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Is Mendes’ influence contributing to Wolves drift?

Bruno Lage never seemed a comfortable fit at Wolves, with his side’s struggles in front of goal meaning it was inevitable he would be shown the door as they slipped down the league table.

A 2-0 defeat at West Ham proved to be the final straw for the Molineux board, meaning Wolves had scored just three goals in their first eight games of the new Premier League season.

Wolves have rarely been prolific since returning to the top-flight and Lage can point to bad luck with injuries. Summer signing Sasa Kalajdzic suffered an ACL injury on his debut, while Raul Jimenez – understandably – still seems a shadow of his old self after his head injury. But some £100 million was spent on new players and allowing captain Conor Coady to leave backfired.

Lage carried the can as the Wolves manager but, lurking in the shadows, is the man responsible for recommending the Portuguese coach to the club – the superagent Jorge Mendes.


Questions needed for Mendes project

When Mendes began to have an increasing influence on Wolves, some eyebrows were raised.

But as Wolves secured promotion then finished seventh in successive Premier League seasons, the project seemed to be having the intended impact and fans rarely disputed his involvement.

Mendes has helped to give Wolves a highly Portuguese identity. While the likes of Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho have become extremely popular players among the fanbase, many of those brought over from Mendes’ homeland have been flops in old gold.

Lage’s final team selection, for the defeat at London Stadium, saw eight Portuguese players included in his XI. Max Kilman was the only English player named in Lage’s squad of 20.

It begs the question why Mendes is again apparently influencing the identity of the next manager in the Wolves dugout when his last pick failed to perform to the right standards. Wolves now have a Mendes squad and the agent is essentially a de facto sporting director at Molineux. While other agents have close links with teams and managers around the world, few are as closely entwined with one club as Mendes has become with Wolves in recent years.

In the summer, he helped to bring Goncalo Guedes and Matheus Nunes to the club – another Portuguese pair who join the likes of Ruben Semedo and Daniel Podence in the dressing room. A club-record fee was laid out for Nunes, who is struggling to fully adapt to Premier League life.

The problem for Wolves is that their squad is now so heavily Portuguese, it would perhaps seem strange to look elsewhere for a new manager. Reports indicate that there are two main leading contenders for the post – Pedro Martins and Ruben Amorim – and it is no surprise to see they are both Portuguese, just as Lage’s predecessor Nuno Espirito Santo was also Portuguese.


Another Mendes man next in line?

Amorim is not on the books of Mendes’ powerful Gestifute agency but another name in the frame, Porto’s Sergio Conceicao, shares the same agent as Nuno and Lage. Many felt Lage’s appointment was a coronation of Mendes’ man, so Wolves fans will be hoping there is a more thorough search to identify the right manager with the team facin a gruelling relegation battle. Martins, who won three Greek league titles at Olympiakos, is yet another Mendes man linked.

It is harder to see the continued benefit for Wolves of working so closely with Mendes, on whom the club appears completely reliant. The top prospects who are playing in Portuguese football do not typically come to Wolves – Mendes helped to move Darwin Nunez to Liverpool during this summer – and the agent does not have his full focus on improving a sticky situation at Molineux.

Mendes is thought to have good relations with Everton’s sporting director Kevin Thelwell, the former head of recruitment at Wolves. He helped to broker a deal for Ruben Vinagre to move to Goodison Park on loan during the most recent transfer window. Reports also indicate Mendes could move his top Wolves client, Ruben Neves, in January, with Barcelona among his suitors.

Wolves fans can be forgiven for a growing sense of unease at Mendes’ presence around the club. After all, football agents are widely regarded as putting one thing above all else: money.

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