Jorge Mendes’ pathway into football isn’t a classic one. A nightclub owner when he met current Wolves manager Nuno Santo 23 years ago, he’s now one of the most recognisable names in the game.
Why? Because he’s negotiated deals for some of the biggest stars across the globe.
Mendes is the definition of a super agent, someone who on the face of it has far too much money to know what to do with it.
The Portuguese has worked alongside one of the best to ever kick a ball, Cristiano Ronaldo, whilst one of the greatest tacticians in Jose Mourinho is also a client.
But on the books of his Gestifute agency, an organisation that have close links to Fosun Chairman Guo Guangchang, are six Wolves players.
The most prominent name is Ruben Neves, but Rui Patricio, Diogo Jota, Joao Moutinho, Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro are also clients.
Mendes even represents the club’s manager.
In the past, Managing Director of Wolves, Laurie Dalrymple claimed that the 53-year-old’s role at the club was merely advisory.
On reflection that can be strongly speculated. The fact he has seven clients at the Midlands club shows his influence runs deep.
It’s now been three years since Fosun took over Wolves. The Chinese conglomerate’s £45m investment was eye catching, but it’s Mendes’ work behind the scenes that’s got most people talking.
When Wolves were still in the Championship, some rather remarkable figures were thrown around for a side playing in the second tier.
In 2016/17, Cavaleiro and Costa broke their transfer records in successive windows. The former arrived for a fee of £7m in the summer window, before Wolves then made his compatriot’s loan deal a permanent one for £13m in January.
To think a club who had been relegated to League One not to so long ago could spend that much money is almost beyond belief.
However, that was the reality of the situation facing Wolves. Months after signing Costa, they broke the Championship transfer record. This time it was another Mendes client in Neves who arrived.
It was signings like that, however, that made some key figures within football suspicious. How could they spend all this money? It looked incredibly dodgy.
Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani questioned both the legality and fairness of their dealings in tweets relaid by the BBC, whilst Wolves also came under attack from Premier League clubs who planned urgent talks last year over their business in the transfer market.
All of their hard work had the potential to come crashing down until the EFL revealed they had complied with their regulations.
Following that, Wolves would go onto earn their place in the Premier League. The might of Fosun and Mendes has since taken them to a seventh place finish and European football.
But with the transfer window now in full swing, is the super agent actually starting to become a hindrance? Arguably so.
Wolves’ investment in recent years has been significant and in bringing Raul Jimenez to the club for £30m, it was their biggest indicator yet of the sheer financial muscle they possess.
But Nuno’s starting XI is now extremely settled. The fact he only used 21 players in the league last season is a testament to that.
There’s no denying how crucial the relationship between Fosun and Mendes is, but as they look to sustain themselves in the top division, doing things in a more self-sufficient manner will be crucial.
Only last week Andre Silva, another Mendes client, was linked to the club for a deal that could be worth €30m (£26.7m). But Wolves don’t need to spend a mass amount of money on another forward.
Without the agent’s impact, though, it’s unlikely the possibility of signing Silva would even be on the cards. There lies the problem. Has his influence grown so strong that Wolves will now willingly cave into his clients?
Chairman Jeff Shi admitted to Express & Star that investment will be needed and it’s hard to dispute that.
However, what they can’t afford to do is solely rely on Mendes. The core of their squad is now made up of Portuguese players but it’s individuals like Matt Doherty and Conor Coady who are the real pillars of the team.
Gareth Bale to Wolves? Wolves Fan TV discuss how ambitious Nuno Espirito Santo will be this summer in the video below…
If the side are to develop further they’ll have to be careful. It would be foolish to suggest cutting ties with Mendes altogether but his control should certainly be reduced.
The agent has been a major cog in their stunning transformation but by advising Wolves to sign yet more of his clients, he’s in danger of hindering their transfer activity.
After all, this is a crucial summer at Molineux. For the first time since the 1980s they’ll compete in Europe, meaning their recruitment will have to be spot on.
Splashing vast sums of money on players like Silva, purely because they’re Mendes’ clients would be a mistake. Wolves need to sign the right players for the right money and while Mendes has clearly opened otherwise out-of-reach doors for them, there’s a real danger of him limiting the way the club recruit as well.
For the sake of a more sustainable future, decreasing the influence he has may be one of the best things they do in 2019.