Super-agent Mendes to expand into cycling

Jorge Mendes and star client Cristiano Ronaldo Source: Getty Images

Cycling operates a long way apart from the high-flying world of football and the regular multi-million Euro deals splashing the cash, but there's still been interest from Portuguese 'super-agent' Jorge Mendes and his company in the cycling market.

Mendes' Polaris Sports has established a partnership with Corso Sports - who represent a number of respected riders within the sport - to promote the prospects of Portuguese up-and-coming riders Joao Almeida  and Ruben Guerreiro.

Mendes is famed in football circles for building an impressive stable of player talent, rising from being a nightclub owner to a well-connected agent who dominated the big deals in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, to the biggest agent in the world.

He represents some of the biggest names in world football, including Cristiano Ronaldo, David de Gea, José Mourinho, Diego Costa, James Rodríguez and João Félix.

He won the 'Agent of the Century award' recently as presented by the Globe Soccer Awards. An award ceremony that Mendes himself helped create in 2010. 

Young Australian footballer Ryan Teague created headlines because he had been recruited by Mendes.

Mendes also has strong ties with club management, advising on player recruitment at Premier League club Wolverhampton Wanderers, and has a close connection with Wolves' owners Fosun Group, who have a partial share in one of Mendes' companies, Gestifute. 

Road cycling is a big deal in Portugal, former road race world champion Rui Costa was voted Portuguese Athlete of the Year two times running ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2012 and 2013 and cyclists are regularly among the most popular sports stars. 

A man of vast experience and behind-the-scenes clout, Mendes could be expanding his empire into cycling, or potentially just adding a few Portuguese athletes to his roster. SBS Cycling Central sought out The World Game analyst Nick Stoll to ask him some questions about the famed player agent.

Cycling Central: Why is Mendes called a super agent and why is he so important in football? 

Nick Stoll: "The last 10 years in football has seen the rise of the ‘super agent’ that is a number of agents who have so many clients clubs have to deal with them as much as they deal with each other.

"Agents have become experts at maximising their own commissions, and Jorge Mendes has over seen more big money deals than anyone else. If you add up all the deals that he has done, the player sales add up to well over €1 billion.

"Mendes has hundreds of clients, most notably Cristiano Ronaldo – one of the two most famous players in the world. All the big clubs do business with him, Guardian columnist Barney Ronay has described his influence over world football as the ‘Mendes industrial complex’."

CC: The cycling scene is quite different to football, a lot less money, a lot more team control over the market for riders, how do you think Mendes will approach this new environment? 

NS: "I don’t know the cycling scene well enough to say with much certainty, but one thing I can say for sure is that Mendes is an opportunist of the highest order. Obviously, he can still make a lot more money in football, so possibly he is getting into cycling as a personal passion or maybe he just wants to increase his reach in other sports.

"However, he has already started being heavily involved with clubs as well as players in football, so it could be the case in a few years that Mendes is representing both riders and teams.

"Conflict of interest? Sure. But that has never seem to be much of a problem in the murky world of football – at least to the authorities.

"Whoever he chooses to represent – if it’s like football – they’ll make a lot of money."

CC: We’ve seen the merging of player and team interests with Mendes’ relationship with Wolves, Monaco and Atletico Madrid, what has that meant in football? 

NS: "It has meant a lot of raised eyebrows over seemingly inflated transfer fees. It has seen teams sign players that they probably wouldn’t have usually if they weren’t a Mendes client.

"Some clubs have benefited for sure. Mendes' involvement saw Wolves get promoted from the Championship to now mid-table in the Premier League.  

"But given the lack of transparency – something that allows someone like Mendes to thrive – it’s hard to give a definitive answer. Clubs who he is heavily involved in reap the benefits of having access to a deep talent pool and long list of connections, but it’s very much live by the Super Agent, die by the Super Agent, as they also become beholden to him."

CC: Given Mendes’ penchant for representing Portuguese players, do you think is mostly about building his Portuguese empire of sporting stars, or an actual foray into cycling? 

NS: "I think it’s likely an actual foray into cycling. From his perspective, there is probably a lot of room for economic growth in a global sport like cycling.

"I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s one of the most important figures in cycling in ten years' time. Whether that’s a good thing for cycling is debatable."