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Monday, August 13, 2018

Premier League off-the-pitch: Jorge Mendes key to Wolves, Paul Pogba fears fine, Harry Kane misfires

Of the Premier League newcomers, only Wolverhampton Wanderers collected a point in the opening round. So much is down to the man behind Cristiano Ronaldo’s career.
The transfer that set Jorge Mendes on the path to becoming a super-agent in the 1990s involved Portuguese goalkeeper Nuno Espirito Santo. Two decades later, Mendes secured Nuno the manager’s job at Wolves.
Mendes wasn’t just cheering for Nuno when the central England club ended its six-year Premier League exile with a 2-2 draw with Everton on Saturday. Two clients of Mendes’ Gestifute agency scored the goals for Wolves. Portugal midfielder Ruben Neves curled a free kick into the net a first-half equalizer and then set up Mexico striker Raul Jimenez to snatch a point.
Jimenez wasn’t the only Wolves summer signing represented by Mendes. So were two members of Portugal’s 2016 European Championship winning team: Former Sporting Lisbon goalkeeper Rui Patricio and midfielder Joao Moutinho, who signed from Monaco.
The links to Mendes don’t end there.
Although a stake in Gestifute was sold by Mendes in 2016 to a subsidiary of Fosun, the Chinese conglomerate that bought Wolves later in the year, the agent was found by football authorities in England to have no formal role in the running of the club.
Mendes, though, is helping to ensure Nuno’s side is well stocked with talent to – at the very least – stay in the world’s richest league.
“We are in a process of developing and growing as a team,” Nuno said Saturday.
Some other talking points around the Premier League:
Two years after returning to Manchester United from Juventus, Paul Pogba’s future at Old Trafford has looked in doubt amid an increasingly strained relationship with manager Jose Mourinho. The France World Cup winner did captain United on Friday and netted a penalty in the 2-1 victory over Leicester.
But post-match comments stirred fresh intrigue. Although Premier League clubs can’t sign players until January, Pogba could still be sold to a leading European league this month.
“There are things and there are things that I cannot say otherwise I will get fined,” Pogba told reporters, before walking off.
Top-scorer at the World Cup in Russia, Harry Kane couldn’t find the net in Tottenham’s season-opener against Newcastle.
It was hardly surprising. The striker has never scored in the Premier League in August. Kane has now failed to net in 14 attempts. There are still two more chances to end the August drought this season, against Fulham and Manchester United.
Another member of the England side that reached the semifinals in Russia stepped up for Tottenham on Saturday as Kane’s barren run continued. Dele Alli secured 2-1 victory, while Hugo Lloris was back in the Tottenham goal a month after captaining France to World Cup glory in the final victory over Croatia.
Protests by fans against Newcastle owner Mike Ashley started away from the stadium outside a branch of his discount sportswear chain.
Manager Rafa Benitez has been unhappy there were only four off-season arrivals, with outgoings ensuring a transfer profit of around $35 million. Ashley did complete one major deal as the transfer window closed: His Sports Direct firm bought department store chain House of Fraser for 90 million pounds ($115 million).
“My job is to be sure that the players give everything, and the fans have to be behind the team,” Benitez said.
Premier League clubs spent 1.2 billion pounds in the summer transfer, with Tottenham the only team to add no players.
Big outlays didn’t immediately deliver on the field for Fulham, the first team to spend more than 100 million pounds after being promoted. The west London club was beaten 2-0 by Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Brighton spent around 60 million pounds reinforcing for its second season in the Premier League, but couldn’t manage a shot on target in a 2-0 loss at Watford. Only one of the 10 recruits did start: Brazilian defender Bernardo. It gets tougher for Chris Hughton’s side, with four of the next six games against last season’s top four.
It took technology to determine that Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen’s header crossed the line at Newcastle.
Goal-line technology is still the only computer assistance available to referees. The Premier League is resisting introducing video assistant referees, despite proving largely effective at the World Cup.
VAR trials are taking place this season in the Premier League, just without the referee receiving the information.
One hotly debated incident Saturday was Phil Jagielka’s sliding lunge into Diogo Jota’s ankle which the referee couldn’t view again before deciding to send off the Everton defender at Wolves. But managers are allowed to view their own replays on the touchline from this season, so Everton’s Marco Silva had a chance to review the foul before remonstrating with the fourth official in vain on the sideline.