Agents, who primarily look at the business interests of the footballers, most often have a restrictive influence on the players controlling their behaviour on and off the field, feels Carlos Valderrama, the charismatic Colombian captain who singed the Nineties with his flamboyant style and fluffy hair locks.

The former play-maker, considered one of the most influential footballers of Colombia, told Sportstar that the sport is loosing characters because of the increasing involvement of money.

“As a player I always worked hard and I never had an agent. Now a player has three to four agents to look after his business, daily needs and other things. They also control every aspect of the life of a player outside the field,” Valderrama said trying to analyse the transformation.

Looking back at the time when he and his Colombian teammate Rene Higuita were grabbing the international headlines regularly for their innovative playing and hair styles, the most-capped Colombian star, nicknamed as ‘El Pibe’, quips, “those were the times of different styles, different life.”

Here in the city to promote a programme for Dhulaiwala, one of the most creative footballers to come out of South America says the Latin American flair is still alive despite the relative decline in club football in the continent. “South American players are very much protective of their style. Europe may buy the players, but they cannot buy that style. It is in the life of South America,” Valderrama insisted.

When asked if the creative flair that described his playing style is missing nowadays, the captain of Colombia’s three successive World Cup ventures (1990, 1994 and 1998) sounded philosophical, “Everything changes. What I did may not be possible now because of too much focus on system. But play-making is very much there.”

Valderrama, who was chosen among one of the greatest 125 living footballers by Brazilian great Pele in 2004 during the centenary celebrations of FIFA, has an Argentine legend as his personal favourite. When asked to name the best player ever to have worn the No. 10 jersey, the reply was immediate – (Diego) Maradona.

Narrowing down his selection to present age, Valderrama has another Argentine to name, (Lionel) Messi. 

The Colombian great sounded quite upbeat the FIFA Under-17 World Cup helping the development of Indian football. “The (U-17) World Cup will surely help the game grow in the country because the whole world will be watching it. More significantly, the Indian national team will be playing and there will lot emotion involved,” he said.