La Liga dances to the beat of super-agent Mendes
The Portuguese player representative has been extremely busy over the summer, highlighting the extraordinary influence he wields in European, and particularly Spanish, football.
One name dominated this summer’s transfer window in Spain, which closed on August 31, and it was not a player, manager or club president. Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes was everywhere, with his clients starring in many of the biggest, and also most curious, La Liga deals.
The largest outlay by a Spanish club was the €40 million paid by Atlético Madrid to Porto for Mendes’s client Radamel Falcao. Falcao had a record-breaking season last year, scoring 17 goals in the Europa League, including the winner in the final. His signing was a real coup for Atléti, who had just lost Sergio Agüero to Manchester City, but the €40-million fee raised eyebrows given the Colombian’s lack of top-level experience.
The next-biggest transfer was the €30-million move by Fábio Coentrão, also a Mendes client, to Real Madrid from Benfica. Coentrão is similarly highly promising, able to play in a number of positions and he has done well for the Portuguese national team. Still though, it was a big fee for a relatively unproven player, especially considering Madrid’s rivals Barcelona signed the more established likes of Cesc Fàbregas and Alexis Sánchez for lower sums.
Many of the smaller summer deals around La Liga also involved Mendes’s Gestifute. The full story behind the €8.6-million signing by bankrupt Real Zaragoza of keeper Roberto remains unclear, with the Portuguese stock exchange stepping in at one point to demand more information about the deal, and the apparent involvement of a third-party ownership arrangement including investment from the club’s own chairman Agapito Iglesias and former Manchester United and Chelsea executive Peter Kenyon.
Mendes was also involved in the arrival of Hélder Postiga at Zaragoza from Lisbon’s Sporting on deadline day. Compared with Falcao and Coentrão, Portuguese international Postiga was a real bargain at €2.5 million, and a decent replacement for Zaragoza’s previously best striker Ikechukwu Uche. It first appeared that the Nigerian was bound for Villarreal, but upon signing a four-year contract there, he immediately went out on loan to Granada. (In August, Granada also signed another Gestifute player – full-back Jorge Ribeiro from Benfica – who himself had just moved to the Lisbon club from Vitória Guimarães the previous month.)
Mendes and his staff were cetainly kept busy earning their commissions this summer. After a rapid-fire move from Portugal’s Rio Ave (via Atlético Madrid), Julio Alves now joins other Mendes clients Ricardo Quaresma, Simão Sabrosa, Manuel Fernandes and Hugo Almeida at Turkey’s Besiktas, where Manchester United’s Bébé is also on loan and the manager is another Portuguese Carlos Carvalhal.
Many of these transfers show how Gestifute clients tend to cluster at a few clubs in different countries. Ricardo Carvalho, José Bosingwa, Paolo Ferreira and Henrique Hilário were all signed for Chelsea by José Mourinho. Nani, Anderson and Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at Manchester United when the club’s assistant manager was Carlos Queiroz, another with ties to Gestifute. Mendes clients Danny, Maniche, Derlei, Costinha and Seitaridis were at one time together at Dinamo Moscow. Falcao will now join Tiago (who was also signed by Mourinho for Chelsea), Diego Costa and fellow new arrivals Sílvio, Miranda and Pizzi at Atlético.
The Real connection
Mendes’s most compelling relationship with a Spanish club at present though is at Real Madrid, where his current clients include Mourinho, Ronaldo, Coentrão, Ricardo Carvalho, Pepe and Ángel di María. There have been suggestions that some at Madrid – including keeper and captain Iker Casillas – dislike the power wielded by this group within the club. Some among the Barcelona-based media have also enjoyed highlighting the growing influence of Mourinho and Mendes at the Bernabeú and the inflated nature of the fees paid over the years for many of Mendes’s players.
The Guardian’s David Conn has looked at Mendes’s previous careers as a semi-pro footballer, DJ, video shop owner and nightclub proprietor, in a column that also examines the surprising €9-million transfer of then little-known Bébé to Manchester United last summer.
There is – of course – no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Mendes or any of the clubs, players or managers named here. Numerous agents and player representatives have become famous (or infamous) in the football world.
And after all, the agent’s responsibility and duty of care is to his client, not any individual club or the overall good of the game. Top-level professional football is a business which revolves around deals being made, and Mendes is clearly excellent at doing deals. Whether all these links and connections benefit the competitive balance of the game, and if all clubs at which Gestifute’s clients play and manage are getting good value for their investments, is another matter.
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Published: Sep 12 2011
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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Tags: Barça, barcelona, cristiano ronaldo, fabregas, falcao, Jorge Mendes, la liga, Liga, Manchester, Manchester United, Mourinho, Real Madrid, spain, Spain football, spain news, spain soccer, spain transfer deadline, spanish football, Spanish soccer