“No One Man Should Have All That Power” – Football Agents and Their Dangerous Message

“And here comes Hurst! He's got...
Some people are on the pitch! They think it's all over!
It is now, it's four!”

The scene is the mid-1960s, as Geoff Hurst famously scored in extra-time to put England 4-2 up against West Germany and seal their one and only World Cup. Things are simple, delightfully so. Football is merely the act of kicking a ball around with the end goal of placing it between two posts more times than the opposition. Money, for all intents and purposes, is a non-factor. Players move between clubs as they like, and players establish themselves as legends. This is how things should be, right? Sport exclusive of finance and politics.

Yet the footballing landscape rapidly changed from this point. As American sports became increasingly financially-incentivised, the British and European markets recognised just how crucial this was. Today, the agents run the show. The titans of football, names that roll of the tongue at the mention of the beautiful game, Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar… They all have men behind the scenes who set the wheels in motion for new contracts, sponsorships and every other commercial venture imaginable. These commercial behemoths can make or break a player, even a team.

This article will give a brief glimpse into the lives of the men at the peak of their powers in this field. The ‘Big Three’.

From the unexpected (Alexandre Pato to Chelsea) to the undeserved (Moussa Sissoko to Tottenham), Mondial Sports excel in driving up their clientele’s commercial value. In alchemy, simple, ordinary base metals are converted into gold. Mondial’s work is the football equivalent. They have even shown their status as a frontrunner in football agency through their exploitation of the newfound Chinese market – they flogged Axel Witsel off to Tianjin Quanjian on an absurd £17 million a year contract, and Ramires to Jiangsu Suning at the peak of his powers for £25 million. The best agents excel in creating relationships with clubs, and Mondial have done just this with Chelsea (Drogba, Ramires, and Pato to name but a few), Leicester (Nampalys Mendy, Mahrez and Kanté), and Newcastle to an outrageous extent (Sissoko, Cabaye, Mitrovic, Ben Arfa, Riviere, Debuchy, Cabella, Thauvin and Saviet). They are most well-known for their work with Douglas Costa, Philippe Coutinho, Dimitri Payet, Edinson Cavani and Mahrez.

While Mondial are certainly clear of the pack, the top two are a distinct entity. Mino Raiola and Jorge Mendes have the footballing world wrapped around their collective little finger. As an ex-pizza chef, Raiola always gets his slice. The sum he pocketed from the world-record transfer of Paul Pogba to Manchester United is more than probably anyone reading this will make in his or her lifetime, a cool £20-25 million. With 51 clients on his books, Mino flexes his strength whenever the likes of Pogba, Mikhitaryan, Balotelli, Zlatan or Lukaku seek fresh pastures. An infamously strong negotiator, Mino has reaped the rewards of the two years he spent in law school and uses this to get the best deals possible for his clients. He gets them their move by any means necessary – (in)famously throwing chairs across the boardroom of German club Borussia Dortmund in 2016 when manufacturing a move for Henrikh Mkhitaryan in 2016. Forbes puts the total value of his contracts at £274 million, and the Italian mastermind fittingly resides in his recently purchased Miami mansion, which he recently purchased from Al Capone.

While Cristiano Ronaldo emanates excellence both on and off the pitch, he has high praise for his agent Jorge Mendes who he sees as “the Cristiano Ronaldo of football agents”. When England won the World Cup in 1966, football was a simple sport, with little indication that it would change anytime soon. Little did the world know that a boy had been conceived in Lisbon that January who would permanently change the footballing landscape. Half a century later, after doing his time as a DJ and nightclub owner, Mendes introduced the notorious Jose Mourinho to English football. The Special One. With Mourinho, Mendes had his buy-in to the English market, and from there he filled it with his clients from Deco and Quaresma to Diego Costa and Radamel Falcao.

Falcao’s career may be the best example of just how powerful Mendes is. A €60 million move from Atletico Madrid to the tax haven of Monaco was followed by an injury plagued time at Stade Louis II and, in turn, failed loan moves to Manchester United and Chelsea. Essentially, Mendes’s influence is such that the top clubs make terrible signings due to his control and power over them.

Jorge Mendes isn’t just football’s most influential agent. He’s arguably football’s most important figure. Is that a good or a bad thing? It’s up to you to decide.

This article first appeared in Issue 16, 2017.
Posted 11:28am Sunday 23rd July 2017 by Charlie Hantler.