Nuno Espirito Santo’s tenure at Wolves commenced in 2017 after Fosun International bought the club from Steve Morgan a year prior.
“As part of our strategy, it makes perfect sense to buy a football club. Our goal is crystal clear, we will do our very best to help Wolves back to the Premier League as soon as possible and stay there,” affirmed Jeff Shi.
A new life at the club followed with an exotic Chinese/Portuguese twist sees Wolves a rather distinctive side in English football.
“We believe the club and the fans belong at the top of English football and getting there is our first and top priority.”
And the Portuguese boss fulfilled that goal in his first season in English soil as Wolves were back in the Premiership five years after their last campaign in 2011/12.
A quick turn-around
Clubs seeking promotion year in and year out have their own strategy of doing so. Although to make it happen so quickly, it is almost unheard of, but with that comes the experience and a unique way of executing business. Globe-bestriding Portuguese agent, Jorge Mendes whose first client was Nuno, is known for doing lucrative deals representing almost all Portuguese international players.
In their Championship days, it was speculated that Mendes’ relationship with the club could comply with EFL regulations. Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani stated that the Wanderers’ agreements were ‘not legal and fair’ due to Fosun owning a stake in Mendes’s agency, Gestifute. The EFL and the Football Association investigated the relationship of Portuguese agent with Wolves and it was concluded, ‘as a comprehensive review of the detail.’
It was later approved by the FA that because the stake in Gestifute was not directly owned by Fosun but by a company owned by its chairman, Guo Guangchang, it did not infringe the rules.
Laurie Dalrymple, Wolves’ managing director assured that his role is only advisory, of identifying talents.
“Someone, because of the friendship with the owners, that we take opinions and advice from.”
The boss insisted: “I am a client of the best agent in the world. I do my job, he does his job.”
Joao Teixeira was also another client of Mendes who joined the Wanderers on a loan deal from Primeira Liga Benfica, albeit only featuring 17 times and netting two goals.
It is clear the influence Mendes has on the Molineux side and the knowledge he has bought in, proving crucial with the club securing fine deals for talented players from his agency, Gestifute – who is responsible for the dealings of Cristiano Ronaldo, David de Gea and Bernardo Silva. As well as managing Jose Mourinho, Roma’s Paulo Fonseca and many more.
The 54-year-old representative claimed that his agency continues to capitalise and offer young talent an opportunity into football.
“Gestifute has played – and continues to play – a very important role in the internationalisation of Portuguese football, as well as in capitalising on the value of young talent.
“It’s important to note that lots of highly talented young players are unable to cement their position in their Portuguese clubs, and they end up finding the places they deserve in some of the best European clubs.
“This contributes decisively to their development and to them achieving high levels of performance to the point they become ever-present, both in the clubs they play for and in their national team.”
Without his input, it is hard to imagine what would have been and whether Wolves would still be contesting Championship football.
The super-agent’s robust connection with Primeira Liga sides such as Rio Ave, Porto and Sporting has paid well off in the past. Signings of former Porto, Ruben Neves, Diogo Jota, Joao Moutinho, former Sporting’s Rui Patricio and Daniel Podence, have all proven to be effective as Wolves became one of the Premier League’s most threatening new sides. Curiously, in Wolves tie against Arsenal at the Emirates, there were more than twice as many Portuguese clients of Mendes than there were English players.
The biggest coup in the club’s recent history though was acquiring Portugal No.1, Rui Patricio to stop opponents from finding the back of the net. Signed in 2018 from Lisbon side, Sporting CP for a fee of around £18m. The shot-stopper has firmly established himself in the squad with 19 clean sheets in all competitions this season, an unquestionable first team starter.
383 days, 59 games and 10 countries later, Wolves earn their overly deserved rest following a healthy 2019/20 campaign, with a second consecutive seventh finish in the league albeit falling short of a European place, the Wanderers disputed the quarter-finals of the Europa League, 48 years since their last appearance in the competition. Despite a 1-0 loss to six-time champions Seville, a strong performance since Nuno’s ownership began has continued to influence eyes on the West Midlands club and its players.
“I’m happy and proud of our team because they have achieved it and we’ve also got to the last eight of the Europa League – that’s not easy, which broke a long-term record for the history of Wolves, said Jeff Shi on Wolves’ official website.
However though, with grand performances come worldwide interests, the likes of Neves and Jota among others have continually been monitored by Europe’s prodigious teams. With that comes the difficulty of the player’s turning down an offer with potentially an improved contract. Having said that, the agent’s knowledgeable role is to sight all corners of the football world as the club will need to be prepared in case a sudden player exit occurs, which illustrates the reason Fosun have invested on working closely with Mendes to trade in players.
“Our goal is to build a complete system in the global football world with you, with different levels of clubs and training facilities. I believe together we can establish our strong presence in every major league,” affirmed the Fosun group.
Executive chairman, Jeff Shi continued: “You always know the reason for the investment of Wolves is mainly because of our bet and trust on Jorge. He can take Wolves as the most reliable partner and agency revenue source for a long time.” In Mendes we trust.
The West Midlands club is slowly regaining its share in one of the most inspiring stages to play in the world of football. The Wolves are left without Europe to play for next season succeeding over 19k traveled this term but this modified squad is far from being concluded in Europe despite having the most compact squad in the league. Nuno has demonstrated he can make do with it but if they want to continue being competitive, some changes must take place and it looks like Fosun and Co are ahead of the game.
Jeff Shi on appointing new reinforcement: “The transfer window is now open until October, which is a long window. We’ll keep working hard, but we will stick to our principles and not rush into anything that isn’t right for us.
“Our recruitment team is not resting, they are working night and day, and I’m deeply involved in any transfer discussion and decision. For the next two months, 50 percent of my job will be about recruitment.”