Will Wolves Sign Ron­aldo Next?

Wolves’ re­turn to the top flight was em­phatic, but not with­out con­tro­versy – the ex­act na­ture of su­per-agent Jorge Men­des’ in­volve­ment with Wan­der­ers has come un­der in­tense scru­tiny

Australian Four Four Two - - CONTENTS - Words Andy Bras­sell

The enig­matic agent is key to all that Wolver­hamp­ton have done

Hav­ing put a fair few noses out of joint while waltz­ing to the Cham­pi­onship ti­tle last sea­son, Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers are about to do it all over again in the Pre­mier League. Pre­pare for some red-hot bick­er­ing. The Mo­lineux out­fit seem set to es­tab­lish them­selves in the top flight with some com­fort in 2018-19, but with the in­flu­ence of renowned Por­tuguese su­per-agent Jorge Men­des again ev­i­dent in their trans­fer deal­ings, some fa­mil­iar com­plaints – this time from newer ri­vals – are surely in the post. Wolves have al­ready been through this in the past year as their star soared. Eye­brows were raised fol­low­ing the $28 mil­lion ac­qui­si­tion of feted mid­field star Ruben Neves from Porto last sum­mer, and the sea­son’s home straight (by which time their Pre­mier League re­turn was a mere for­mal­ity) was marked by com­plaints from com­peti­tors, led by Leeds United owner An­drea Radriz­zani. The Ital­ian con­tacted the FA, Pre­mier League and Foot­ball League seek­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion on the link be­tween Men­des and the Mid­lan­ders. The League’s sub­se­quent in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Men­des’ in­volve­ment at Mo­lineux, which de­liv­ered its find­ings in late April, con­cluded that the su­per-agent “holds no role at the club”. How­ever, it is clear that there is a re­la­tion­ship. Fo­sun In­ter­na­tional, Wolves’ own­ers, pur­chased a mi­nor­ity stake in Ges­ti­fute, Men­des’ player man­age­ment agency, back in 2015. The club ac­knowl­edged this shortly after the ap­point­ment of man­ager Nuno Espir­ito Santo, Men­des’ first-ever client, at the start of Fo­sun’s sec­ond sea­son in charge. But Wolves were quick to clar­ify that Men­des was sim­ply “avail­able as an ad­viser to the own­ers, in the same way that many other agents and in­flu­en­tial fig­ures in foot­ball are.” For now, Wan­der­ers fans couldn’t be hap­pier, and un­der­stand­ably so. In that spec­tac­u­lar sopho­more Fo­sun sea­son they had style and sub­stance, and if the club has let it be known that they don’t ex­pect a tor­rent of trans­fer ac­tiv­ity to take place be­fore their Pre­mier League opener against Ever­ton on Au­gust 11 , it’s be­cause they al­ready look like they’re on top of things. Few who watched Wolves dur­ing 2017-18 are in any doubt that they’re likely to rise above some of the top tier’s bot­tom-half dross. They’ve built on that mo­men­tum with the ar­rival of Raul Jimenez – the most ex­pen­sive player ever pur­chased by a Por­tuguese club – on loan from Ben­fica, and ad­di­tion of Men­des client and Por­tu­gal No.1 Rui Pa­tri­cio from Sport­ing. Where Wan­der­ers go from here is in­ter­est­ing, though. On­look­ers across Europe are won­der­ing what Men­des’ end game is in his close in­volve­ment with the three-time First Divi­sion cham­pi­ons. And the re­la­tion­ship is dis­cernibly dif­fer­ent to other clubs he’s had ties with, like Ben­fica or Monaco, with an ex­plicit link be­yond that of pre­ferred clients. The clos­est com­par­i­son would be Span­ish out­fit Va­len­cia, bought by Men­des’ friend Peter Lim in 2014. Nuno was named the man­ager and en­joyed an en­cour­ag­ing first sea­son at Mestalla, re­turn­ing the club to the Cham­pi­ons League with the aid of new ta­lent of­ten sourced from Men­des-con­nected spots, such as An­dre Gomes and Ro­drigo. Many lo­cals felt that this strong base wasn’t suf­fi­ciently built upon as the team sub­se­quently sagged. The sen­si­tiv­ity of Va­len­cia’s own­er­ship to per­ceived neg­li­gence was un­der­lined back in Novem­ber. Via the club web­site, par­ent com­pany Meri­ton de­liv­ered a sting­ing re­buke in a state­ment to their crit­ics as Los Che’s for­tunes rose again un­der new coach Marcelino. It blasted “fake fans” for spread­ing “fake news and lies” about the way the club was run. That the regime has glob­ally im­proved Va­len­cia’s po­si­tion, after years of crip­pling debt, is dif­fi­cult to dis­pute. The out­look for Wolves is dif­fer­ent for num­ber of rea­sons. Firstly, de­spite their up­ward tra­jec­tory, it’s still hard to re­al­is­ti­cally en­vis­age them reach­ing the Cham­pi­ons League any time soon. What’s a lot eas­ier to imag­ine is their best play­ers at­tract­ing in­ter­est from other clubs in the divi­sion, and there are few bet­ter ways of mak­ing money in foot­ball than sell­ing play­ers be­tween English sides. Neves could be a prime ex­am­ple. Should he come any­where close to repris­ing his sen­sa­tional de­but English sea­son in the top flight, he could be sold on for some­thing north of $90m. As long as a de­cent amount of that money stays with the club, it’s hard to fore­see too many ob­jec­tions. Monaco are per­haps the best ex­am­ple of a club that is es­sen­tially an elite-level player mar­ket but still a com­pet­i­tive con­cern, with man­ager Leonardo Jardim ex­pertly re­con­struct­ing teams by de­vel­op­ing new play­ers as pre­vi­ous linch­pins move on. Ben­fica are an­other club who con­sis­tently prove that sell­ing pro­lif­i­cally and con­tin­u­ing to win are not mu­tu­ally exclusive con­cepts. Re­sis­tance will un­doubt­edly be met, es­pe­cially if Wolves re­ally hit the ground run­ning in the new Pre­mier League cam­paign. They may well point to the ex­am­ple of Wat­ford, with the Pozzo model up­set­ting tra­di­tion­al­ists while largely work­ing well. For Wolves, we may have to wait a few years to work out ex­actly where they’re go­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.