Chapter 12Working on a Dream

Jorge Mendes is reclining on a sofa in the lounge of the Hotel Villa Magna in Madrid's central boulevard, Paseo de la Castellana, next to two mobile phones and the type of Louis Vuitton wash bagsome of the players he represents carry around. He is wearing a dark-blue suit and tie. He smells of aftershave and has applied pomade to his dark hair. After chatting with an acquaintance, he stands up and beckons a white-haired 60-year-old man on the other side of the lounge to come over. The older man, who is wearing a green tweed jacket, walks over and asks Mendes what he would like. It's Luís Godinho Lopes, the president of Sporting Clube de Portugal.

Sporting is part of football's aristocracy in Portugal. Lisbon is largely split between Benfica and Sporting, the reds and the green-and-whites. The team Godinho Lopes now presides over had collected 18 domestic league titles over the last 80 years and had never been relegated from the first division. In the Madrid hotel, all Mendes needs from him is confirmation of an anecdote from when Ronaldo was a teenager at Sporting; Godinho Lopes then returns to the other side of the grand lounge to resume his conversation with a female Asian company executive. He is trying to secure a stadium naming-rights sponsor to ease the club's perilous finances. That it is he who comes over to Mendes is indicative of which of the two men is most powerful.

Mendes's ability to broker deals between the best players and the richest ...

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