Sport Writer Haydn Dupree looks at the influence of super-agent Jorge Mendes at Wolverhampton Wanderers, with the club pushing for promotion
Immediately post a 3-0 defeat to Wolves, Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani took it to twitter to vent his distaste over the ownership structure at Wolves. Radrizzani specifically questioned whether Wolves’ relationship with super-agent Jorge Mendes, stemming from links from Chinese owners Fosun International, was a legal one.
Debate sparked as Mendes is seen to have a very influential advisory role for Wolves. The Leeds owner wrote post the defeat, “Congratulations to the best team but hope the league can be fair and equal to all 24 teams treatment? It is vital for clubs in the Championship to operate on a level playing field.” Such concern of the legality of the structure at Wolves has motivated the EFL Board to discuss, last Thursday, whether Wolves’ operations have broken any regulations based around third-party ownership.
This demonstrates that the EFL are more than aware of the concerns of Championship clubs such as Leeds United and have attempted to address the situation. It is said that the English Football League will arrange a meeting with Wolves as a way of ‘reiterating the requirements’ of the league and as a way of enforcing the FA’s regulations on transfers.
Jorge Mendes’ influence in world football is well-known, evident from the fact he represents a plethora of big football names including Cristiano Ronaldo, Jose Mourinho and James Rodriguez. His strong association with Wolves has developed through Mendes working closely with Fosun International, Mendes not only has advised the club on specific transfer targets but also even on the purchase of Wolves in 2016.
A handful of rival Championship clubs have lambasted Mendes’ role at the club, suggesting that there is an evident conflict of interest involved as he is seen to work for both the club and a large amount of its employees. Such clients include Wolves’ head coach Nuno Espirito Santo and key players including the Portuguese trio of Ruben Neves, Diogo Jota and Ivan Cavaleiro. The problem that other Championship clubs have with Jorge Mendes is that they suggest that his influence within the club is too great, he is seen to advise the club and simultaneously represent many of its players and even the head coach. The FA is responsible for the regulation in regard to the role of agents within football clubs and has strict rules to do with clubs and intermediary abilities. The FA have confirmed that they obtained the relevant “confirmation from Wolves and all relevant parties, including Mr. Mendes, regarding the sale of the club in 2016 and their ongoing compliance with The FA’s Regulations on working with Intermediaries.”
Although, Wolves have responded vehemently that the club has not broken any rules imposed by the FA or EFL and have always been very vocal of Mendes’ activities within the club. Wolves believe that they are merely using Mendes as an advisor due to his connection with their owner, this alone does not break any regulations imposed by the relevant governing bodies. Amongst the recent heat of the debate, a number of Championship managers have added their opinions on the matter.
Aston Villa’s Steve Bruce, speaking at a pre-game press conference against Wolves, stressed that rivals have to be only interested in how to beat Wolves as a team. Bruce acknowledged that Wolves have built a good side with a host of Champions League players in the mix and admitted that the quality of these players will inevitably create a challenge for clubs to come up against. Ultimately, Bruce referred to the situation as nonsense that other people, presumably governing bodies such as the EFL and FA, should worry about. This view was echoed by Neil Warnock, manager of promotion rivals Cardiff City. Warnock has responded to the debate over Wolves’ connections with agent Jorge Mendes by emphasising he is apathetic to the situation, even stating that he wouldn’t be bothered if the club signed Neymar. Warnock concluded that this debate has come about from other clubs simply being jealous and wishing that they could acquire the contacts like Wolves have. Mendes’ worldwide reach is certainly beneficial to Wolves and the Cardiff manager compared the situation that Wolves are in to his time at QPR in the Premier League when many names were coming into him from his players, Wolves are utlising this influence and that’s football.
Wolves were undoubtedly using the influence of super-agent Jorge Mendes last year seen through the arrival of many of his clients, although this season, instead of sitting miserably mid-table like last season, Wolves sit top of the table and can certainly expect that many jealous rivals will throw things into air in order to reduce their league dominance.