Jorge Mendes is man that divides opinion as much as he divides dressing rooms: you’re either with him or you’re not. He is said to be friends with Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill, perhaps not so close after he sold Bébé to Manchester United. That move, however, is a blip in the ocean compared to the moves that have paid off handsomely for the Portuguese and has made him the best known football agent in the world.
To many though he is unseen, an enigma. For someone in the limelight so often because of the deals he has pulled off, what influence he wields is largely unknown. The Real Madrid team photo each year reads more like a list of his clientele: José Mourinho, Fábio Coentrão, Pepe, Ángel Di María, Cristiano Ronaldo and, until recently, Ricardo Carvalho. If someone like Falcao is going anywhere it’s likely to be Real Madrid since Mendes is his agent and the same goes for someone like David De Gea, it was Mendes who oversaw his transfer to Old Trafford, he may yet be handling his return to Spain.
Although in England and the world Mendes made his name alongside José Mourinho in 2004, he made his first international transfer two years earlier when he brokered Hugo Viana’s move to Newcastle United. Mendes was already in at Manchester United too a year later in 2003 when he represented Cristiano Ronaldo in his transfer from Sporting. It was with Chelsea though that we saw the first signs of what became a kind of Mendes Motif, his calling card: he’d arrive with Mourinho and monopolise the handling of transfers. You can almost imagine the tandem, the manager and the personal Director of Football, moving the puppet strings of talent that has come with Mourinho’s success. Shortly after the Director of Football got the Boss his gig at the Bridge, Ricardo Carvalho, Paulo Ferreira and Tiago Mendes all signed for Chelsea and more were to follow.
To label Mendes as a one trick pony and as some sort of add on to the Mourinho show would be an injustice and to greatly underestimate what he’s capable of. Mendes, after Mourinho, had his fingers in the Chelsea pie and at Manchester United there was life after the Ronaldo transfer to Real Madrid sorted. Mendes has sealed his “super-agent” status by continuing to hook up big names with big clubs in big transfers. Luis Felipe Scolari went to Chelsea under the very visible guiding hand of Mendes, who was reportedly, allowed access to the Portugal National Team’s hotel at Euro 2008 then managed by Big Phil.
There are stories about Mendes tracking Ronaldo and Queresma from an early age at grassroots level, winning their trust and going on to represent them and while Ronaldo has been the goose that lays the golden egg just as much as Mourinho, there are the other stories that make the enigma, not just in hotel rooms, but in airports and court rooms. For all the slicked back hair and sharp suits, some of Mendes’ business dealings have landed him in hot water. For the deals taking Carvalho et al. to Chelsea from Porto, Mendes’ company, Gestifute, has refused to pay fees to its English partner, Formation, formerly run by Wayne Rooney’s agent Paul Strettford. Mendes claims the deals with him were not the same as those with Gestifute International, a company registered in Ireland. Luis Figo’s former agent is said to have come to blows with Mendes at an airport in Lisbon. Then there’s the case of a player taken from the Homeless World Cup only five weeks after signing from a Portuguese Second Division team and signing for Manchester United for €9 million, of which Gestifute received €3.5 million. In true Mendes fashion the Homeless World Cup tag was found to be false and the transfer has since been investigated for financial irregularities.
This super-agent has proved as unstoppable as the big names he represents. While Mourinho and Ronaldo win titles with Real Madrid and attend galas to take their place amongst the world’s best, Mendes is also picking up awards. On accepting an award in Dubai, the former DJ, record shop worker and barman said “Portugal is a small country, where people who do well are the target of envy, but you have to struggle against the tide.” There can be little doubt that any future “struggle” for signings will involve Jorge Mendes.
-Raul Pope Farguell