For most of us there are two certainties in life; failing to pick the right numbers in the Mark Six and answering our own particular number when it's up. For successful sportsmen there is another sure thing - The Agent, otherwise known as The Manager or 'Mr Ten Per Cent'. As soon as the golds come in, the goals go in, the aces sizzle and the putts drop, there is nothing surer than an agent will appear with contract in pocket, pen in hand and percentages on his mind. For an athlete whose earning power suddenly multiplies a million-fold, and who starts receiving offers to promote everything from toothpicks to transworld travel, an agent materialises as the person they do not really want to live with, but cannot live without. While some athlete-agent relationships have been made in heaven, others are hellish in the extreme. The genre can be tracked back to Mark McCormack, who turned a college kinship with golfer Arnold Palmer into a flourishing business relationship. He now heads up the worldwide IMG sporting empire, but is still in touch with his clients. He was spotted at the US Open tennis championships in New York last week sitting next to Monica Seles' mum and mirroring the agony she was feeling as Steffi Graf gave her daughter a thumping. While McCormack remains high-profile, there are hundreds of agents who are faceless, preferring to engineer deals from the shadows. Norwegian Rune Hauge liked doing business that way but his cover was well and truly blown after an investigation by the English football authorities. Hauge smoothed the transfer paths for a number of his clients by sweetening up managers like George Graham, formerly with Arsenal. Graham, who took over at the helm of Leeds United last week, was banned from football management for a year after accepting illegal payments from Hauge in two transfer deals. The Bosman ruling which guaranteed freedom of contract and movement for thousands of European footballers was a decade of Christmases rolled into one for agents. All of a sudden, young players who normally would have spent years honing their skills with local clubs were afforded the chance of plying their trade overseas. Given that many of these youngsters had difficulty finding their way home from training by bus, it was left to agents to map out their future careers. During the summer, many a football manager in Scotland approached apoplexy when refused permission to speak to players whose brokers were busily fixing up trials with tin pot clubs on the continent. Some of the young professionals were doubtless happy with the deals done and dusted on their behalf, but the more naive amongst them are probably feeling a bit like Olympic marathon champion Josia Thugwane of South Africa, who signed on the dotted line with a mysterious Mr Poso the day after his Olympic victory, and has had nothing but hassle ever since. He said: 'My life is too complicated these days with everybody suddenly interested in me - I cannot even train anymore. I do not want Poso's contract any more.'