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Jorge Mendes: The Most Powerful Man in Football

The Boot Room

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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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Atletico Madrid

What is Diego Costa’s Chelsea legacy after three eventful years in the Premier League?

Rob Meech

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Diego Costa

Diego Costa’s controversial Chelsea career is finally set to come to an end. According to The Guardian, the Blues have agreed to sell the striker back to his former club, Atletico Madrid, for £57 million, subject to agreeing personal terms and passing a medical. Costa scored 59 goals from 120 appearances in all competitions for Chelsea, winning the Premier League title on two occasions as well as the League Cup.

His uncompromising style won him few friends but there was no denying his influence and suitability to England’s top-flight. Costa’s relationship with Antonio Conte turned sour this summer when it emerged the Chelsea manager had told the Brazilian-born forward via text message that he was no longer in his plans. Costa pushed for a return to Atletico and was ostracised by Conte, who will no doubt be relieved this saga is now resolved.

What is Costa’s legacy at Chelsea?

Regardless of the negative reputation he had among the wider public, Costa was loved by the majority of Chelsea supporters and played a huge part in their domestic success during his spell at the club. Due to its competitiveness, the Premier League is notoriously difficult to win, so for the Blues to have done so twice in three years – under two different managers – is a remarkable feat. Costa’s goals were fundamental to this. Put simply, the Blues would not have been crowned champions without him. He netted 20 times in each of their title-winning campaigns and made life miserable for defenders.

Costa never strayed too far from controversy though and occasionally crossed the line of acceptable conduct. Infamously, he received a three-match ban in January 2015 for stamping. But the 28-year-old was always at his best when playing on the edge. Take that out of his game and he would definitely not be the same player. Jose Mourinho understood this compromise, but Conte found it harder to accommodate. With his high-intensity style, the Italian needed to know he could rely on each and every one of his players. Ultimately, he could not trust Costa to follow his instructions.

How will Chelsea fare without him?

Conte is a ruthless character and once he had made it clear that Costa’s days at Stamford Bridge were numbered, there was never a way back. The high-profile capture of Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid was confirmation, if it were needed, that their relationship was irreparable and Conte had moved on. The biggest compliment that can be paid to the Spaniard, though, is that Conte signed a replacement very much in his image. Costa had taken to the Premier League like a duck to water, and Morata has very similar attributes. He too, has started in blistering fashion and looks tailor-made for the English game.

After their opening-day blip against Burnley, Chelsea have rediscovered their best form and are unbeaten in four Premier League games. On that score, it doesn’t appear that they are missing Costa. No player is bigger than the club and Conte had obviously grown tired of the Spain international’s antics, however entertaining they were for us, the viewers. Financially, the Blues have made an enormous profit on Costa, having signed him for £32 million just over three years ago.

Can Costa rebuild his career at Atletico?

Costa’s public desire to rejoin the club at which he won the La Liga title in 2014, highlights the affiliation he has with the club. He is perfectly suited to Diego Simeone’s brand of football and he will relish linking up with Antoine Griezmann. Atletico of course, remain under a transfer embargo, which means Costa will not be eligible to play for them until January. But once he is, it will surprise nobody if he is back on the goalscoring trail straight away.

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Could Atletico Madrid striker Nicolas Gaitan make a surprise move to Watford to pave the way for Diego Costa’s return?

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Gaitan

This is certainly one of the more surprising stories to surface from transfer deadline day but the Hertfordshire Mercury claim that Watford have been offered Atletico Madrid striker Nicolas Gaitan.

It is understood that the Spanish side are looking to clear room for Diego Costa – who is edging closer to an Atletico return according to the Daily Mail – and as such are ready to off-load Gaitan.

The report continues to say that although the La Liga outfit would rather have an up-front loan fee paid in the region of €2 million (£1.8 million) they are happy to add an option to buy in the deal.

What could the Argentine international bring to Vicarage Road?

It’s fair to say that Watford fans didn’t expect this when they woke up this morning. Nicolas Gaitan has been one of the most consistent goal-scorers across Europe in the past seven seasons, bursting on to the scene at Benfica in 2010 after arriving from Argentine side Boca Juniors.

In a six-year spell, spanning over 250 appearances, the 29-year-old found the net 41 times in all competitions and played a massive part in Benfica winning three consecutive Primeira Liga titles.

Despite beginning his footballing career in Argentina as more of a left-sided midfielder he began to develop into a dangerous player further up the pitch in Portugal, often being utilised in the number ten role just behind the striker, but he could easily fit in wherever Watford boss Marco Silva sees fit.

To attract a team like Atletico Madrid you already know that there’s a little bit of flair to his play, comfortable when driving at a static back-four and using his speed and close ball-control for results.

His excellent sense of vision in and around the final third would be an incredibly underrated asset should he join too, and he could spark a very productive partnership indeed with new man Andre Gray.

And although he played second fiddle to Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torries for most of last season, scoring three times in just 11 starts in La Liga, there’s little doubt he’d impress at Watford.

The Boot Room’s Verdict (1/5)

The arrival of Gaitan really would send Watford supporters into dream land following the summer business done to date, but this is one of those deals that is dependent on something else happening.

And with Costa’s future well and truly in the air, and time ticking away, it doesn’t seem like there’s enough time remaining before the deadline to see both Chelsea and Watford complete their deals.

Gaitan to Watford
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Transfer Likelihood
The Boot Room's Verdict
The arrival of Gaitan really would send Watford supporters into dream land following the summer business done to date, but this is one of those deals that is dependent on something else happening. And with Costa’s future well and truly in the air, and time ticking away, it doesn’t seem like there’s enough time remaining before the deadline to see both Chelsea and Watford complete their deals.
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As Atletico close in on Diego Costa, will Chelsea’s Antonio Conte rue his decision?

The Boot Room

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Costa

All decisions have consequences, and football managers in particular live or die by the paths that they choose during the course of their job.

So, with the Mirror reporting that Atletico Madrid are closing in on a £30 million deal for Chelsea outcast and former Los Rojiblancos striker Diego Costa, Antonio Conte will be the latest manager to put himself on the line with a seemingly impulsive leadership decision.

After telling the controversial forward that he was no longer part of the club’s plans by text at the end of last season, one of the summer’s most unsavoury transfer sagas could well be coming to a close.

The question is whether Conte will rue his decision in a season in which Chelsea must compete on both domestic and continental fronts, or unify the squad by removing an occasionally unsettling influence from its midst?

Will Conte return home to Madrid?

The deal itself is an unusual one, as while all parties are motivated to complete the transfer there is no guarantee that Atletico will sign their man before the window closes.

Due to the breakdown of the relationship between player and manager and Costa’s decision to remain in his native Brazil until a deal is concluded, Chelsea are determined to drive a hard bargain and the club’s posturing has hindered talks.

Even with a £30 million compromise in the offing, this is a transfer that is likely to run and run until the final moments of the window.

Atletico’s transfer embargo has also complicated any potential deal, but as The Guardian confirmed in pre-season the club can officially agree terms with Costa if Chelsea accept their bid.

The player would then be eligible to represent the club when the embargo is lifted on January, although Atletico would be keen for Costa to play on loan somewhere else in order to maintain his match fitness. This is unlikely to be a deal-breaker, but it could distract Atletico in their attempts to land the Brazilian-born Spanish striker.

Everton may also be ready to provide a solution, with the club short of established strikers and the Independent reporting that manager Ronald Koeman would be willing to secure his services on a short-term loan. This would certainly add another piece to the jigsaw, helping to smooth any complications and help Costa achieve his dream move back to Madrid.

Will Conte Regret his Actions?

The saga surrounding Costa has been bizarre, with the striker deemed surplus to requirements despite scoring 20 league goals in 35 appearances as the Blues secured the title in Conte’s first season as manager. The issue first emerged last January, when Costa was linked to a move to China amid concerns over his fitness and dedication to the club.

Although a deal did not materialise, this seemed to fracture the relationship between the player and his manager, with the Italian famously discarding his striker by text at the end of last season.

While the relationship is almost certainly beyond repair, the question that remains is whether Conte will rue his conduct towards Costa. Deeming an experienced and proven forward surplus to requirements so soon after the season ended appeared reckless at best, particular with the Blues already short of alternative number -nines.

The subsequent signing of Alvaro Morata has done little to assuage the issue, as Chelsea continue to lack a strong and powerful centre-forward who can retain possession and link play.

Morata’s disappointing display during the 2-1 win against Tottenham at Wembley reaffirmed this, as while the Blues secured an impressive win they were constantly subjected to heavy pressure from Spurs due to their inability to retain the ball. Morata was too easily dominated by Tottenham’s powerful centre-halves, and Chelsea would have greatly benefited from Costa’s presence.

This is a trend that could well be repeated during other away games this season, during which the Blues will need to find alternative ways of playing if they are to be successful.

Time will tell for Conte, but Chelsea need options in attack

On a fundamental level, the Blues need further options and number in attack, particularly as they look to compete in both the Premier League and the Champions League this season.

In this respect, discarding a player who is capable of scoring 20 or more goals each season seems detrimental to the team, regardless of how difficult he can be to manage within the group.

Only time will tell whether Conte made an inspired managerial decision by axing Costa, or simply allowed ego and impulse to weaken his squad at a time when Chelsea are looking to build on last years’ success.

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