Dubliner Matt O’Donohoe has avoided publicity but the high-powered commercial agent has become a central figure in the day-to-day life of the Spurs manager
'I just want to do all the paperwork and get that done.'
Viewers that weren't fully engaged with 'All or Nothing', the Amazon Prime documentary chronicling Spurs' first season under Jose Mourinho, might have missed the Irish accent central to a scene reflecting the completion of negotiations with the Portuguese manager.
There was no explanation of his purpose, no further interactions to reveal the identity of this man in his late thirties seated next to Daniel Levy for the money shot emphasising that the deal was done.
"We did well to keep that quiet, didn't we?" says the Dubliner, "That is not an easy job."
Matt O'Donohoe has largely succeeded in keeping his name out of the limelight, but if you know where to look, the face keeps popping up.
When the Mourinho camp is discussed in the context of any news story, the assumption is that the super agent Jorge Mendes is central to it but their relationship has cooled. The Israeli dealmaker, Pini Zahavi, was reportedly called in to broker key aspects of his deal with Spurs.
But it's his commercial agent O'Donohoe, from Clontarf, that is now regarded as the closest fit to a right-hand man for the 57-year-old in terms of day-to-day interactions.
This has actually been the case for some time, and there's a catalogue of photos of Mourinho attending non-football events - appearances as a guest at rugby or tennis matches - with the same Irish head to the forefront of his entourage. He's uncaptioned in pictures with household names, ignored in a camera shot that catches him positioned in the same row as Mourinho, Hugh Grant and Will Young at a tennis showpiece.
"Matt is pretty much Jose's best mate," says one London-based executive, reflecting a view that was echoed by several people contacted for this piece. O'Donohoe did not respond to a request for comment.
He's a busy man, an influential presence who is well known in his field but has avoided press attention. The Mourinho angle is just one aspect of his workload, and it's underselling his brief to just hone in on that.
O'Donohoe is the head of international sports at the Creative Artists Agency (CAA), which describes itself as the "world's largest talent representation business", with its origins traced to America and to Hollywood where their business was sourcing lucrative partnerships for the stars of their stable.
Rather than doing club-to-club deals, CAA organise contracts with big-spending sponsors, brand ambassador arrangements with designer watch companies or luxury cars or wherever the money is. CAA's tentacles are spreading, though, and last year they acquired an agency, BASE, a firm of football agents in the traditional transfer market sense of the word, to gain a further foothold.
Endorsement deals are their bread and butter, however.
In 2016, it was reported that Mourinho was coining in an extra £10m per year on top of his Manchester United salary on account of deals with Heineken, Hublot, Jaguar, BT Sport, adidas, Lipton Tea, EA Sports and Atlantis Hotels.
CAA are the go-between for those transactions.
O'Donohoe's LinkedIn casually lists selected clients such as Mourinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane, Nico Rosberg, Golden State Warriors and Barcelona.
He's player in the golf market too. When Patrick Reed claimed the US Masters green jacket in 2018, the 'Daily Mail' noted that O'Donohoe, his European rep, was following him in the final round at Augusta. Reed was playing with Rory McIlroy, another contact of O'Donohoe's.
Evidently, he moves in the right circles. It's a trait that runs through the family. His elder brother, Damien, enjoys a greater profile at home. Brian O'Driscoll's best man and business partner has made waves in a variety of fields, managing sports stars and bands, and his biggest project has proved to be taking over as CEO in the establishment of the Caribbean Cricket League. Younger brother Paul is a former professional rugby player and a partner in Greencastle Capital, an investment company that has just taken control of Joe.ie.
Matt is firmly standing on his own two feet, although contacts feel that Damien's connections helped him get a foot up the ladder when he moved to London after completing a business degree in Galway (2004) and qualifying through the Institute of Chartered Accountants in tandem with working at PriceWaterhouseCooper until 2008.
He joined CAA as a junior figure when they were trying to break into the European market by recruiting a top executive team led by Peter Kenyon, the former Manchester United and Chelsea CEO. There was frustration from Stateside that the overseas wing was underperforming.
"They were flying first-class everywhere and getting well paid but they weren't bringing money in," says a source who worked closely with the company around the point. What followed was essentially a culling of the operation, but O'Donohoe survived, with a greater position of influence.
Staff at CAA felt he always managed relations with the US cleverly, and they heard tales of the top brass arriving into the country to be collected by a friendly face at the airport and brought to intimate gigs with Mumford and Sons or other musicians of that ilk that would have been accessible via his brother.
"Matt is an excellent networker," says another source, who sensed the Americans were always given the clear impression that Matt could succeed where others had failed. "He is very good at manoeuvring situations."
"Damien would be more charismatic," adds another UK-based voice familiar with the family. "Matt would be more understated. But he's worked bloody hard and earned the trust of the right people. With CAA, he navigated some choppy waters."
The Mourinho link arose through CAA and Kenyon's alliance with Gestifute, the Mendes-founded company which has a registered office in Dublin as part of a global operation managing iconic figures such as Mourinho and Ronaldo.
CAA and Gestifute have drifted apart, but O'Donohoe had worked the Mourinho angle hard enough to become a vital part of his inner circle.
O'Donohoe follows media commentary about Mourinho closely, inviting one journalist for an exclusive interview off the back of a positive piece, while also taking to task other outlets for their coverage of his fraught final days at Chelsea. This was the point where journalists on the UK beat became aware of his presence.
'Protective' is a word that comes up repeatedly. He was regularly travelling up and down to Manchester when Mourinho was in situ at The Lowry Hotel during his tumultuous stint in charge of the Red Devils and there is a view on the football circuit that they click because the roles in their union are very clearly defined.
"Jose loves it when someone kisses his a**e," says one source, putting it bluntly, detailing how an established public dynamic of the double act is the manager openly poking fun at his Irish helper. One person's derision is another's banter, and it wouldn't be unusual for a sidekick to take that berth when aligned with a dominant character such as Mourinho.
A mutual contact of the pair says it would be unwise to downplay the agent's influence behind the scenes. "He runs Jose," is the verdict. "He's smart and well-respected."
In a dog-eat-dog environment, he has established himself as integral to CAA, and old colleagues speak of a relentless worker who is territorial when it comes to minding his patch. "What he knows is how to pick the right people," asserts another UK-based voice. "And he will work it to death. He commits."
CAA's ongoing expansion means they are outgrowing office space, with a base in Hammersmith in the same complex as the home of Dazn, the streaming service that is integral to big-business global boxing fights. An English wing of Qatari Sports Investments are in the neighbourhood too. There's a lot going on in an evolving sports market and O'Donohoe is in the heart of it.
Raphael Varane has recently signed up with CAA, while they are making further inroads into the Formula 1 domain. Executive headhunting is another service they provide.
While a hard-nosed streak is required to assert power internally, managing brands demands an ability to press the flesh and individuals working in the broad area of sponsorship only have good things to say, describing how O'Donohoe will go 'above and beyond' what is asked of him by customers.
"He's very different to a London-style Cockney agent," says one industry source. "He comes across as more down to earth, he's Irish and he's well liked. There's a bit more substance to him."
Another Irish voice in London says: "He's maybe got a reputation that he would sell his granny to do a deal but I've never seen that myself."
In the aftermath of taking over BASE last year, he gave a rare interview to a sports business website detailing how companies keep coming to CAA rather than the other way around.
"I've been here eight years and I don't think there has been a two-month period when we haven't been approached by someone exploring the opportunity of selling their business," he said, "Our eyes and ears are always open to opportunities, but the cultural fit has to be right, and we're not in a rush to buy everything."
Business has been going good, in other words, although no company is immune to the pandemic and the US HQ did recently furlough a number of staff and let others go. But there is much more to O'Donohoe's existence than Mourinho, even if he's the reference point for many folks that have encountered him.
There is, apparently, a running joke between the duo centred around 'The Late Late Show's continued attempts to get Mourinho on. Should he eventually turn up on RTÉ screens some Friday night, rest assured that a local lad will have made it happen.
Peter McNeeley doesn't sound like the man I remember. What I hear instead is the voice of a ghost, the gearing of his speech grasping and heavily slurred. His memories are dug up from behind the thick curtain of damage left by drug and alcohol abuse.