Football is full of 'lobbies'. They are not called that, but they exist everywhere. Coaches who have their favourite players, presidents who work with certain agents, footballers who recommend their friends. Circles of confidence or pressure. And, for the past few years, Jorge Mendes was at the centre of one such circle at Real Madrid.
The Portuguese super agent represented so many players in the Madrid squad in a close working relationship with Jose Mourinho that he was once described as a de facto sporting director for Real. Along with the current Manchester United boss, his clients included Ricardo Carvalho, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, Angel Di Maria and, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ever since 2010, there have been no fewer than four Gestifute clients at Real Madrid, including this season, and there has been almost complete harmony between the agency and the club in that time. At the presentation of the authorised biography entitled "The key to Mendes", the agent was flanked by Ronaldo, James Rodriguez and also Florentino Perez in January 2015. The connection was all apparent.
However, since Mourinho's departure in 2013, the players represented by Mendes have gradually left the club, with the exception of James who arrived the following year. This summer, with the Colombian set to depart along with Pepe and Fabio Coentrao, Cristiano will be left as the sole Gestifute client at the Bernabeu. In the space of a couple of years, the connection between agency and club has all but broken.
Amid all of that, there has been plenty of controversy as well. The exits of both Mourinho and Di Maria, Coentrao's form, the botched David de Gea transfer, the continuous complaints from James, the message sent by Pepe last week due to a lack of support from the club in his problems with tax evasion accusations and even the arduous renewal of Ronaldo in 2013 are all examples.
It would be naive to believe that those cases have not contributed to the loss of feeling between the two parties in recent times. Little by little, the circle of confidence has been weakened as Madrid look elsewhere for new players and Mendes seeks to build his influence at other clubs (such as Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain or Valencia, among others), while his players create conflicts for Real. That is how 'lobbies' work and in this case, the disconnection has been brewing to boiling point between Mendes and Real Madrid, with only Ronaldo maintaining a link that had until recently appeared unbreakable.
But now even Ronaldo is unhappy, using the Portuguese media by threatening to leave Madrid due to a perceived of a lack of support at club level following the tax evasion accusations, with a similar stance to that of his friend and international team-mate Pepe some days ago.
Just last week, rumours of a €180 million bid for Ronaldo appeared in A Bola and in the same newspaper on Friday, it was claimed that Cristiano will walk away from Madrid. Those reports were clearly filtered through from the player's entourage and even though direct sources have told Goal that the relationship between Gestifute and Real remains strong, it is clearly not what it once was.
Whatever is said publicly, there is not doubt that the 'lobby' is still in full swing - although it seems to be working against Real Madrid and not with the club these days.