Forget the Sheiks, Oligarchs and Qatari benefactors, the real power within football lies with the so-called ‘super agents’ and one man in particular, Jorge Mendes.
Agents are now incredibly prevalent in today’s game but often get a bad name, often being blamed for much of the problems that exist at the top level. One of the reasons for this is that several agents with high profile clients often aren’t far from the spotlight. Yaya Toure’s agent makes regular outlandish statements on behalf of his client; the same can also be said of Mario Balotelli’s representative. There are good agents out there of course, ones that understand their clients place in the footballing scheme of things, recognise their proper value and don’t look to cause unnecessary problems.
Things have been changing in the world of football since incredible amounts of money began flooding into the game. This commercialisation has ensured that players, not the clubs or authorities, now hold the real power, ensuring the lofty position of their representatives. The other big power shift came after the Bosman ruling in 1996, which afforded players a say in their own futures, rather than being at the mercy of the clubs that owned their registrations. So although certain agents cause problems, they are a necessary evil.
There are many high profile agents, but none more famous than Jorge Mendes. His current client list is worth an estimated £1bn and includes Cristiano Ronaldo, Angel Di Maria and Falcao just to name a few. He also looks after the interests of Jose Mourinho, who has bought plenty of Mendes’ clients wherever he has been.
However what is happening at clubs around Europe is something completely different. The power being wielded by Mendes in particular is staggering. Take Valencia for example, Mendes helped Peter Lim with his long protracted purchase of the club, helping to facilitate a takeover that was fraught with difficulty. Not having a wide knowledge of the sport, Lim leaned on Mendes for advice.
Peter Lim’s holding company Meriton, to which Mendes is an investor, purchased players for around €45m and then sold them to Valencia once his takeover was ratified. A power struggle ensued with executive president Amadeo Salvo and Rufete, the sporting director, in one corner and Mendes and Valencia manager Nuno in the other. This struggle culminated this week with Salvo, the man widely credited with saving the club from financial ruin, and Rufete both leaving their positions with Los Che. Reports suggest that Mendes was bringing players into the club without Salvo or Rufete’s knowledge.
Now it could be argued that the Mendes influence over a club like Valencia has its benefits. The club now has access to players they may not have first choice on. Zakaria Bakkali and Santi Mina have just signed for the club and Andre Gomes and Joao Cancelo have completed permanent deals after loans last year. What do they all have in common? They are all clients of Jorge Mendes.
Now this doesn’t seem like such an issue does it? A club like Valencia now has the chance to sign players they previously may not have been able to access and if Lim, the man who saved the club from financial ruin, trusts Mendes then why should they question it? Mendes has also brokered the deals and surely then is entitled to his cut?
The issue however is that he is still an agent who requires players to sign new contracts and move between clubs to make his money. Presumably, with an estimated fortune of over £100m, he is in this business to make money. So if another club, that Mendes has a strong influence over, is in the market for a new player where does his allegiance now lye? Will he now sacrifice the potential money and do what’s best for Valencia? My guess is no, although we could find out sooner rather than later. Nicolas Otamendi continues to draw interest from a number of clubs and there have been reports that his agent Eugenio Lopez has asked Mendes to help push Valencia into a sale for less than Los Che are currently asking. Executive President Amadeo Salvo resigned this week after an internal power struggle, much to the disappointment of many supporters. His position has been in doubt since Mendes’ influence began to grow and he always made sure Valencia got a price they deserved, Roberto Soldado and Jeremy Mathieu are good examples of this.
The situation developing at Atletico Madrid is similar. The club are now siding with Mendes, not Simeone. His influence is increasing in the Spanish capital. I bet one of the clauses in the recent contract he signed didn’t include selling one of his star names, Arda Turan, to one of their biggest rivals, a deal which Mendes played a huge role in.
Mendes did much the same at Monaco. The scouting department was effectively made redundant by new owner Dmitry Rybolovlev in favour of placing the clubs future in the hands of Mendes who simply transferred his own clients to the club, such as Falcao and James Rodriguez, earning a substantial cut in the process.
So where does it stop? Are these clubs making an irreversible deal with the devil and it is extremely dangerous to allow an agent such power over the direction a football club is heading?
You may not have realised but Jorge Mendes is single handily shaping the future of European football’s top tier. Unfortunately if your club wants to be the best, you’re going to need him on your side, even if it is only until the next wealthy investor requiring instant success comes along.
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