Thu. Jul 9th, 2020

Wolves Are Flying High But Must Be Careful Riding the Jorge Mendes Wave

5 min read
Jorge Mendes
Super agent Jorge Mendes is very good friends with Wolves’ owners | Sam Bagnall – AMA/Getty Images

From Championship mid-table no man’s land and a brief spell in England’s third division to one of the Premier League’s most threatening new sides, Wolves fans have enjoyed a complete turnaround of fortunes since finding new ownership.

Chinese conglomerate Fosun International completed a £45m takeover of the club in July 2016 and wasted no time in transforming their new investment into a well-oiled business that operates on ever-improving results on the football pitch.

An immediate changing of the guard saw Jez Moxey step down as CEO and then-manager Kenny Jackett relieved of his duties. After a brief spell in charge for Walter Zenga, Wolves would eventually appoint former Porto boss Nuno Espirito Santo.

Nuno took Wolves to the Premier League at the first time of asking, winning the 2017/18 Championship season and marking their return to England’s top-flight with a nose-bleed territory, seventh-placed finish.

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Mendes’ football agency represents Nuno Espirito Santo | JACK TAYLOR/Getty Images

It’s been an incredible turnaround in a short space of time and has seen Wolves gather an identity under Nuno, who manages a squad blended with exciting, young talent and experienced older heads.

None of this would’ve happened, however, without Jorge Mendes.

Mendes, one of football’s most famous ‘super agents’, is reported to have a strong friendship with Wolves’ new owners, which was crucial to establishing a working relationship between the two parties. While usually agents merely work for players and managers, facilitating transfers and securing contracts, Mendes has worked alongside Wolves in order to bring them their newfound success.

After Nuno – a client of Mendes – joined the force at Wolves, it was only a matter of time before the club took on a Portuguese look, similar to that of Newcastle’s French connection circa 2011/12.

While so far dealing with Mendes has proven fruitful for Wolves, the club must be incredibly mindful not to place all of their eggs in one basket. Failure to acknowledge his power could prove fatal to the heavy investment that has been pumped in thus far.

Football is no different to any other business in life; negotiations are key, relationships are established, and money talks. Always. Mendes – a Portuguese national himself – first stepped into football agency in 1996, when he helped Nuno get a move to Deportivo de La Coruna. Since then, he’s cemented a legacy that sees him as potentially the biggest agent in world football. His company – GestiFute – is responsible for the dealings of names such as Cristiano Ronaldo, David de Gea, Bernardo Silva and many more.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Maria Dolores dos Santos, Cristiano Ronald JR, Jorge MendesCristiano Ronaldo, Maria Dolores dos Santos, Cristiano Ronald JR, Jorge Mendes
Mendes represents Cristiano Ronaldo | Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

The fact that Mendes’ company manages such a wealth of talent, including some of the best players in the sport currently, is testament to how trusted he is by so many in the footballing world. As well as Nuno, GestiFute also manages Jose Mourinho and continues to operate as one of the big powers in the business side of the game.

It is understood that Mendes plays a key part in the transfers and recruitment at Wolves. Since the takeover, they have managed to sign the likes of Ruben Neves, Diogo Jota, Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho; all Portuguese and all players who simply wouldn’t have headed for the club before 2016. While Fosun play a huge part in investing the funds into such talent, Mendes ultimately directs his clients there, away from any other clubs.

Since signing for Wolves, Neves and Jota have both developed into some of the Premier League’s most exciting talents. The consistent game time provided by their manager – combined with patience and understanding at board level – demonstrates a willingness to invest time into potential talent who can raise their stock, rather than splashing the cash on ready-made, superstar exports.

It’s this patience and understanding that has seen Fosun and Wolves rewarded at every level. Their impeccable seventh place finish at the end of the 2018/19 season set a precedent and warned the traditional top six that nothing is a given, and a strong Europa League performance thus far has continued to put all eyes on the club and it’s players within European football.

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Ruben Neves has proven himself as one of the Premier League’s best midfielders this season | Visionhaus/Getty Images

Unfortunately, though, the sword is always double-edged. Dramatic rises in stock for the likes of Neves and Jota, among others, has seen them continually linked with a move away from the club. And while Molineux has proved ideal for development thus far, there’s no denying the difficulty of turning down a big name club, likely with an improved contract, from the player’s perspective.

The agent’s perspective isn’t much different, either. It presents a chance to cash in and double – perhaps even treble – profits from a previous transfer. And if their client is likely to sign a bigger contract with a move away, it only makes sense that the agent makes a decent chunk of money, too.

Mino Raiola – perhaps Mendes’ only rival at the top of the football agency tree – has become infamous for his eye for a deal in football transfers. He facilitated Paul Pogba’s world-record return to Manchester United, but also continues to speak up moves away for his clients, protecting them and putting football clubs in difficult positions. It’s these kinds of actions from super agents that can damage relationships with a club, and it’s no different for Mendes and Wolves.

As helpful as Mendes has been to Wolves so far, things could turn on their head just as easily. It only takes one of his players leaving the club, another club coming in for Nuno Espirito Santo, or simply a fallout on a personal level with the owners he considers friends, to end their Portuguese project.

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Arsenal were previously linked with a move for Nuno Espirito Santo | Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

For now, Wolves continue to put their faith in Mendes who, admittedly, is yet to give them a reason to be suspicious. The January signing of Daniel Podence – another GestiFute client – indicates that the relationship remains healthy for the time being.

However, with clubs looking to rebuild in the summer transfer market, several Wolves players could well be on a number of shopping lists.

Wolves must take care with any potential negotiations involving clients of Jorge Mendes, and must continue to expand on their squad with caution in future. Failure to do so could leave the club high and dry.

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