Jorge Mendes is one of football's most influential and elusive agents

Worth almost £100m and with Ronaldo on speed dial, Jorge Mendes is one of football’s most influential – and elusive – agents… from his days as a failed footballer and DJ to living in luxury, this is his remarkable story

  • Jorge Mendes remains one of the most powerful super agents in world football 
  • He is believed to be worth almost £100m and boasts countless superstar clients 
  • Cristiano Ronaldo, Jose Mourinho and many others count on Mendes’ services 
  • A meeting in 1996 with Nuno Espirito Santo propelled him into the world of sport 
  • From there, he founded Gestifute and then expanded his lavish stable of players 

It was one chance meeting in 1996 that changed Jorge Mendes’ life forever. 

Nuno Espirito Santo, the former Wolves and Tottenham manager, would have been counting his lucky stars after bumping into who is now perhaps the most notorious super-agent in modern football.

Mendes, then aged 30, was a failed semi-professional footballer in Portugal, and then became a DJ, video shop owner and, eventually, a night club owner. Nuno – a goalkeeper trying to breathe life into his career – became his first client.

Jorge Mendes (right) is Cristiano Ronaldo’s agent and one of football’s most influential figures

It was from this point that Mendes was propelled into stardom and all of the perks which come with it, leading him to found Gestifute and work with some of the sport’s biggest names, including Cristiano Ronaldo.

Nuno asked Mendes to help negotiate a move to Deportivo La Coruna the following year, and the glittering, albeit fledgling, agency did just that.

‘Jorge never took a cent from me, although we’d agreed he’d get a bonus,’ Nuno later said. ‘He tore up the cheque under my eyes, saying he’d never cash it.’

Mendes was propelled into stardom and luxury after meeting Nuno Espirito Santo back in 1996

The two men remain close friends, and Mendes and Gestifute were, of course, heavily involved with finalising Nuno’s breakaway from Tottenham this season.

‘I am a client of the best agent in the world,’ Nuno, whose relationship with Mendes now stretches back decades, insisted in 2017. ‘I do my job; he does his job.’

Strangely, however, there is confusion in Mendes’ homeland over just how his influence over football began. What is certain is that, over the course of the early 2000s, he became the agent of choice for the bigwigs of the sport in Portugal.

Beyond that lies an enigmatic tale. Mendes, despite his lavish income and celebrity acquaintances, does his business in private – aside from the money-spinning attempts to secure himself a handsome bonus when a client of his joins a club.

Nuno, a goalkeeper trying to break into the game, asked Mendes to secure him his first move

His origin story is largely a mystery, and remains a source of intrigue for experts. There has been no attempt on his part to end the questions, though. Mendes remains an elusive figure, and very rarely conducts interviews with the media.

He was named as the Best Agent of the Year at the Globe Soccer Awards on no less than ten occasions, beaten to the trophy only by Mino Raiola in 2016. At the lavish 2020 ceremony, he was unsurprisingly handed the Agent of the 21st Century gong.

In 2003, Mendes oversaw Ronaldo’s switch to Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon, and was also at the helm of the veteran forward’s comeback earlier this year.

It is believed, in an average year, he will return $100million (£75m) in commission to his agency. His jaw-dropping net worth, meanwhile, is estimated to be approximately $130m (£98m) as of this year, underlining his importance in football.

After founding his Gestifute agency, Mendes has become one of the most trusted super agents

The Celebrity Net Worth report states that Mendes has negotiated more than $1.2 billion in contracts for his handsome list of clients, and he has no plans to stop yet.

Listed in his phonebook are names like Ronaldo, Jose Mourinho, James Rodriguez, Joao Felix, Bernardo Silva and Angel di Maria among many, many more. 

With this great power comes yet more power, it seems. It was widely reported that, when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was on the ropes at Manchester United, he pushed the club to hire Julen Lopetegui – who is currently in charge of Sevilla – instead.

Ultimately, United ignored this suggestion and turned to Ralf Rangnick, but they have been all too happy to work with Mendes over the years.

He holds sizeable power at Wolves, owing to his connection with the Fosun International group

And while some clubs have kept him at a distance, Wolves welcomed him with open arms. They have always denied that Mendes has an excessive say over their transfer business, but it is clear for all to see that the 55-year-old is close with their hierarchy.

His relationship with the Fosun International conglomerate, who own Wolves, is a business partnership as well as a friendship. Wherever Fosun have made inroads in football, Mendes has always supported and provided them with advice.

In fact, Mendes is understood to have helped single out the Molineux club as a prospect to invest in. This nudge came after Chinese president Xi Jinping urged the country to strengthen its hand in the sport by expanding as much as possible.

Wolves’ former managing director, Laurie Dalrymple, said that Mendes was a ‘known associate’ to the club’s owners, but was also quick to stress that an agent taking control of recruitment would be against the rules.

Jose Mourinho (L) has also worked with Mendes as his representative for his managerial career

He described Mendes as ‘someone, because of the friendship with the owners, that we take opinions and advice from.’

Nuno, who managed Wolves between 2017 and 2021, has tended to be appointed at teams who have links with Mendes, such as Rio Ave, Valencia and Porto. Mendes is particularly influential at Valencia given his involvement with owner Peter Lim.

In a previous statement, Wolves said: ‘It is a matter of public record that Fosun have a percentage stake in the Gestifute company headed up by Jorge Mendes.

‘Jorge is available as an adviser to the owners, in the same way as many other agents and influential figures within football are.

Valdir Cardoso (left), Mendes’ unofficial No 2, keeps close tabs on Wolves’ day-to-day running

‘Wolves have signed players within his portfolio, including last year’s player of the season Helder Costa, as well as players from other intermediaries.

‘However, the owners continue to lead on all key decisions, working with the board of directors and recruitment team, and taking into account any advice they receive.’

He rarely makes appearances at matches, particularly at Molineux, but does make an attempt to report to a handful every season. In his absence, his unofficial No 2, Valdir Cardoso, keeps close tabs on the day-to-day running of Wolves.

Cardoso is an executive at Gestifute, in whom Fosun have a 15 per cent stake.

Mendes specialises in ‘high-quality products’, according to an ex-director at a top-flight club

Describing to The Athletic how Mendes specialises in ‘high-quality products’, one former director of a top-flight club said: ‘Gestifute is more than a player agency. 

‘It’s a business model that is global, has tentacles all over the world, and works in many different markets, which gives him access to a lot of benefits for the people he represents.

‘A lot of players have been with him for a long time, trust him, and he’s almost built his own stable.

‘His model is a lot more sophisticated and his network is extraordinary – he’s probably in every football-playing country in the world.’

Ruben Dias’ move to Manchester City from Benfica for £64.3 had been brokered by Mendes

Mendes also secured Diogo Jota his move to Liverpool, another eye-catching move for a client

On the hot topic of high quality, Ruben Dias’ switch to Manchester City from Benfica for £64.3m was brokered by Mendes. He is also said to have earned a cut of £6.1m. Diogo Jota joining Liverpool was another eye-catching switch overseen by him.

But where there is money, there is also controversy. Mendes found himself dragged into several scandals, including the explosive Football Leaks whistleblowing.

Indeed, officers from Portugal’s tax and customs authority conducted over 20 searches last month in connection with its investigation into tax evasion and money laundering at big clubs. Mendes has also been probed as part of the process.

The headquarters of Braga and Vitoria de Guimaraes, both Primeira Liga sides, were searched, as was Gestifute’s office in Porto.

But Mendes (centre) has also ben dragged into several scandals during his time as an agent

Dream XI of Jorge Mendes’ clients

GK – Ederson

RB – Ricardo Pereira, CB – Ruben Dias, CB – Pepe, LB – Joao Cancelo

CM – Fabinho, CM – James Rodriguez, CM – Bernardo Silva

RW – Angel Di Maria, ST – Cristiano Ronaldo, LW – Diogo Jota

‘The facts under investigation are likely to include crimes of tax fraud, social security fraud and money laundering,’ a statement from the Central Department of Investigation and Penal Action read.

‘There is suspicion of simulated business, entered into between football clubs and third parties, which had in view the concealment of income from dependent work, subject to declaration and withholding tax.’

Back in March 2020, almost 300 inspectors from the public prosecutor’s officers carried out 76 searches in the early stages of the investigation, which has been named Operation Fora de Joga. Two homes owned by Mendes were checked, too.

It is believed that the authorities were again looking for evidence of potential money laundering, and they were acting on information released by Football Leaks.

Radamel Falcao, Rodriguez and Iker Casillas’ moves were all scrutinised, although Porto denied that anyone at the club was questioned.

Gestifute’s office in Porto, and two of Mendes’ homes, were searched during an investigation

According to magazine Sabado, the homes of Casillas, Jackson Martinez, Maxi Pereira and Danilo Pereira were also searched. 

There has been no official comment from Mendes on the situation, and it is currently unclear to what extent he is involved in the investigation. As a result, the questions and scrutiny which surrounds him will continue, although he is no stranger to this.

Over his years working at the very top of football, and handling obscene amounts of money, he would have become accustomed to the spotlight. His story has been nothing short of remarkable, after all, and his influence shows no signs of waning.  

It is also worth considering how different his career, and the face of the sport overall, would look had Mendes not met Nuno years ago and forged ahead with his agency.

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