Future Stars talks exclusively to Misko Raznatovic about the beginning of his career, perils of young players and assessment of basketball in the UK.
Misko Raznatovic has a truly unique basketball background, In footballing terms if you mix together Jorge Mendes, Mino Raiola and add a bit of Pini Zahavi you will still not come close to Misko as none of these super powerful agents also owns arguably the best youth academy in Europe.
Apart from representing the interests of top European players, Misko Raznatovic is also the owner of Mega Bemax Belgrade. This true factory of the highest quality of basketball talent has recently exported to the NBA players such as Nikola Jokic, Vasilije Micic, Nemanja Dangubic , Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Ivica Zubac, Rade Zagorac, Goga Bitadze and Adam Mokoka.
Read below Misko Raznotovic discussing his background, prospects for young talent and the basketball scene.
You founded your agency while you were still an active player. What triggered your decision to venture into the agency business?
I had no plans to do this. At the time I had established an attorneys office, and was occupied with criminal law. Then all of a sudden big money entered Serbian basketball for the first time and players had a need for legal protection. The players knew my background as a lawyer and started coming to me for drawing their contracts.
You can easily be compared to football super agents like Jorge Mendes and Mino Raiola. When was the decisive point or deal with a player or club which elevated your agency and yourself to a different orbit than almost everyone else in Europe?
There was no doubt that it was in 2002, when I signed my first mega deal, this was the 3-year contract between Coach Dusan Ivkovic and CSKA Moscow.
What is your opinion on the chances of young players breaking into the world of top professional clubs? I’m not even talking here about the old Jugoplastika times when super young and talented generations dominated Europe. I’m asking about a young individual player making a serious impact on the current European scene. Luka Doncic was an exception in a pretty grim climate for young players.
It is almost impossible, nowadays it is very hard to be a young basketball prospect. Teams only care about results and youngsters don’t get a chance to play. If we take a look at the situation 10 years ago, you can see that many teams from the Adriatic region gave up a lot of time and freedom to 18 / 19 year old players for their development. Now, they don’t do this anymore and all the important teams from the region have 6-8 foreigners per team. There are only a few oasis in Europe where kids get a chance to play.
How do you see the future of European basketball in the next 5 years? Do you think that the importance of domestic leagues will further diminish?
It is obvious that in 5 years the domestic leagues will be played only for local prestige and nothing else. This is not good for basketball and the development of the sport. Football is structured much better as domestic leagues are crucial for entering the highest level of competition in Europe. Theoretically, if you make a budget of €100,000 000 in a small basketball country (lets say Portugal), you have no chance to immediately play at the highest basketball level. You need to find a way to enter Eurocup, then qualify to the final there, so you need 2 or 3 years at least.
Leading on from the previous question, how do see the issue of building truly sustainable clubs in European basketball? What are the major stumbling blocks in creating European clubs which could be truly money making and economically feasible enterprises?
I have no answer, I am afraid that is not possible.
What in your opinion stops the development of basketball in the UK? You have an immensely rich country with a tremendous sporting tradition and diverse population interested in basketball. Yet England stays almost completely outside the European scene and English clubs are non existent when it comes to European perception?
There are two main reasons. Tradition is the first one, and the second is that people who run projects in the past have never had the patience and strength to continue until the end. At the beginning of course it does not look good and they need time to grow. They need years to grow. But people always get rid and do not continue projects after a year or two.