By Sir Hardly Anyone
I love it when the English media ignore a big story in Europe. Of course sometimes it is because the journalist assigned to the case spent too long drinking in the Toppled Bollard public house the night before. Sometimes it is because they think “English readers won’t be interested in this foreign stuff”. And sometimes because they really don’t want English readers to be interested, in case anyone thinks, “hang on, could this be happening here?”
Which of these explanations relates to the fact that the giants of Portuguese football were raided by police on Wednesday, we shall have to wait and see. But I rather suspect there are issues which link the current situation with Premier League football. Something which the authorities that control what the English media can say about football, don’t want us to know.
But since I am not bound by the rules that control the national media and is sublings – here we go.
Benfica, FC Porto, Sporting de Braga and Vitória de Guimarães and Sporting CP were all raided simultaneously by anti-corruption police on Wednesday along with quite a few other clubs. And here’s a bit of fun, there were not just five raids, one for each club, but 76 raids all at once. That is a lot of raids. And a lot of ensuring that no one had a chance to burn the paperwork.
Among the 76 places raided were the offices of Jorge Mendes who represents Cristiano Ronaldo. In a statement following the raids, the Prosecutor General in Portugal stated that they were investigating almost 50 entitites. Entities in this regard means players, agents, clubs, club officials, lawyers and the like. (I love it when the lawyers get done as well. It reminds me always of Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2. You’ll know it I’m sure. “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”.
OK that is the headline stuff, but now consider this. According to the office of the Portuguese Prosecutor General in an official statement more than 100 tax inspectors, 180 police officers and over a dozen magistrates were involved.
The core of the investigation was tax evasion – a topic we have touched on here many times over the years, and a topic that was at the heart of investigations in the past which revealed how players were moving their image rights to foreign places and flogging them from there, in order to avoid tax.
But let us come back to Mr Mendes. Of course we make no allegations as to his engagement in anything corrupt because we don’t have any evidence. We just report stuff that turns up in foreign papers and not in English papers (you may wonder again why not, but that is a matter for you of course).
So Mr Mendes – the agent of Mr Jose Mourinho and Mr David de Gea. And the tax authorities. Also we may note that James Rodríguez, Ángel Di María and Diego Costa are all Mendes managed, and according to Forbes he has negotiated around £1bn worth of active contracts.
According to CNN, “In Portugal, Mendes’ dominance is so established that between 2001-2010 he is said to have brokered 68% of transfer fees at the biggest three Portuguese clubs – Porto, Benfica and Sporting Lisbon.”
Ah, those names again. All three of them were raided, we may note.
And there is the connection between Mendes and AS Monaco in 2011 which the Guardian to its credit, explored in a series of articles which you may recall.
What in fact we have here is the allegation – and of course again I say I have no proof and make no accusation, merely report what others say. Which is that Mendes might on occasion act for both the players he represents and the teams who are buying or selling. This is illegal in the USA, but not everywhere else. Goodness knows what the law says about it in England – I guess you’d have to ask PGMO since they write the rules. But they don’t speak to the likes of us.
But as CNN said, “it’s unlikely that so few agents have controlled so much in such a disparate sport.” Unlikely but true. And no one seems to mind too much. Except maybe the tax authorities in Portugal.
CNN certainly make an interesting case concerning Angel Di Maria “who was signed for $90 million by Manchester United in 2014 but never fitted in, scoring only three goals in 27 appearances. One year later, United was unhappy and …. Mendes simply negotiated another deal and before he knew it the Argentine was packing his bags and moving to Paris Saint-Germain for a cool $68 million.”
They give other examples, but you get the idea I’m sure.
The suggestion is one agent has a network of footballers and a network of teams, and he moves the players from one team on his roster to another making money all round as he goes. It has a lot to do with money. Less, perhaps, to do with the good of football.
And now one begins to see why the English media don’t like this story. Because it just might uncover a few bits and pieces about English football that the media has agreed, (through its contracts with PGMO which give it the rights to seats in the press boxes and controls what can and can’t be said), that it really is best not to talk about too much.
We don’t want any talk about anything not being all fair and square and above board, do we? We don’t even want to suggest it. Which is why the media never, ever mentions it. Not when Uefa admit they can’t control match fixing. Not when the American media start worrying about agents doing funny things.
No, I am sure it is all ok and above board.
- Arsenal v Wolverhampton: the club that gets cards at over twice the rate of Arsenal
- Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers: where will each team finish?
- Arsenal v Lens: what we found, what we felt, what they did
- Arsenal v Lens: the team, the home/away form and the strange coincidences
- Arsenal v Lens: they had a poor start but are now flying