There's Nothing like Good Advice - and This Was Nothing like Good Advice! GAME ON: THE LAST WORD

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IF VINCENT Van Gogh's tiny circle of friends had embraced an astute fund manager, a canny agent or even an efficient social secretary, he would probably have enjoyed a prosperous old age instead of losing his mind, his ear and his life in penurious misery.

Oscar Wilde, too, could have savoured the full fruits of his self-proclaimed genius if some 19th Century version of Max Clifford had been on hand to spin a safe passage through the scandals that engulfed him.

One of life's sneaker little tricks, however, dictates that people blessed with extraordinary creative skills are often hopelessly inefficient at coping with the mundane chores and challenges that ordinary people take for granted. And that's why stars of stage, screen, studio and sports arena have taken to enveloping themselves in a cocoon of advisers, attorneys and accountants - even though, as the likes of Mohammed Ali could testify, all those 10-per-cent premiums often add up to a ruinous investment.

I've got no idea how much Steven Gerrard pays his agent, Struan Marshall, but he must be due a hefty rebate after the 'should I stay or should I go' saga that, for the second close-season in succession, has made him look like some sort of dithering half-wit.

In a business ruled by supply-and-demand economics, how difficult can it be to obtain an acceptable contract for a player who has just lifted the European Cup and is coveted by Real Madrid, surely the most glamorous club in the world, and Chelsea, unquestionably the wealthiest?

Liverpool's chairman, chief executive and manager all maintain that they were desperate to keep Gerrard, who in turn insists that he never wanted to leave. Yet somehow, a few weeks after the greatest night in their history, the club gained the impression that he was determined to snub their pounds 100,000- a-week offer while the skipper convinced himself that they wanted to take the pounds 35,000,000 and run. Just who was pulling whose hopelessly crossed wires?

After his dramatic about-turn on Wednesday morning, Gerrard explained that "the last five or six weeks have been the hardest of my life because I wrongly believed the club didn't want me. I was left feeling so confused - I was receiving all kinds of advice and information from so many people."

He, charitable soul, absolved Marshall of all responsibility for the misunderstandings. Yet the real puzzle of this dj vu shambles, surely, is that if this is what you get from a representative who is following your brief exactly, what sort of shoddy service might you expect from one who has his own agenda to pursue?

MOST footballers employ agents because they recognise that they haven't got the confidence, training or - let's be honest - the intellect to hold their own in complex negotiations.

Formula One drivers, by and large, are very different animals: they command their multi-millionaire salaries because, in addition to being exceptionally talented and extraordinarily brave, they are intelligent individuals whose technical feedback plays a crucial role in the development of their sport.

One can only despair, therefore, at the breathtaking arrogance and stupidity of the stance taken by FIA president Max Mosley in his current unseemly dispute with the Grand Prix Drivers' Association.

Mosley, it seems, was mightily miffed when, in the wake of the six-car US Grand Prix, David Coulthard voiced his concerns about some aspects of current F1 regulations. Never mind that the eloquent Scot was expressing an honest opinion backed up by vast experience, Mosley bawled him out over the phone and then, in a scandalous fit of pique, pulled the plug on a meeting scheduled to discuss the GPDA's concerns about safety at test sessions.

Although so incensed that Coulthard had the temerity to speak out, Mosley clearly didn't feel bound by the sense of discretion he expects in others. …