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Jorge Mendes. Photo: Patricia de Melo Moreira/AFP via Getty Images

Soccer's transfer market was halved due to the pandemic, but Portuguese super agent Jorge Mendes still came out ahead.

By the numbers: Using a business model built upon relationships, Mendes brokered hundreds of millions of dollars in deals, netting himself roughly $30 million during a time when soccer's economy is reeling.

His story: Mendes grew up outside Lisbon in a working-class household and gave up a fledgling playing career in his early 20s to become an entrepreneur. By the age of 30 (1996), he'd bought a nightclub, which proved an excellent way to meet future clients and kickstarted his agent career.

  • By 2003, he'd become Portugal's premier agent, signing many of its best young players and managers. He represented Cristiano Ronaldo and José Mourinho, and helped broker their deals to Manchester United and Chelsea.
  • Now, Mendes' client list boasts the likes of James Rodríguez, Diego Costa, Ángel Di María and, of course, still Ronaldo. In 2019, he earned $118 million in commissions.

How it works: Compared to American sports, where agents like Scott Boras negotiate athletes' contracts with teams, European soccer agents like Mendes also navigate the complexities of the global transfer market.

  • A transfer is when one club pays another for the right to sign a player. Only then does the club work out a contract with the player. Mendes helps negotiate, and earns commission on, both deals.

Between the lines: Mendes' specialty is engineering moves that cause a chain reaction, with one client's transfer opening a spot on a club for a different client.

  • One example from this summer was when Manchester City bought Rúben Dias from Portuguese side Benfica for $80 million, then sold Nicolás Otamendi right back to Benfica for $16.5 million.
  • A more elegant example was when Wolverhampton sold Matt Doherty to Tottenham ($20 million) and Diogo Jota to Liverpool ($53 million), only to turn around and buy Nélson Semedo from Barcelona ($33 million), and both Fábio Silva ($44 million) and Vitinha ($23 million) from Porto.
  • All seven players — Dias, Otamendi, Doherty, Jota, Semedo, Silva and Vitinha — are Mendes clients, and he earned commission on every sale.

Go deeper

Pope Francis denounces European governments' migrant response

Pope Francis adresses refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos on Sunday. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis criticized European countries' response to migrants and asylum seekers during his visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos Sunday.

Why it matters: The pope said "migration is a humanitarian crisis that concerns everyone," but little had changed in the global response to displaced peoples since his first visit to Lesbos five years ago, per a transcript of his remarks. "Human lives, real people, are at stake. ... let us stop this shipwreck of civilization!"

Chris Cuomo accuser: On-air "hypocrisy" spurred report

Journalist Chris Cuomo. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

A woman who accused fired CNN journalist Chris Cuomo of sexual misconduct said Sunday she decided to come forward after learning of his comments about women who made similar accusations about his brother. He denies her allegations.

Why it matters: Her attorney Debra Katz said in a statement that she heard "the hypocrisy" of his on-air words about his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and was "disgusted by his efforts to try to discredit these women," so "retained counsel to report his serious sexual misconduct against her to CNN."

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19 — Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.