Su­per-agent Men­des key to Wolves’ suc­cess

Times Colonist - - Sports - ROB HAR­RIS

WOLVER­HAMP­TON, Eng­land — Of the Premier League new­com­ers, only Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers col­lected a point in the open­ing round. So much is down to the man be­hind Cris­tiano Ron­aldo’s ca­reer.

The trans­fer that set Jorge Men­des on the path to be­com­ing a su­per-agent in the 1990s in­volved Por­tuguese goal­keeper Nuno Espir­ito Santo. Two decades later, Men­des se­cured Nuno the man­ager’s job at Wolves.

Men­des wasn’t just cheer­ing for Nuno when the West Mid­lands club ended its six-year Premier League ex­ile with a 2-2 draw with Ever­ton on Satur­day. Two clients of Men­des’ Ges­ti­fute agency scored the goals for Wolves. Por­tu­gal mid­fielder Ruben Neves curled a free kick into the net, a first-half equal­izer, then set up Mex­ico striker Raul Jimenez to snatch a point.

Jimenez wasn’t the only Wolves sum­mer sign­ing rep­re­sented by Men­des. So were two mem­bers of Por­tu­gal’s 2016 Eu­ro­pean Cham­pi­onship win­ning team — for­mer Sport­ing Lis­bon goal­keeper Rui Pa­tri­cio and mid­fielder Joao Moutinho, who signed from Monaco.

The links to Men­des don’t end there. Although a stake in Ges­ti­fute was sold by Men­des in 2016 to a sub­sidiary of Fo­sun, the Chi­nese con­glom­er­ate that bought Wolves later in the year, the agent was found by foot­ball au­thor­i­ties in Eng­land to have no for­mal role in the run­ning of the club.

Men­des, though, is help­ing to en­sure Nuno’s side is well stocked with tal­ent to, at the very least, stay in the world’s rich­est league.

“We are in a process of de­vel­op­ing and grow­ing as a team,” Nuno said Satur­day.

Some other talk­ing points around the Premier League:

POGBA COY

Two years af­ter re­turn­ing to Manch­ester United from Ju­ven­tus, Paul Pogba’s fu­ture at Old Traf­ford has looked in doubt amid an in­creas­ingly strained re­la­tion­ship with man­ager Jose Mour­inho. The France World Cup win­ner cap­tained United on Fri­day and net­ted a penalty in the 2-1 vic­tory over Le­ices­ter.

But post-match com­ments stirred fresh in­trigue. Although Premier League clubs can’t sign play­ers un­til Jan­uary, Pogba could still be sold to a lead­ing Eu­ro­pean league this month.

“There are things and there are things that I can­not say other­wise I will get fined,” Pogba told re­porters, be­fore walk­ing off.

MIS­FIR­ING KANE

The top scorer at the World Cup in Rus­sia, Harry Kane, couldn’t find the net in Tot­ten­ham’s sea­sonopener against New­cas­tle.

It was hardly sur­pris­ing. The striker has never scored in the Premier League in Au­gust.

Kane has now failed to net in 14 at­tempts. There are still two more chances to end the Au­gust drought this sea­son, against Ful­ham and Manch­ester United.

An­other mem­ber of the Eng­land side that reached the semi­fi­nals in Rus­sia stepped up for Tot­ten­ham on Satur­day as Kane’s bar­ren run con­tin­ued. Dele Alli se­cured 2-1 vic­tory, while Hugo Lloris was back in the Tot­ten­ham goal a month af­ter cap­tain­ing France to World Cup glory in the fi­nal vic­tory over Croa­tia.

NEW­CAS­TLE DIS­CON­TENT

Protests by fans against New­cas­tle owner Mike Ash­ley started away from the sta­dium out­side a branch of his dis­count sports­wear chain.

Man­ager Rafa Ben­itez has been un­happy there were only four off-sea­son ar­rivals, with out­go­ings en­sur­ing a trans­fer profit of around $35 mil­lion US. Ash­ley did com­plete one ma­jor deal as the trans­fer win­dow closed — his Sports Di­rect firm bought de­part­ment store chain House of Fraser for $115 mil­lion.

“My job is to be sure that the play­ers give every­thing, and the fans have to be be­hind the team,” Ben­itez said.

MONEY GAME

Premier League clubs spent vast amounts on play­ers in the sum­mer trans­fer mar­ket, with Tot­ten­ham the only team to add no play­ers. But big out­lays didn’t im­me­di­ately de­liver on the field for Ful­ham. The west Lon­don club was beaten 2-0 by Crys­tal Palace on Satur­day.

Brighton also spent big re­in­forc­ing for its sec­ond sea­son in the Premier League, but couldn’t man­age a shot on tar­get in a 2-0 loss at Wat­ford. Only one of Brighton’s 10 re­cruits started, Brazil­ian de­fender Bernardo. It gets tougher for Chris Hughton’s side, with four of the next six games against last sea­son’s top four.

TECH TALK

It took tech­nol­ogy to de­ter­mine that Tot­ten­ham de­fender Jan Ver­tonghen’s header crossed the line at New­cas­tle.

Goal-line tech­nol­ogy is still the only com­puter as­sis­tance avail­able to ref­er­ees. The Premier League is re­sist­ing in­tro­duc­ing video as­sis­tant ref­er­ees, de­spite prov­ing largely ef­fec­tive at the World Cup.

AP

Wolver­hamp­ton’s Ruben Neves, left, scores his side’s first goal of the game against Ever­ton.

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