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The English Football Thread

Started by Steve,

Why the pandemic made Jorge Mendes move his focus to the Premier League



It was around this time last year, after the strained and stressful summer of 2019, that Sporting Lisbon turned to the man Sir Alex Ferguson once described as the “best” agent he had encountered in football.

Sporting had received sustained transfer interest in their playmaker Bruno Fernandes during the summer window but Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United were, at that point, unprepared to meet the asking price of £65 million laid out by the Portuguese club’s president Frederico Varandas.

Fernandes continued to shine for Sporting at the beginning of last season and shortly after, his agent Miguel Ruben Pinho and Sporting’s board approached Mendes to ask for his help in driving up the price with United. The English club’s need for creativity grew more glaring during the first half of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s full season as their manager. Mendes intervened, aiding the negotiations with United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who had previously negotiated with him on contract renewals for David de Gea, as well as the signings of Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria.

United eventually improved their offer, agreeing €55 million up front plus €25 million worth of add-ons, and Fernandes joined them in January. For his part, Mendes secured a payment worth over £5 million to be divided up between himself as the intermediary and Pinho, who is the player’s brother-in-law as well as his agent.

In the same January window, Mendes proceeded to Catalonia, where his burgeoning relationship with Barcelona’s beleaguered president Josep Maria Bartomeu and strong ties at Portuguese club Braga grew a little cosier. Mendes did not represent Francisco Trincao previous to the operation but he brokered a €30.9 million deal that saw the Braga winger move to Barcelona. Mendes, remarkably, received €7 million in commission, amounting to over 22 per cent of the transfer.

Two deals, neither of which involved any of his own stable of clients, kickstarted a calendar year that has been miserable for many in football but quite remarkable for Mendes.

“All hail Mendes, the King again,” joked one of his rival agents.

The coronation comes after a remarkable window in which Mendes oversaw lavish deals for clients including the £65 million transfer of Ruben Dias from Benfica to Manchester City and a £45 million deal for Liverpool to sign Diogo Jota from Wolves. Two more Mendes clients, Helder Costa and Rodrigo Moreno, signed permanently for Leeds United at a combined cost over £40 million. He also brought four players to Wolves this summer and three to Tottenham Hotspur, where his clients Nuno Espirito Santo and Jose Mourinho are the head coaches, during this calendar year.

Mendes is known to be the gatekeeper of his native Portugal, often facilitating for clubs including Benfica, Porto and Braga.

He is not alone in appearing to corner specific markets. Mino Raiola, best known for representing Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, has been curiously quiet in this window after securing transfers for Erling Haaland, Moise Kean, Matthijs de Ligt over the past year, but he has gradually secured a strong grip over the most prodigious young talent in the Netherlands. He now represents youngsters including Roma’s Justin Kluivert, PSV Eindhoven’s Donyell Malen, AZ Alkmaar trio Calvin Stengs, Owen Wijndal and Myron Boadu and Ajax’s Ryan Gravenberch. They are all aged 21 or below and scouts believe they will be set for significant transfers in the coming years.

His agent counterparts suspect Raiola is recharging the batteries ahead of returning more aggressively to a more flourishing market in the summer of 2021, although this will depend heavily on the ongoing impact of COVID-19.

In this window, Mendes has been an eye-catching presence, for the sheer breadth and depth of his wheeling and dealing.

Over recent years, Mendes has developed close ties with a series of European clubs, including Wolves, Valencia, Atletico Madrid, Olympiakos and Monaco, although sources close to the agent say he has strong bonds with many clubs beyond those often picked out for special attention. Over the past 12 months, his relationships have become more pronounced with a few more clubs, most notably Tottenham since the arrival of Mourinho, while Leeds, Barcelona and Lyon have also tapped into his expertise.

Mendes steered the market smartly, sensing opportunity by matching those few clubs with cash and the financially-strained outfits with talent to shift. “I have to admit,” one rival agent begrudgingly begins, “He is a master of his trade. He reads the market better than anybody else and he has special qualities.”

Mendes’ impact in recent months is all the more remarkable when we closely analyse the European transfer market this summer.

In the 2020 summer transfer window, the collective might of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco summoned a combined net spend of only £6 million.

These eight clubs have, traditionally, been among the more ambitious and busy clubs in the marketplace over the past decade, yet as the pandemic disrupted the football industry, slashing revenue streams, the cream of the continent has been more measured.

Among many of Europe’s most historic clubs, this has been the story of the window.

The Athletic reported in July that Real Madrid had decided not to sign any players at all in this window and they, along with Valencia, did not spend any money at all on transfer fees for new signings. Yet Mendes sensed opportunity there, too, removing the burden of James Rodriguez from the Bernabeu wage bill for a minimal fee and identifying cash-rich Everton as a workable solution for both his client and Real Madrid’s balance sheet.

Barcelona, meanwhile, began their deadline day hoping to secure the permanent transfers of Memphis Depay from Lyon and Eric Garcia from Manchester City. Terms had been agreed with Depay, whose contract is due to expire next June, and Lyon were prepared to sell for significantly less than £20 million. Garcia, a Barcelona academy product, is on a deal that runs to the summer of 2021. Barcelona wished to pay around £15 million to re-sign their former defender, but this fell short of City’s valuation.

Yet Lyon’s executive team were also informed that Barcelona needed to bring in “multiples” of however much they laid out for Depay in order to strike an agreement, perhaps even four times as much. As such, Barcelona were left hoping Manchester United may blunder their way into the market and spend big on their winger Ousmane Dembele but ultimately, United would only seriously consider taking the 23-year-old on loan, which did little for Barcelona’s prospects. As such, moves for both Depay and Garcia fell through on Monday night and Barcelona’s net spend in this window is estimated at around £2 million.

This story underlines the strained financial situation in Spain and offers an indication as to why Mendes returned with a punch to the Premier League, where he oversaw more than a dozen deals.

Indeed, The Guardian reported on Tuesday that over £1 billion of the £2.5 billion spending in Europe’s top five leagues has come from the Premier League alone. A senior source at Valencia told The Athletic in September that the club’s hierarchy has estimated their revenue stream will halve this season. Owner Peter Lim is insistent the club should be sustainable, rather than reliant on his personal fortune, and sales were therefore essential. Fellow La Liga side Real Betis, who spent significantly in recent years, were unable to stretch beyond free transfers — The Athletic understands the Seville-based club could not even stump up the necessary loan fee or wage package to take Harry Wilson on loan from Liverpool.

Little wonder, therefore, that many agents and intermediaries, so accustomed to milking the market dry, have complained privately of their most barren window for quite some time. Yes, Europe’s top five leagues still spent more than £2.5 billion, but it underlines the depression already squeezing the sport that the summer of 2019 recorded a figure in the region of £5 billion.

“It has been a bloody difficult window,” one leading agent says, “for everyone. Except one man: Mendes. He found a way.”

Mendes has long been recognised as one of the most powerful men in world football, representing elite-level players including  Di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo and Bernardo Silva, in addition to leading coaches such as Mourinho and Nuno.

He is the man known to carry three mobile phones — one Swiss number, one Portuguese number, one Spanish number — and he comes with grand references. In Portugal’s 2008 European Championship finals squad, Mendes represented all but seven of the 23 players. The Mail on Sunday calculated in September 2014 that Mendes had, over the course of his career, aided the negotiation of transfer fees worth up to £1 billion following a summer window in which he had moved Di Maria and Falcao to Manchester United and James Rodriguez to Real Madrid.

This summer, reports in France suggested that Mendes had his eye on a final marquee move for his most famous client, Ronaldo.

Mendes has already negotiated transfers for Ronaldo to Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus. Sources close to the player deny this but The Athletic understands that, during the summer months, PSG received intelligence that the Portuguese forward was not entirely content in Turin and would consider a move to the French capital.

Traditionally, Mendes has enjoyed a strong relationship with the PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi — “he always goes straight to the top, to the president”, says one well-placed source — but his influence has diminished a little at the club in more recent times.

PSG made it clear they simply could not afford the transfer. To comply with Financial Fair Play regulations and cope with the financial impact of the pandemic, they prioritised reducing their wage bill. This is why Thiago Silva and Edinson Cavani have been allowed to leave the club and find new homes in the Premier League with Chelsea and Manchester United respectively.

As modest budgets tied the hands of clubs across Europe, superagents mostly abandoned hopes of galactico transfers and worked more smartly across the middle classes of the game.

The Premier League, where clubs are less reliant on gate receipts due to gigantic broadcast contracts, still had money to spend and Mendes stamped his authority over English football.

The results for Mendes have been impressive and perhaps the most curious deals are those that have appeared to follow on, like a chain, one to another.

Take, for instance, the case of the right-back positions at Barcelona, Wolves and Tottenham.

Mourinho required a full-back to compete with Serge Aurier and turned to Mendes client Matt Doherty, of Wolves. Mendes is a close associate of Fosun International, who own Wolves, and the Chinese investors boast a stake in his own Gestifute agency. Mendes client Nuno is the head coach at Wolves and a series of Wolves’ recent signings, including those of Ruben Neves, Raul Jimenez and Rui Patricio, have all been negotiated by Mendes.

Mendes, it should be said, was the subject of an EFL investigation in 2018, which concluded that the agent holds no role at the club and had breached no regulations. It is clear, however, that his voice is influential.

Wolves are still to hire a replacement for sporting director Kevin Thelwell, who departed the club for MLS side New York Red Bulls last February. In Thelwell’s absence, five of Wolves’ six summer deals were assisted by Mendes. This is all perfectly legitimate and Mendes would argue he has simply developed strong relations with owners of clubs across Europe. Indeed, he can also point to the fact that the £65 million Dias transfer to City is the only one involving his clients or his handiwork that’s inside the top 10 most expensive sales of the summer.

Let’s get back to the full-back chain.

Wolves now required a replacement for Doherty. Mendes has recently grown close to Bartomeu and he was asked to help raise funds for Barcelona during this window. Mendes’ clout at Barcelona has been further enhanced by winning the battle to represent the club’s latest superstar, Ansu Fati.

A deal was arranged for Wolves to sign Mendes client Nelson Semedo from Barcelona in a deal that may rise to £37 million, therefore producing both a replacement for Doherty at Molineux and a cash boost for the Nou Camp coffers. Regular observers of Semedo at Barcelona consider that price rather excessive but, to play devil’s advocate, Semedo is a 26-year-old current Portugal international who has four league titles to his name over the past five seasons with Benfica and Barcelona.

In the left-back position, meanwhile, Fernando Marcal was Lyon’s first-choice there last season as they got to the Champions League semi-finals but moved to Wolves for less than £2 million, with sources crediting the 31-year-old’s low cost to Mendes’ management of the situation. As Marcal arrived — joined by another full-back and Mendes client in the form of 19-year-old Rayan Ait-Nouri on loan from Lyon’s fellow Ligue 1 side Angers — Wolves had resolved their shortage and could then agree a deal to loan Ruben Vinagre to Olympiakos, where relations are strong with their owner Evangelos Marinakis.

Gestifute declined to comment on all points raised when approached by The Athletic as it is not their policy to discuss negotiations or deals. Sources close to Mendes reject suggestions that he manufactures “chains”, arguing that his success is merely the fruit of his own hard work, long hours and carefully developed relationships with contacts within football. Indeed, they argue, it is not the fault of Mendes if, when he moves a player out of a club, the selling club in question prefer to ask an agent for recommendations for a replacement — rather than proceed with a more academic approach centred on scouting and data analysis.

Mendes did, for example, present Benfica with a £14 million deal for City’s Nicolas Otamendi, having already arranged the £65 million transfer of fellow centre-back Dias in the opposite direction, enabling him to receive a commission for the two transfers. Mendes then also worked late into the night on Monday evening to secure Barcelona’s Jean-Clair Todibo for Benfica on a season’s loan to ensure further cover at the position.

When the pandemic hit, Mendes is said to have carefully studied the needs of those who needed cash and the squad needs of those with money to spend. He was able to connect recently-promoted Leeds with stricken Valencia to arrange the club-record £27 million arrival of Spain international forward Rodrigo.

During an interview with The Athletic earlier this year, Valencia president Anil Murthy responded to criticisms of the club’s perceived reliance on Mendes. He pointed out the club work has operated more closely with other intermediaries, before adding: “That criticism comes from people who do not know this part of the business. Jorge is a superagent. He is a good friend of Peter Lim. It is an easy criticism people use.

“Jorge knows a lot about football and he is a good reference point to bounce off ideas. He helps and advises me on different things. I have so many agents on to me all the time. They try to use me, but I don’t get used! The criticism of Jorge is totally unfair on him as he does a lot out of friendship, to advise. A superagent won’t normally spend time on a £2 million or £5 million deal, but he does help and we have frequent conversations.”

Porto, like Valencia, needed a cash boost to cover their Financial Fair Play obligations and Mendes organised a £35 million transfer, again to Wolves, for their forward Fabio Silva. The 18-year-old is broadly considered one of the finest young talents in Europe but one senior source at a rival Portuguese club privately described the fee as “crazy”.

Each time, of course, Gestifute receives Mendes’ commissions and in the case of Silva, the return was a £6.3 million payment for his services.

Tottenham, meanwhile, have engaged in two further Mendes-steered signings, taking Benfica pair Carlos Vinicius and Gedson Fernandes in loan deals that both include options to buy at the end of the agreements. Yet sources close to the north London club are resistant to suggestions of reliance on one agent and it is also true that Mendes did not strike the deal that took Mourinho to Spurs. This was led by a different agent, Pini Zahavi, in collaboration with a second agency. Equally, Mendes’ role at Monaco, where he once took James Rodriguez and Falcao, has also lessened and he was not behind young Benfica midfielder Florentino Luis’ loan move to the Ligue 1 club last month.

Indeed, not everything has gone Mendes’ way in recent times.

In the case of De Gea, for example, it is understood the pair’s relations have been severely damaged after Mendes worked for 18 months on the Spain goalkeeper’s most recent contract negotiation at Old Trafford, estimated to be worth around £375,000 a week, only for a dispute to break out at the final stage between the player’s family and Mendes. Separate sources close to the player say that the goalkeeper had become frustrated with Mendes as the negotiations dragged on, while De Gea was also left exasperated by his failed move to Real Madrid in 2015. The eventual contract, negotiated by Woodward, was signed off by a trusted De Gea family lawyer, Jose Bouzas Aragon, and this meant that Mendes was not registered on the final FA paperwork for the contract renewal. Sources close to the situation confirmed on Tuesday that he no longer represents De Gea.

Olympiakos owner Marinakis, meanwhile, is said to be less betrothed to Mendes these days; Nottingham Forest, the Championship club he also owns, who were once heavily dependent on Mendes’ expertise during Gestifute client Aitor Karanka’s period as manager, are doing increasingly less work with the agent.

This, however, is a mere blip in a marketplace increasingly marshalled by Mendes’ know-how and leverage.

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1 minute ago, Jason said:

So Kroenke was able to provide the money to buy players but not the money to retain the staff at the club? Arsenal are a disgrace. 

He made his money by marrying a Walmart heiress

shitbaggery is to be expected

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Why Man City's Champions League Ban Was Overturned

warning, this will trigger you, lol

only thing they did not discuss is that Shitty gamed the entire system and all those CRUCIAL 2-1 decisions came from their 2 handpicked stooges

Atomiswave likes this

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Carlos Vinicius – Spurs’ new striker who was still a centre-back in 2015



Had the cards fallen differently, Carlos Vinicius might have arrived at Tottenham Hotspur on Friday to satisfy their need for a defender rather than a striker.

Up until the age of around 20, Vinicius was mainly used as a centre-back — which makes sense when you see his heading ability and imposing 6ft 3in frame.

But really if we are dealing in counterfactuals, in most alternative realities Vinicius would be nowhere near signing for a team like Spurs.

It is hard to overstate just how quickly he has risen from where he was four years ago when, having been released from the Palmeiras youth set-up, Vinicius was turning out for Caldense in the Brazilian fourth tier — the UK equivalent of the semi-pro divisions beneath the National League. Tottenham, who were battling for the Premier League title at the time, would have felt like another world.

By this point, Vinicius was playing more as a defensive midfielder but, before being released from Palmeiras, his coach Marcos Valadares made a suggestion that transformed the course of his career.

Spotting Vinicius’s finishing ability in small-sided games, allied to his strong hold-up play, he suggested having a go up front.

“I believed he could become a good striker, which is why I suggested it to him,” Valadares tells The Athletic.

“But he really dedicated himself and has grown so much. It’s not often that someone plays in one position until he’s 20, then goes on to play for big clubs in another. It’s a massive evolution. That’s down to his dedication and the belief he had — in himself and in the suggestion I made. I’m really happy to see the success he has had. Honestly, he has surprised a lot of people.”

Five years on, fresh from finishing as the top scorer in the Primeira Liga with Benfica, Vinicius continues to surprise. After a stellar season in Portugal, this understated, for so long unheralded 25-year-old has joined the 2019 Champions League finalists on loan with an option to buy for around £36 million at the end of the season.

In doing so, Spurs have finally signed the striker to supplement Harry Kane they have been yearning for since Fernando Llorente’s departure 15 months ago. It has been a problem position for most of the five or so years since Kane established himself as the club’s talisman.

What kind of a striker have they brought in? This is Vinicius’s journey and the player and person Spurs have signed.

“Nobody knows him in Brazil,” says Arthur Quesada, an international correspondent for Brazilian TV channel Esporte Interativo based in Portugal. “He’s a pretty unknown player, even now.”

Vinicius’s low profile can be traced back to the slow start to his career. Let alone hype as a youngster, only true aficionados had even heard of him.

Born in Bom Jesus das Selvas in Maranhao state, a quiet backwater in the north east of the country with little footballing pedigree, Vinicius moved to Goiania aged 14 when his mother took a job there. After joining the Goias youth system, he was spotted by a Santos scout and signed up with them a year later but only lasted a couple of seasons and moved to Palmeiras.

Vinicius idolised Ronaldo and had designs on playing further forward, but he was the sixth-choice centre-back for the Palmeiras under-20s when Valadares took over as coach in 2015 and suggested he moved to the other end of the pitch.

“He was a bit slow and did not, at that stage, have the competitive spirit you need to be a central defender,” Valadares recalls. “He was on the list of the players that were due to be released. In the weeks that followed, I got the squad playing a lot of small-sided games, reducing the size of the pitch.

“In that context, he often found himself closer to the opposition goal, with shooting opportunities. That is when he caught my attention. He was a good finisher and scored a lot of goals in those sessions.

“He was not a striker, but we had a shortage of players in that position because Gabriel Jesus had moved up to join the senior side. The other strikers in the squad at that time didn’t bowl me over. I looked at Vinicius’s characteristics and suggested to him that he should try to become a forward. That was how it started. He didn’t stand out as a defender, but the change of position helped him to grow in the way that he has.

“I thought he had potential. He accepted the challenge and made it his project. I told him that he didn’t have long to prove himself, given he was in the final year of the youth system.”

Valadares told Vinicius that to make it as a forward, he would have to study and learn how to play the position. Vinicius eagerly accepted the assignment and spent hours watching videos of Ronaldo, analysing the runs he made and the way he used his body to evade defenders.

Looking at Vinicius now, one can definitely trace the lineage back to Ronaldo, who was the master of searing past defenders and knowing when to drop a shoulder to manoeuvre them out the way.

“I like to watch videos of him,” Vinicius said in 2018. “I admire his explosiveness and the way he always looked to go at defenders, one-on-one. I see a bit of that in my own game.”

Returning to 2015, Valadares says: “I told him that he should watch videos of the great strikers, study their movements and try to add to his own game. He was dedicated and we soon started to see the results. He broke into the under-20s starting XI, scoring goals and playing well. We were surprised by his performance levels. In a short period of time, he really did well. He gave me a positive response because he really believed that he could adapt to the new position.”

Later that year though Valadares left the club to join Cruzeiro, and Vinicius was not offered a senior contract.

He moved to Caldense, a tiny club in Minas Gerais, and played just one game, as a defensive midfielder, for their B team. In May 2017 he joined Gremio Anapolis, an even more remote footballing outpost in Goias state, playing in the second division of the local state championship.

Vinicius initially played as a defender — an “anti-striker,” the club’s technical director, Pedro Correia, told Brazilian publication Bola Branca — but then moved upfield, to midfield and then forward.

“He didn’t like playing right up front because he didn’t see much of the ball,” Correia explained. “He likes to have the ball and be involved in the attacks. He felt more useful in midfield: his physical stature meant he stood out and could help the team more.”

As well as returning to the centre-forward position earmarked for him by Valadares, it was also at Gremio Anapolis that Vinicius was set on the path to European football.

Gremio Anapolis was run by Antonio Teixeira, a Portuguese businessman. Correia, the technical director, was also Portuguese. The club’s business model was to find players to sell to Europe, and in the months leading up to Vinicius’s departure four other players had moved to Portugal.  Again though, there are plenty of parallel universes where Vinicius didn’t get his break.

For instance, Luis Neves, the director of Portuguese second-division team Real Sport Club, and the man who scouted Vinicius playing for Gremio Anapolis, had been in Brazil to look at another player. Neves was struck, though, by Vinicius’s power and potential, and in July 2017 he joined Real Sport Club on a one-year loan at the age of 22. Real had just been promoted to the Portuguese second division, so still pretty minor-league football in the grand scheme of things, but it was a big step up from where Vinicius had come from.

He took playing at a higher level in his stride, scoring on his debut in a League Cup win over Belenenses and claiming a hat-trick in his first league start against Leixoes. During that season he scored twice against Benfica B, which might have stuck in Benfica’s memory. As is the case now, Vinicius stood out with his lethal left foot, coolness in front of goal, and intelligent runs off the ball that so often ended in tap-ins.

He finished the campaign with 20 goals from 39 games, and halfway through the season was signed by Napoli for around £3.6 million — but it was agreed that he would stay at Real until July. It was a highly impressive season for Vinicius, but it was still an unusual signing for a Champions League regular to make. And it’s at this point that we should acknowledge the perma-tanned, uber-connected elephant in the room.

Vinicius had linked up by now with super-agent Jorge Mendes, who played a part in securing the move to Napoli, which raised eyebrows in Italy and in Brazil among those who had never heard of the striker. The Mendes connection undoubtedly helped Vinicius on his path towards playing for a club of Tottenham’s stature, but ultimately it was his performances for Benfica last season that proved he was a signing worth making. Especially the 18 league goals and five assists in 32 matches, and 24 in 47 games across all competitions.

At Napoli though, Vinicius did come across as one of those curious agent-led signings. He did not play a single competitive game, being loaned to Rio Ave and then Monaco for the 2018-19 season. He is barely remembered in Naples apart from scoring a goal in a 5-1 friendly win over Carpi. Broadly though, according to Naples-based journalist Mario Piccirillo, he was seen as raw and unlikely to reach the level required to be a top striker in one of the big European leagues.

Carlos Vinicius Rio Ave Tottenham

Vinicius is much more fondly remembered at Rio Ave, where he spent the first half of the 2018-19 season and, playing in the Primeira Liga for the first time, really exploded. He scored eight goals in 14 games, and for his manager Jose Gomes it was his knack of sniffing out opportunities that stuck out. “He’s a powerful player, and very intelligent,” Gomes, who went on to manage Reading, tells The Athletic. “He is someone who always gets himself into goalscoring positions. He has a great sense for where opportunities are going to appear. He shoots with enormous power with his left foot. He protects the ball really well — even when defenders are pressuring him, he is able to shield the ball and turn his man to get a shot in.

“I used him as a No 9, a penalty-box striker. But we looked to make the most of his mobility: he likes to make diagonal runs into wide areas, behind the full-backs. He’s someone who holds the ball up well, which allows the rest of the team to move up the pitch and start an attack, or just take a breath. He was our reference point in attacking transitions.”

After shining at Rio Ave, Vinicius stepped up a level to play the second half of the season at Monaco. In a role foreshadowing the one he is expected to have at Spurs, Vinicius was mainly used as Radamel Falcao’s understudy. He struggled to make an impact and scored just twice, though it was around this time he earned the nickname “Vinicius da Pose” (Vinicius the Poser) when a Brazilian YouTuber saw his profile picture in FIFA 19 and cracked up laughing.

The picture was of Vinicius smiling goofily at the camera, and the YouTuber, who was playing career mode with Napoli, made it his mission to score a goal with Vinicius the Poser and then celebrate with Kylian Mbappe’s crossed-arms stance. This became a cause celebre in Brazilian FIFA circles, and generated a lot of memes on social media. When the gamer did eventually score a goal with Vinicius, however, someone pointed out that the photo in FIFA was wrong — it was of another Vinicius (Vinicius Freitas), who played for Chapecoense.

Carlos Vinicius Tottenham Kylian Mbappe

Nonetheless the story gained so much traction that when Monaco signed him, their Brazilian Twitter account referenced it and said when he scored to, “Do the pose, Vinicius!” He got wind of it, and performed an Mbappe-style pose. It has since become a staple goal celebration for him — as Spurs fans will hopefully soon find out.

Vinicius’s performances for Rio Ave convinced Benfica to sign the striker for around £15 million last summer — a fee Napoli were happy to take. Any thought though that Benfica had overpaid were immediately dispelled. Vinicius scored six minutes into his debut and as he motored towards double figures for league goals by December, the club’s president Luis Filipe Vieira claimed he was worth his £90 million buy-out clause. “At the beginning of last season, he was like ‘boom’,” says the Brazilian journalist Quesada. Another source in Portugal adds: “He was a class above for Benfica last season. Their best player by a distance. Strong and good technique.”

On top of that instant debut goal, other highlights included scoring twice in O Classico against Porto — the first of which he celebrated with an especially defiant version of the Mbappe crossed-arms pose. He ended the season with 24 goals in all competitions, and was the top scorer in the Primeira Liga with 18. His five league assists meant he averaged a goal or assist every 78 minutes. As anyone who has spent the last couple of days watching Vinicius’ clips on YouTube will know — and why wouldn’t you have spent your time doing that? — Vinicius scores most of his goals from close range (including the one referenced above against Porto). His movement is superb, and like his manager Gomes at Rio Ave pointed out, he is excellent at anticipating where balls are going to drop in the box. Playing as an out-and-out striker and latching onto passes and crosses from wide positions, he was deadly.

All of his 18 league goals in the top flight last season came from inside the penalty area, and 11 of those chances were defined by Opta as a “big chance”. Opta data reveals that 57 of the 58 shots that he attempted (98.3 per cent) in the league saw Vinicius’s only role in that sequence being the shot itself. This means essentially that he attempted only one shot all season having been involved in the build-up.

It’s clear then that Vinicius is primarily a penalty-box poacher but, thanks to data from smarterscout, we can go a little bit deeper to try and understand exactly what type of striker Spurs’ new signing is.

Using a few metrics, we can get a good sense of the style of different players. Are they a ball-playing centre-back? An aggressive dribbling winger or a box-to-box centre midfielder? By finding players who have similar styles, we can better understand the sort of player that is being signed by looking at names we know more about and can confidently compare them to.

To find similar players, we use an algorithm that compares the smarterscout scores for a player across a number of facets of play, listed below. If two scores are similar (say, a 19 for ball retention for player A and 22 for ball retention for player B) then those players will be deemed stylistically similar by that measure. Only players in the same position are compared.

The metrics measured are the volume of a player’s aerial duels, non-forward passes, forward passes, ball-carrying past players, shooting, ball touches in the box, interceptions and recoveries, as well as tackles and general disruption of opposition moves.

The closer the player’s metrics are to the player of interest, the higher their similarity. If two players are practically clones of each other, they will have a similarity score of 100 per cent. If they’re polar opposites, they’ll have a score of 0 per cent.

It’s worth reiterating though that these metrics all look to measure style, and tell us little about quality. This is still revealing because it can help distinguish similar types of players, but is worth bearing in mind before getting too carried away by the below.

For Vinicius, this is what the data tells us:


Robert Lewandoski and Sergio Aguero? Exciting, huh? Though, again, this is taking in a range of different skills, and isn’t just about goalscoring. Hence Sheffield United’s hardly prolific Lys Mousset being near the top.

Plus, of course, Vinicius was posting the numbers he did in a much weaker league, and is yet to show that he can shine outside of Portugal. Still, there is certainly plenty of evidence to suggest Spurs are signing someone who knows where the goal is.

And though many of his goals were from close range — with his left foot or his head — he did also show in the Champions League that he is capable of scoring different types of goals. Away at eventual semi-finalists RB Leipzig in a 2-2 draw in November for instance, Vinicius scored a goal that started in his own half.


Vinicius’s touch wrong-foots the defender, who slips


Vinicius has the pace to scamper clear…


… and the composure to finish clinically

Vinicius also showed with his assists that he is capable of linking play and creating chances for his team-mates.


Vinicius provided a range of assists last season. This one was a beautiful first-time flick


Showing off his prowess in the air, Vinicius produces a perfect knock-down


And here he controls the ball on his chest before laying it off

Should Spurs be chasing a game and decide to play Kane and Vinicius together, it would likely be the former that would drop deeper to play more as a No 10. But Kane will be pleased to know that Vinicius is able to move away from the box and stitch things together.

The main area Vinicius needs to improve is his right foot, which he only uses in emergencies. Just two of his goals last season were scored with his weaker foot — what’s the Portuguese for chocolate leg? — and after one of them against Portimonese last October he collapsed in pain after scoring, as if he was so unaccustomed to using it. To his credit though, Vinicius was quickly back on his feet, and smashed one in with his left a couple of minutes later.

Looking at Vinicius’s skill set more broadly, the below chart essentially shows each stat per minute in possession for that player’s team, which is then turned into a rating to scale across all players.

So instead of representing a metric per 90 minutes, the rating is saying how much they do of that specific facet of the game.

The idea is to have the ratings reflect the actual distribution of players across different metrics rather than being simple percentiles. So when you see a rating of 95, it doesn’t mean that the player has a higher rating than 95 per cent of other players in the sample. It means that the chance that a new player would come on the scene with a higher rating is 5 per cent. The idea is to demonstrate how unusual a player is rather than just where he happens to fall among the league’s players.

Looking at the below, Vinicius excelled at Benfica when it came to his elite shooting volume, with the likelihood of a new player taking more shots than Vinicius just two per cent.


It was a similar story during Vinicius’s half-season at Rio Ave (below) — though it should be said that shot volume is not a predictive metric, and does not necessarily indicate that he will be able to replicate this form at Spurs.


At this point you might be wondering why Benfica were willing to let go of someone who had just enjoyed such a prolific season.

A big reason was that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic they desperately needed the money — especially after losing their Champions League qualifier to PAOK Salonika — and are hopeful that after a good season Spurs will stump up their £36 million asking price.

Secondly, new manager Jorge Jesus, who Spurs fans may remember from his spat with Tim Sherwood in 2014, does not fancy Vinicius. He did not start any of Benfica’s first three games of the season, and in his final match before leaving was an unused substitute. This also helps to explain why Vinicius is happy to come to Spurs as a second choice, given that he may well have had a similar role if he had stayed. In general Benfica were a bit of a mess last season, especially in the second half of the campaign. Vinicius may have scored even more goals in a more coherent side, but by the same token Jesus felt he needed to make heavy alterations to a side that was not functioning effectively.

Vinicius did not kick up a fuss, and is known for being a quiet, humble character. He is religious and conforms to the former Chile striker Ivan Zamorano’s assessment that Brazilian players like to party or pray. Vinicius, along with his new team-mate Lucas Moura, is in the latter category.

He does not conform to the Brazilian stereotype of gregariousness and extroversion. “Carlos is a very focused player,” Gomes, his manager at Rio Ave, says. “He understands his obligations as a professional. He’s a family person, who really cares about the wellbeing of those around him. Thanks to his journey to this point, he knows what is important in life, and he knows what it means to suffer. He understands clearly that he has to give everything in order to help his family have a better life.”

Filipe Martins, his manager at Real Sport Club, described Vinicius in 2018 as a “five-star human being. He’s very mature and a great team-mate.”

“I can’t wait to get to work,” Vinicius said on Friday after completing the move. He does not yet speak much English but shares the native tongue of his manager Jose Mourinho. And it is hoped that his brief spells in Italy and France will help him adapt to life in another country.

The unique demands of the Premier League make it impossible to predict with much certainty whether a player with Vinicius’s level of experience will be a success, but he certainly appears to have the mentality and game-style to thrive. And the “try before you buy” nature of the signing means it is relatively low risk for Spurs.

“English football is very intense, and very demanding for strikers,” Gomes says, when asked to predict how Vinicius will get on in a country where he managed for a year. “But I think he will show what he can do. He will help the team — by holding up the ball, by finding space to get a shot off, by giving opposition centre-backs plenty to think about when he is near the area.

“It’s a good move for Vinicius and for Tottenham. This is a win-win for both parties.”

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The Telegraph

Friday October 9 2020

Football Nerd

Mesut Ozil's numbers have declined but do they tell the full story of Arsenal exile?


By Daniel Zeqiri


Mesut Ozil may well have played his last game for Arsenal after a tumultuous week in which he was left out of their Europa League squad and launched a PR grenade at the club for their treatment of mascot Gunnersaurus.

The German playmaker has not played a minute of football for Arsenal since March, with his former-team Mikel Arteta freezing him out despite Arsenal's lack of creativity.

Is Ozil a drag on the team culture and 'non-negotiables' Arteta is trying to instil in his squad, or a player still capable of positive contributions who Arsenal should look to re-integrate? Both camps have argued their case vociferously.

What is clear however, is that since Arsene Wenger left Arsenal in 2018 Ozil's productivity has cratered.

I explore the numbers that tell the story of his decline here, but also ponder whether they truly capture the full account of Ozil's Arsenal exile.

If you enjoy Football Nerd, you should sign up to our Sport Briefing newsletter, showcasing the most important stories, plus highlights from our features, analysis and interviews weekdays.

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Explained: The Premier League’s controversial new pay-per-view service



For the first time since 2007, when Sky Sports’ PremPlus channel was disbanded, football fans in the UK will have to use a pay-per-view service to be able to watch certain Premier League games on TV from next weekend.

On Friday, the Premier League announced that matches in October which have not already been selected for live coverage will be available to watch via the BT Sport Box Office or Sky Sports Box Office platforms. The price? £14.95 per game.

A solution for screening the matches had to be found after the planned return of fans from October 1 was scrapped by the British government due to a rise in COVID-19 cases across the country. However, what the Premier League said were “interim” arrangements were roundly criticised by supporters. And while the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) welcomed the decision to broadcast the matches, it also urged BT Sport and Sky Sports to “reconsider their pricing”.

The decision to make matches available on PPV was not a unanimous one, with Leicester City voting against the proposal. The Athletic understands that other clubs also voiced their objections, only to vote in support of the plan anyway.

But why were so many Premier League clubs in favour of turning to PPV? How much additional revenue can clubs expect to make, and how do they plan to spend it? And are hard-up supporters being ripped off? 

The Athletic answers the key questions…

Who approved the plan? 

The result was an emphatic 19-1 when votes were cast by the 20 Premier League clubs, with Susan Whelan, the Leicester City chief executive said to have spoken “passionately” against the proposals.

Manchester United chief executive Ed Woodward also argued against the plan and others declared their own reservations, particularly around the logistics of how to deal with season-ticket holders, but ultimately only Leicester formally objected in the vote.

The absence of supporters, due to COVID-19 restrictions, continues to leave clubs with a shortfall in revenue and there is a collective desire to start clawing some of that money back as the uncertainty spreads in the closing months of 2020.

Although the Premier League and its 20 clubs were willing to make some fixtures free-to-air as a bargaining chip in Project Restart, with the BBC among the beneficiaries, it was done so with the hope supporters would be allowed back into grounds from October.

The government’s change in policy for public events has forced professional games to stay behind closed doors for the foreseeable future and Premier League clubs were unwilling to keep on giving away additional games “for free” via Sky Sports and BT Sport.

Rob Webster, Sky Sports’ managing director, said: “The Premier League has come to this decision with its clubs to provide a service for supporters who are no longer able to attend and to generate match-day revenue. We are happy to support them with this interim solution — and we share their desire to get fans back into grounds as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Why did 19 clubs vote for it if more than one had concerns?

Clubs across the Premier League are known to have been “taken aback” by the ferocity of the reaction to the announcement. “It is a plague on all our houses except Leicester,” said one club source.

Leicester, though, were not the only club to raise issues at the meeting. There were concerns that it would constitute a PR own goal on the back of a transfer window in which the 20 clubs committed to spending more than £1 billion in transfer fees and there was also disagreement over the money to be charged.

One senior executive at a Premier League club said they would rather watch Match of the Day than pay £15 for a match. Another source told The Athletic after the meeting: “If you ask 20 millionaires to go into room and decide what £15 means, this is what happens. It has failed the Netflix test, one game is more than a monthly Netflix subscription.”

Woodward was said to have been a strong questioning voice, though rival club sources dispute the intensity of his opposition to the final proposal. Ultimately all bar Leicester voted in favour of the proposals in the spirit of collective responsibility. 

A source said that it is not unusual for clubs to speak passionately against proposals in meetings between the 20 clubs, but then — once they know the numbers — vote with it, both so that the Premier League appears united and also because they know they might need the support of clubs leading the charge on the issue later on down the line. A source said: “Premier League votes are like being in the Prime Minister’s cabinet. It is seen as an act of betrayal and often futile to vote against the majority when you know you don’t have the numbers to win.”

For example, The Athletic understands that Manchester United were not the only club to speak against the plan only to vote for it in the end.

One other theory that has been floated is that the leading clubs are unlikely to object to an arrangement that would also test the appetite for a Premier League streaming service that could work in their favour. Smaller clubs have always been against the separate sale of rights as they would likely generate less money for them and more for big clubs. This PPV run could prove that.

How was the price decided upon and why make this announcement now?

Fans of EFL clubs have been paying £10 per game throughout this season, including ties in the Carabao Cup and EFL Trophy. That figure is set by the EFL and charged universally by all 72 clubs.

The £14.95 fee for Premier League games is almost 50 per cent up on that but they will argue the production’s quality of service, such as multiple camera angles and analysis, makes it a superior package to that offered in the EFL. The PPV price is also less than major boxing bouts, which typically cost between £20 and £25.

The timing of the announcement is nevertheless lousy. No sooner have clubs finished their spending in the transfer market, they are asking supporters to dig deep once more to continue watching their team.

The Football Supporters’ Association are among those asking for the pricing to be reconsidered. “Many Premier League clubs have already taken money from fans, particularly season ticket holders, for matches they can’t attend so we urge them to get refunds out to those supporters as soon as possible,” a spokesperson said.

“We’ve also already heard from many supporters and FSA members who are concerned about the £15 per game being charged and we’d urge BT Sport and Sky Sports to reconsider their pricing for these games.”

The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust went further, saying the high pricing could be damaging to society not just fans’ finances.

“The price of £14.95 per game is too high. And because it is too high, it could have damaging effects – not just on an individual’s finances at a time when many are stretched,” it said. “It will encourage use of illegal streams, therefore diverting money from the game. And it will encourage people to gather in households and pubs to watch games together.”

What matches are likely to be selected for PPV?

Broadcasters have already picked their games up to the start of November, with five of the 10 games in each round going to either Sky Sports or BT Sport.

That leaves five other games to be broadcast every weekend on PPV. The first three games to be played on Sky Sports Box Office will be Newcastle United vs Manchester United on Saturday October 17 (8pm), with Leicester City vs Aston Villa on Sunday October 18 (7.15pm) and then the ugly duckling of West Brom vs Burnley on Monday October 19 (5.30pm).

Sky Sports and BT Sport are willing to facilitate these broadcasts but they also have their own product to protect. They will continue to keep picking the most attractive fixtures to satisfy their own customers in these financially challenging times, meaning the divisions less popular clubs are more likely to have to shell out more regularly to watch their team on TV.

How will the revenue be distributed among clubs?

Under the EFL model, Championship clubs sell streaming passes through their own websites and are entitled to keep the money they earn. That makes it a more profitable exercise for the division’s bigger clubs, such as Nottingham Forest and Derby County, who can bring in more money than their lesser counterparts.

The Premier League has made the decision to hand over the broadcast of PPV games to Sky Sports and BT Sport and while that could mean the money raised will be placed in a central pot and distributed among the 20 clubs, a decision has not yet been reached.

Sky Sports and BT Sport, who plan to use their own pool of commentators and pundits, will only cover their broadcast costs and not make any profit from the PPV games.

Will non-subscribers be able to watch matches shown on PPV?

They will. You do not need to be a subscriber to either Sky Sports or BT Sport to access PPV games. But you will need to register with the provider ahead of the fixture.

Sky Sports Box Office is already a designated PPV channel predominantly used for boxing events, while BT Sport Box Office was also set up in 2018 to broadcast boxing, UFC and WWE events. 

Those are the channels lined up to host the Premier League’s PPV games.

Do clubs plan to refund existing season-ticket holders?

Not as things stand. Each club has taken a different approach to selling season tickets for 2020-21 and will have their own decisions to make. 

It is understood that the issue of how this would affect season-ticket holders was discussed and that the idea of giving passes to season-ticket holders was explored but the differing circumstances at every club made this too complex.

Liverpool and Aston Villa, for example, have shelved season-ticket sales for this campaign so have nothing to refund supporters. Leicester are another to have held back on the collection of season-ticket money until it becomes clear when supporters are allowed to attend games again. 

Southampton and Crystal Palace are issuing refunds to season-ticket holders on a pro-rata basis for every game played behind closed doors, but the absence of a blanket approach across the division has only muddied the waters.

The EFL, which announced every game could be streamed after lockdown, gave every season-ticket holder free access codes as a means of compensation, but the Premier League are not expected to follow that lead.

How long is this “interim solution” likely to last?

The hope — albeit faint — is that this can be a measure for October only. 

The Premier League joined voices with the EFL, The FA, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship this week to call on supporters to be safely allowed back into grounds “as soon as possible”. Richard Masters, chief executive of the Premier League, was among those to add his signature to a letter to supporters, with the return of testing programmes top of the agenda.

The decision over when fans will be allowed back into grounds ultimately rests with the government but the rising COVID-19 infection rate is not helping the cause. That would point to this becoming a long-term solution.

Why does the Premier League not use this opportunity to set up its own streaming service?

That would be a logistical headache the Premier League is not ready for. As things stand it has domestic broadcast deals worth £4.5 billion with Sky Sports and BT Sport and the appetite to set up a streaming service is not currently there.

The EFL’s platform, iFollow, has encountered regular problems when streaming live games and the Premier League would need to be sure its product was not diminished during its live coverage. 

Amazon Prime, the American giant and newcomers to the Premier League scene, was broadcasting with a delay last season and picture quality on platforms such as Netflix also suffered during lockdown.

That is not to say the Premier League will not go down that road in the future once technological advances are made.

Will international broadcasters replicate this model?

This is a very British problem that needed to be addressed. 

Broadcast packages sold overseas are not limited to the same restrictions, with all games made available to supporters based outside of the UK, so the lucrative agreements struck with overseas broadcasters will be unaffected.

Will the additional income be put towards an EFL rescue package?

That’s an impossible question to answer at present but let’s be clear: this is a step designed to fill the financial void of Premier League clubs. They are out of pocket as the wait goes on to bring fans back into stadiums and this will help claw back some of that shortfall. They are looking after No 1.

How much money is raised from these PPV broadcasts will be fascinating. A club like Leeds United, who won promotion out of the Championship in July, were selling as many as 25,000 streaming passes to their supporters, albeit at home and overseas.

If the average Premier League PPV fixture, say, shifts 40,000 passes at £14.95 then it will be a return of £600,000 minus the broadcast fees. Although all income will be gratefully received, these are hardly life-changing sums for a Premier League club.

Does that change the financial landscape when it comes to an EFL bail-out? Given the reluctance to help out clubs in the Championship to this point, it would seem unlikely. In a recent Premier League meeting Woodward suggested that the Premier League borrow £1 billion and give £300 million to the EFL. This did not receive backing.

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''In order to get down from 20 to 18, it is anticipated four clubs would be relegated directly, with two promoted from the Championship. In addition, there would be play-offs involving the team to finish 16th in the Premier League and those in third, fourth and fifth in the second tier''


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you have 


 a shit DMF

and a RB for the starting English CB's

against the number one ranked club in the world


This Is Fine creator explains the timelessness of his meme - The Verge


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