Jorge Men­des: From disco supremo to top soc­cer agent

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Two decades ago, he was a sim­ple en­tre­pre­neur mak­ing a liv­ing from man­ag­ing a video club and dis­cothe­ques. That was then. To­day, at the age of 50, Jorge Men­des op­er­ates in the rar­i­fied up­per strato­sphere of the hy­per-mon­eyed world in­hab­ited by top sports­men as agent to the stars-in­clud­ing Cris­tiano Ron­aldo. That sta­tus has placed him at the eye of the storm of the “Foot­ball Leaks” me­dia in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged soc­cer cor­rup­tion in the high­est ech­e­lons of the world game.

Nick­named “the shark” by ri­val agents, the diminu­tive Men­des has a pen­chant on the whole for be­ing dis­creet-he rarely gives in­ter­views.

When he does sur­face he is gen­er­ally seen phone in hand or clamped to his ear wheel­ing and deal­ing for his sta­ble of some 100 play­ers or coaches whose in­ter­ests he man­ages.

Yet Men­des has been front page news since an in­ter­na­tional con­sor­tium of me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions high­lighted a huge data leak pur­port­ing to show that Ron­aldo and others, in­clud­ing Jose Mour­inho, kept mil­lions of earn­ings out of the tax­man’s reach in havens.

Men­des, whose com­pany, Ges­ti­fute In­ter­na­tional, is reg­is­tered in Ire­land, has vig­or­ously de­nied any wrong­do­ing. Yet his meth­ods have raised eye­brows in the past and are be­ing ques­tioned again af­ter the data dump as re­ported by the Euro­pean In­ves­tiga­tive Col­lab­o­ra­tions (EIC) me­dia con­sor­tium. He was one of the first to ex­ploit player rights through third par­ties such as in­vest­ment funds-a prac­tice FIFA has now made il­le­gal.

Men­des Qual­ity Sports In­vest­ments, based in the tax haven of Jersey, of­fered rich in­vestors the chance to buy a per­cent­age of play­ers’ “eco­nomic rights” with a view to mak­ing a killing when they were even­tu­ally sold on for a hefty trans­fer fee in ju­ris­dic­tions op­er­at­ing ul­tra-low cor­po­ra­tion tax. Such a prac­tice has long been com­mon no­tably in South Amer­ica al­though the English Premier League and also UEFA leagues have of­fi­cially con­demned it.

Men­des ap­pears to be an archetypal ‘self-made man.’ Born to an oil in­dus­try worker in Lis­bon he left the Por­tuguese cap­i­tal aged 19 to en­ter the busi­ness world in the north­ern provin­cial town of Viana do Castelo.

A video club which he opened be­came a suc­cess­ful ven­ture and soon he would meet Por­tu­gal keeper Nuno Espir­ito Santo in a disco he was also run­ning. A for­mer semi-pro­fes­sional foot­baller him­self, Men­des set about cul­ti­vat­ing close links to play­ers, creat­ing his own net­work and start­ing to look afer their in­ter­ests. He branched out be­yond Por­tu­gal as he pro­gres­sively estab­lished con­tacts with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of for­eign sides. “Hav­ing estab­lished good con­tacts, it is ob­vi­ous now that the pri­or­ity is to pre­serve rap­port of con­fi­dence with ma­jor Euro­pean clubs,” he told Ex­presso news­pa­per in 2011 - iron­i­cally, one of the pa­pers in the leak con­sor­tium.

“He works hard with play­ers and looks af­ter them con­stantly,” Real Madrid pres­i­dent Florentino Perez once said of Men­des in al­lu­sion to his deal­ing with Ron­aldo’s 94 mil­lion euro move from Manch­ester United.

“I have ev­ery con­fi­dence in him. He is like a big brother for me a fa­ther fig­ure in the world of foot­ball and god­fa­ther to my son,” said Ron­aldo in a 2012 doc­u­men­tary which co­in­cided with 15 years of Men­des’ agency work.

MOUR­INHO A FAN

“Jorge Men­des is for me a great friend, more than an agent,” Jose Mour­inho said of their re­la­tion­ship.

“Our ca­reers started at the same time and hap­pily things have gone well for both of us,” said the man now in the Old Traf­ford dugout who af­ter lead­ing Porto to the 2004 Cham­pi­ons League took sev­eral Por­tuguese stars with him to Chelsea. An­other Ges­ti­fute client is Monaco’s Colom­bian star Radamel Fal­cao. Men­des’ links with the Prin­ci­pal­ity side go back to his work­ing on the trans­fer to the French top flight club of Por­tuguese in­ter­na­tional Costinha in 1997. Asked about his style of do­ing busi­ness Men­des once said: “I am not one of these agents who races af­ter play­ers mak­ing prom­ises .... ” adding that he rep­re­sents play­ers in­ter­ests and in­ter­venes when clubs would pre­fer to do deals be­hind their backs.

Some­times their (trans­fer) sit­u­a­tion is al­most sealed and they them­selves know noth­ing of it,” which is where he comes in. As the con­tro­versy has gath­ered pace since last Fri­day, Ges­ti­fute has re­jected al­le­ga­tions of fa­cil­i­tat­ing tax eva­sion.—AFP

LOS AN­GE­LES: Mon­treal Cana­di­ens cen­ter An­drew Shaw dives for the puck dur­ing the sec­ond pe­riod of an NHL hockey game against the Los An­ge­les Kings, Sun­day, in Los An­ge­les. — AP

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