The Football Leaks have strengthened the suspicion that controversial agent Jorge Mendes’ company Gestifute holds an enormous influence on Rybolovlev's club AS Monaco, including via ties with its main sponsor Fedcom’s owner.
The Football Leaks coming from the work of a consortium of investigative journalists (the European Investigative Consortium or EIC), have repeatedly shown the considerable influence of Portuguese star agent Jorge Mendes on the European transfer market, and more than that, of his tremendous influence on some specific European clubs. Among the clubs having made an important number of deals with Mr Mendes are the Portuguese SC Braga, the Spanish Valencia CF, the English Wolverhampton Wanderers, the Russian Dynamo Moscow and French football club AS Monaco.
Jorge Mendes is mostly known for being the famed agent of such superstars as Cristiano Ronaldo, James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao or Jose Mourinho. Both he and his Italian superstar agent counterpart Mino Raiola have often been accused of walking the thin line between legal loopholes and outright illegality, and both of them often dismiss these claims as an expression of pure jealousy. They claim their high-grossing megadeals and important fees stimulate their critics’ imaginations.
The Football Leaks are showing elsewise, however. They tend to prove that some of football’s most massive deals from the past few years were negotiated with illegal offsets. Gestifute in particular has been under heavy criticism for establishing a system which favours questionable deals. Mr Mendes’ company has been accused of using some clubs as shells to artificially increase players’ values – essentially the clubs it does most deals with. This accusation is backed by the fact that Gestifute was founded on the business model of Third-Party Ownership, a process by which shares in players could be bought and sold outside other shareholders’ knowledge. In this system, circulating players from one club to another select club would indeed help increase their value, especially if their shares were bought and sold to third-party owners in the process with the backing of Mr Mendes’ reputation and a guarantee to see a profitable trade.
This practice was banned by FIFA in May 2015, but documents have shown AS Monaco seems to have taken part in TPO deals after they were banned. It isn’t clear yet what the club’s books might reveal, but it would certainly prove interesting. AS Monaco did indeed spend dozens of millions on Gestifute players in the past few years – and the Football Leaks investigative consortium says both Mr Mendes and Mr Rybolovlev got considerably richer in the process.
As mentioned earlier in this article, Gestifute is also known for having exerted a strong influence on Dynamo Moscow’s transfers in the past years. The Russian club used to be owned by Alexey Fedorichev via Fedcom – a company which is now AS Monaco’s main sponsor. The ties between Gestifute, Dynamo Moscow and AS Monaco don’t stop there though: AS Monaco’s Vice-President Vadim Vasiliev is reputed to have worked for Mr Fedorichev’s Fedcominvest structure between 1997 and 1999… and Mr Vasiliev hired a friend of Mr Mendes, one Luis Campos, to work for him as a counsellor at AS Monaco until January 2016. Small services amongst friends, it seems.
Mr Mendes is certainly no stranger to accusations of putting financial profit before football, as well as of using his football ties for other business ventures (Mr Mendes is a business associate of SC Braga’s president in Brazil, where they own a joint real estate investment company, for instance). As the EIC has often put it when presenting its conclusions, cases of illegality and suspicions of corruption exist, but what’s most appalling is the greed within today’s football. In the case of AS Monaco however, it seems greed has pushed Jorge Mendes, Dmitry Rybolovlev and Alexey Fedorichev into ignoring any potential conflicts of interests and just going along with their daily business of making themselves and their friends richer, no matter what.