1966 may be renowned in one particular nation for that dramatic World Cup final victory, but just over 1000 miles away, there was another – albeit much lesser known, but equally significant – development for English football in the works.
Jorge Paulo Agostinho Mendes, or Mr Mendes as he is better known to many of his clients, was born in January of the same year, and would soon grow up to have a mammoth impact on football as we know it. The Portuguese football agent formed his GestiFute company at the spritely age of 30 years old, and simply hasn’t looked back since.
Beginning life off as a footballer, Mendes quickly began to appreciate that the occupation just wasn’t for him, with several Portuguese clubs deciding not to take the Lisbon-born youngster on board. He couldn’t succeed on the pitch, but that didn’t stop him from succeeding off it. The young entrepreneur instead worked as a DJ and in a video rental store, before his biggest break came in the form of his very own bar and nightclub in the picturesque beach town of Caminha in north-west Portugal.
However, it all kicked off for Mendes in the money-mad footballing world when he forced through a move for goalkeeper Nuno – who he had met in a bar – from Vitoria de Guimaraes to Deportivo in 1996. The move was the first of its kind but certainly not the last, with several Portuguese players opting to cooperate with Mendes in order to land their dream deal, including Newcastle’s Hugo Viana from Sporting CP in 2002 for over £10 million. From then on, it’s been nothing but success for this dominant name in European professional football.
And where to start? Mendes boasts over $1 billion in active contracts, over $100 million in commissions, manages over 100 clients, and sits at number two in the Forbes Sports Agents rich list, with GestiFute International sixth in the list of the world’s most valuable sports agencies. Moreover, since the company announced in 2008 that it had entered into a partnership with the American-based Creative Artists Agency – perched atop of the aforementioned agencies list of 2018 – it’s only positive numbers that have been on the books.
Mendes’ unique stance within the industry has predominantly focused on identifying talent at a young age. This ultimately hugely rewarding technique has resulted in the Portuguese agent registering with countless Premier League talents. The squads of both Manchester City and Wolves would be unrecognisable without his influence, with the likes of Ederson, Bernardo Silva, Ruben Nevers, Rui Patricio, Joao Moutinho and even Nuno Espirito Santo represented by Mendes. It is, however, difficult to see past his most notable client, with Cristiano Ronaldo having brought in an endless stream of money for his multi-millionaire companion over the years.
Like his fellow super-agent Mino Raiola, and indeed much like many of the other football agents out there, Mendes’ career has not been void of controversy. The cunning money-maker is renowned for supposedly swooping in on the final stages of deals brokered by other agents, while he also reportedly had a physical altercation with Luis Figo’s agent in his home town of Lisbon some years ago. More worryingly, the football tycoon has also been at the centre of a Guardian investigation, in which himself and former Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon were involved in contentious transfer dealings, with FIFA clamping down on third-party ownership as a direct consequence of their business transactions.
His roller coaster journey to the top has, however, involved more success stories than not, with Mendes brokering four of the world’s most significant deals in June, July and August of 2014. Germany were, of course, the World Cup winners that summer, yet it was the football agent who perhaps gained the most. The super-agent played his cards right to mastermind transfers for James Rodriguez to Real Madrid, Eliaquim Mangala to Manchester City, Diego Costa to Chelsea and Angel Di Maria to Manchester United, pocketing a reported £30 million in the process.
Tax avoidance allegations surrounding himself and his other client, Jose Mourinho, have since followed, along with the recent media spotlight involving both footballing innovators, where the former issued an extremely rare statement insisting that the latter is fully committed to Manchester United amid a poor run of form for the club.
Registered with the Portuguese Football Federation, Mendes is easily the most influential agent the footballing industry has ever seen, and so it is no surprise that he has been named Best Agent of the Year at the Globe Soccer Awards for seven consecutive years from 2010 to the present day.