When Jorge Mendes was asked to write a column for the Portuguese sports daily, O Jogo, during the European Championship, the title that was originally suggested, somewhat jokingly, was "My Millions". Mendes said no to that, instead agreeing to the column being called "The Value of Euros" which could, even so, be interpreted two ways. It's not just the football competition; it's the currency.
Mendes' name doesn't mean much to the average football fan. But it should. Still just 42, he is one of the most powerful men – maybe in terms of deals the most powerful man – in the game. Mendes is also an agent, a shrewd businessman and a clever media operator with his own management company, website, which employs full-time journalists, and contacts that spread from his Portuguese base throughout the world, particularly in the valuable markets of South America.
Pini Zahavi has long been regarded as the number one super-agent but, this summer, as with last year, Mendes' name is being mentioned by the biggest clubs in Europe as the man with the greater influence. He has just taken Jose Mourinho to Internazionale and Luiz Felipe Scolari to Chelsea to make the pair the highest-paid club managers in world football.
That Mendes has found time to write a column is astonishing. He has been, and is set to continue to be, the busiest agent in the business and makes many millions indeed. Having been allowed by Scolari to have access to the Portugal team hotel during the European Championship, Mendes has been a visible presence at the opulent lakeside complex as he looks after his clients and plots their futures.
Referred to as a "tranquil oasis" in the hotel blurb, the Beau Rivage in Neuchâtel has been anything but that for Mendes. Not only has he schemed to get Scolari to Stamford Bridge but he is also at the heart of deciding what will happen to his star client, Cristiano Ronaldo, who wants to move to Real Madrid. Then there is Deco, Ricardo Carvalho, Ricardo Quaresma. The list goes on.
Not a single player, it seems, leaves Portugal, or moves clubs, without Mendes being involved and it has already been calculated, probably correctly, that Scolari's squad is the most valuable in the tournament on the transfer market. And Mendes represents the eight biggest names.
After securing Scolari's three-year contract, worth between £5.5m and £6.25m, with Chelsea, negotiating first with Peter Kenyon, the club's chief executive, and then directly with Roman Abramovich, Mendes, on Wednesday, flew to Italy to meet with Mourinho, who has returned from holiday, to direct Inter's transfer dealings.
With Scolari's appointment it appears Inter's chances of securing Carvalho have been thwarted – the defender can, however, expect to receive a new, improved contract even though he has four years left on his present deal – although the Italian club will battle with Chelsea for Deco and Quaresma. Either way, for Mendes, it's a win-win situation. He represents both players, both clubs, both managers.
Mendes is a straight-forward character who has earned a reputation for honesty – he would rather tell someone straight that he can't give them information rather than lie – and loyalty. A former semi-professional footballer, Mendes also has, according to his associates, a brilliant eye for talented players and is a terrific scout who is quick to sign up those who catch his eye.
He doesn't forget either, and still talks to those journalists and football people who helped him in his early days. Mendes also learned a very valuable lesson at the start of his career as he watched the waning of another agent, Jose Veiga. Veiga was the number one agent in Portugal which meant he was the number one agent with Porto, the club where the most lucrative deals are cut. He took Luis Figo to Real Madrid, he was involved in Zinedine Zidane's move also but he fell out with Porto after Sergio Conceicao, a midfielder, was sold to Lazio.
Veiga had lined up a deal for him to go to Deportivo La Coruña and, angry, went to war with Porto. Inevitably he was cut out of the picture which allowed Mendes to step forward. He seized his opportunity and realised it was better to work with, rather than against, big clubs and other agents which is why one of his most significant alliances was with Zahavi.
The Israeli was the biggest, so Mendes wanted to work with him. But now the biggest deals appear to go through Mendes first. Last summer it was Pepe to Real Madrid for £25m, Anderson and Nani to Manchester United for £46m, Simao to Atletico Madrid for £16.5m. Mind-blowing figures. Mendes was quick to assemble a superb roster of players and was a constant presence at the soccer schools and youth teams throughout Portugal, spotting and signing up the Sporting Lisbon pair of Ronaldo and Quaresma before others could get close. He also forged alliances in South America which netted him Anderson, for example.
Part of his way of working is to jointly buy players with clubs, such as Anderson whose registration was acquired for £6.3m with Porto eventually paying Mendes £3m when the midfielder was sold to United. Mendes is also good at looking after his clients. Anderson, Ronaldo and Nani all receive frequent house visits from him while his nephew, Luis Correia, who works for him as a financial adviser, is friends with all three.
But Mendes is also tough. Time and again players have moved to him, from other agents, just before they have moved clubs. Even Mourinho did it. His agent, Jorge Baidek, a relatively small-time Brazilian who he had known since his coaching days at Uniao Leiria, had lined up a move for him to Liverpool. That was until Mendes intervened, armed with offers from Chelsea and, ironically considering subsequent events, Inter. Mourinho, having led Porto to the Champions League final, which they then won, dropped Baidek.
Every Portuguese player who then followed Mourinho, including Paulo Ferreira, Tiago Mendes and Maniche, were Mendes' clients. Similarly Nani's move to United only followed the winger's decision to drop his agent, Ana Almeida, and Jose Bosingwa's £16m transfer to Chelsea was facilitated by Mendes even though he wasn't the right-back's agent. He is the gatekeeper. And those gates are golden.Reuse content