How a Sports Agent Turned an English Soccer Club Around
Agents have had a place in sport across the globe for many years now, facilitating the transfer of athletes, managing their endorsements and marketing strategies too.
In terms of earnings, we recently covered how European soccer agents are looking to eclipse their American counterparts, but their influence is beginning to run much deeper. Whilst Germany’s Constantin Dumitrascu has risen to the top of the earner’s ranks after handling big transfers such as that of Paris Saint German’s Uruguayan striker Edison Cavani, another agent has been exerting his influence in an altogether different way.
It all starts in the Black Country, part of England’s industrial heartland. Wolverhampton Wanderers are not one of the world’s most well-known clubs but back in the sixties, they were a big deal in English soccer, winning the top cup competition, the prestigious FA Cup. In the years since they experienced a decline, some of it sharp.
For a short while earlier this century they fell into the third division of English soccer, oddly called League One. They were a sleeping giant, a side traditionally known for big crowds at their Molineux ground, but had fallen on hard times. Since then, things have changed rapidly.
In three years, they’ve ascended to the Premier League and face off regularly against the biggest teams in the country. In fact, an article by bwin explains how they are firmly in seventh place in the top flight this season. But how have they risen back to such heights, competing with such huge clubs? It’s partly down to the influence of super-agent Jorge Mendes.
Mendes was described by the Birmingham Mail as the man behind their stunning transfer business which resulted in their Championship title win in 2017/18, taking them back to the Premier League. He had overseen a number of exciting transfers which gave them a competitive edge, something other clubs in the division did not like. Mendes, who also manages top names such as Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo, brought world-class players back to Wolves.
The reason he’s been considered as more than just an agent is clear. His first client was Nuno Santo, Wolves’ manager. The Guardian explains how the club’s Chinese owners Fosun, have a stake in the agent’s company and it seemed that he was able to attract the sort of players other teams at that level could only dream of.
Ruben Neves was the pick of the lot and his goals helped put them back into the top flight, where they’ve managed to settle into a top ten place comfortably. They even qualified for the Europa League, a continent-wide competition that holds particular prestige. That’s something that had eluded them for years.
Mendes seems to have taken a step backwards recently, but there’s little doubt his extensive client list helped bring the team out of the second tier. He was credited with trying to do the same with Nottingham Forest too, but that experiment failed last season.
Mendes is perhaps the first of a new breed of agent; not only the facilitator of transfers but also a shrewd businessman using his position and influence beyond simply making money. He was cleared of any wrongdoing despite the other club’s protests and Wolves have certainly reaped the rewards.
It’s an interesting take on the role of an agent and something that we’re likely to see happening more and more, certainly in soccer, as the opportunity arises.