cologne, an "agreement" with Chelsea FC. Huemerlehner, Ballo's guardian, also puts his signature under the document, as does Ballo's mother. The document stipulates that Ballo will move to Chelsea on or about 1 July 2018.
Ballo binds for four years. In his first season, provided with a "Scholarship Agreement", a training contract, Ballo should therefore get only 135 pounds per week. From the summer of 2019, Chelsea will offer the adolescent quite different sums: an average of £ 215,000 a year. The first taste for the player is already seven days after signing: 10,000 pounds.
Noticeably high premiums
The documents show that Ballo, his mother and his guardian Huemerlehner sign a second contract. And there is the draft of another agreement. The undersigned document deals with remarkably high premiums, a kind of advance for his move to Chelsea.
As a result, Ballo Club guarantees payments of 441,500 euros and 550,000 pounds, payable in six installments, by the end of June 2018. The first tranche of 441,500 euros is due no later than seven working days after Ballo's signature, the last in June 2018. Chelsea, according to the draft contract, is to transfer the money to Kreissparkasse Köln. Huemerlehner, Ballo's guardian, has an account there.
Ballo (left) in August 2017 at the U17 national team of Austria. At that time he was only 15 years old
But Chelsea secures. In the event that the boy should not fulfill his contractual commitments in the years from 2018 to 2022, Ballo's mother and guardian Huemerlehner make themselves liable for damages. So it says in another draft contract. According to this document, they are obliged to reimburse Chelsea all payments already made. This includes the transfer fee, which is to take Viktoria Cologne for having parked the player until his change for two years. That's worth Chelsea FC a transfer fee of 150,000 euros.
The Premier League actually prohibits such deals
This agreement collides with central regulations for the transfer of minors. According to Fifa, minors under the age of 16 are not allowed to sign contracts across borders. Even rules of the Premier League ban financial lock-outs to minors.
The leaders of Chelsea seem to have yet to attract large financial incentives to the then 14-year-old Ballo. The fact that parents are put under pressure by so-called option contracts has a methodology, as revealed by a change of mail from a Chelsea lawyer to an external consultant in the summer of 2016.
It is difficult to hold minors responsible for their contract signatures, the counselor said. "Parents should believe that they are personally required to ensure that the player signs with Chelsea and nowhere else," he advised. He seemed confident that it worked: "Parents will probably sign everything you submit to them anyway."
This is evidenced by other Chelsea contracts in which parents bowed to pressure and found themselves "unconditionally and irrevocably liable" for any costs that might be incurred by their son's cancellation: legal costs, claims for damages, penalties.
Guardian Huemerlehner speaks up
The SPIEGEL asked Huemerlehner, Ballo himself and his mother for an opinion on the contract contents. Only Huemerlehner answered. In his view, the career of his foster son is a prime example of "lived and successful integration" and "social responsibility". The decision to switch to Chelsea was made by Ballo "on his own, and we gave our consent after we could guarantee a stable social and personal environment".
He would not comment further on "contractual content and confidential documents", Huemerlehner wrote, saying that these documents had been "illegally stolen". The figures presented by SPIEGEL to him correspond to "not the facts". Huemerlehner did not name any others. He also wrote that Chelsea offer "with his financial support only the opportunity to make it all this way".
Chelsea FC via Getty Images
In 2018 Ballo (center) in the offspring of Chelsea FC and ran there first for the U18 selection
The allegation that Chelsea's contract with his then 14-year-old foster son violated the rules of the association, commented Huemerlehner with the words: "I have to be honest in law, but we always had the impression that everything went according to the rules." Of the 150,000 euros that Chelsea should have paid as a transfer fee to Victoria Cologne, he knew nothing: "But even if 150k were in circulation, so these days, as far as I've gotten things, not huge amounts."
The club Viktoria Cologne expressed neither to the amount of the transfer fee nor to the charge, a six-figure amount for the resale of the then 14 -year-old player, who had just moved from Leverkusen to Cologne, is evidence of unethical business practices.
Chelsea responded initially to a request and announced to the SPIEGEL to comment on the questions about the transfer. That has not happened yet.