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ANDY DUNN: Wolves project the latest step toward super-agents’ goal of being richest AND most important people in football

Date Posted,May 31, 2017

Quite what ‘Union’ Jack Hayward would have made of today’s Wolverhampton Wanderers is probably, for a variety of reasons, best left unsaid.

This grand institution, once owned by Hayward, is now in the hands of a ­Chinese ­conglomerate.

And it has a ­recruitment ­dependence on agent Jorge Mendes that will surely only become stronger after his client Nuno Espirito Santo ­succeeded the sacked Paul Lambert as manager this week.

It remains to be seen what transfer business Wolves will conduct this summer, but no one would bet against most of it going through Mendes.

There is, according to the Football Association, no ­conflict of interest in owners Fosun working with Mendes.

Mendes sold a stake in his agency to a subsidiary of the firm that bought Wolves soon after (Photo: Getty)

Early last year, Mendes sold a stake in his Gestifute agency to Foyo Culture and ­Entertainment, a Fosun ­subsidiary. Fosun then bought Wolves in the summer.

The FA rulebook states ­that intermediary ­organisations “shall not have an interest in a club” and that a club “shall not have any ­interest in the ­business affairs of an ­intermediary’s ­organisation”.

As recently as Thursday, Wolves managing director Laurie Dalrymple, with a straight face, insisted there was no formal relationship ­between the club and Mendes, saying: “Jorge Mendes is not in charge of recruitment. He can’t be. It is not within the rules.”

No laughing at the back!

The FA looked into the Wolves-Fosun-Mendes links and waved play on. Like they do.

Those links were not entirely unwelcome at Molineux.

Wolves only appointed Lambert last November, but he’s gone already (Photo: Getty)

Previous owner Steve ­Morgan had become ­unpopular and the new ­proprietors, with a lot of help from Mendes, promised to bring in some exciting ­talent.

To an extent, they have done that, although it has hardly been reflected in the league standing.

In 2015-16, under Kenny Jackett, they finished 14th with 58 points, while in 2016-17, under first Walter Zenga and then Lambert, they ­finished 15th with 58 points.

They do have one of the Championship’s best players in forward Helder Costa, whose loan deal from Benfica was made ­permanent in January for a £13million fee. That was good news for his agent, Mendes, and will be ­better news when he is sold on for a larger fee. Which he inevitably will be.

Neither Dalrymple nor Nuno, as he has always been known, would guarantee that Costa will start next season at Wolves. They can’t. Because the reality is that Mendes will decide when the player moves on.

Costa is hands-down one of the second tier’s finest footballers… (Photo: Action Images via Reuters)
…but as a Mendes client it’s a matter of when not if he jumps to a new club (Photo: Action Images via Reuters)

If the new Wolves coach – one of Mendes’ very early ­clients – is a success, his agent’s involvement will be feted and there is every chance Nuno will be more successful than his recent ­predecessors.

Any manager who can take Valencia to a fourth-place finish in La Liga clearly knows what he is doing.

But the whole Wolves scenario is a snapshot of what is happening in a game awash with money.

Make no mistake, these ­so-called super-agents want to run your club.

Mendes and Mino Raiola, for example, would probably love a monopoly of comings and goings at Manchester United .

What odds the No.9 United are now said to be ­prioritising being Raiola man Romelu ­Lukaku?

There is no need to repeat the figures these people are making from the game. It is a vast amount being sucked from a more vast pot.

Raiola took Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba to Old Trafford, is Lukaku next? (Photo: Rex Features)

Mendes had other big fish to fry when his man Nuno was being introduced at Wolves — tying up the Ederson move to Manchester City for any eye-watering fee of around £35m.

While Mendes will make another fortune from that transfer, it will probably be the scene at Wolves that thrills him most.

He and his super-agents don’t just want to be the richest people in football, they want to be the most ­important.

As much as those at that grand institution protest, the Wolves project is one grim step along that path.

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