According to Turin-based newspaper Tuttosport (article in Italian), super-agent Jorge Mendes is aiming to broker a move for 30-year-old Brazilian winger Douglas Costa from Serie A giants Juventus to Wolverhampton Wanderers this summer.
If the report is to be believed, new Bianconeri boss Andrea Pirlo has given his "blessing" to the departure of the former Bayern Munich man, who managed 10 goal contributions across 29 appearances in all competitions last year, as part of his plan to rejuvenate his squad in the wide regions.
The report suggests that Mendes moved Jota on in order to create space for Costa at Wolves, and that Juventus, having already accepted his imminent departure, are now weighing up their options for his replacement, with ACF Fiorentina's 22-year-old Federico Chiesa and 27-year-old Stephan El Shaarawy of Shanghai Shenhua mentioned as possibilities.
While Costa is not a Mendes client, Mendes' extensive network of connections to other clubs, and managers allows Wolves to get a proverbial foot in the door when they are pursuing a non-Mendes player.
For example, he acted as a broker in the club-record £35million deal between Wolves and FC Porto for 18-year-old striker Fabio Silva, and his Gestifute agency was paid handsomely, receiving £6.4million of Silva's fee from Porto.
The Mendes effect
Mendes has longstanding ties to the Wolves owners. Wolves' parent company Fosun International holds a 15% stake in Mendes' Gestifute via subsidiary Shanghai Foyo, owned and controlled by Fosun co-founder Guo Guangchang. As a result, Wolves have become an attractive destination for a number of Mendes clients since Fosun became Wolves' owners.
Initially Roderick Miranda, Joao Teixeira, Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro came, then manager Nuno Espirito Santo - Mendes' first ever client - followed by Ruben Neves, Jota, Joao Moutinho, Rui Patricio, Pedro Neto, Bruno Jordao, Daniel Podence and now Vitinha and Nelson Semedo. While Mendes does not direct Wolves' transfer policy, he facilitates moves to the Black Country for players who in previous years would simply have been out of reach to a team like Wolves.
His importance in Wolves' meteoric rise to the top is enormous - without his influence and his ability to create dialogue and enable introductions, there is little to no chance that Wolves would be where they are today.
Is the report believable?
Not with any degree of certainty. Tuttosport are not known for their accuracy of transfer market reporting, and cold water has already been poured on the Costa to Wolves rumour. Fabrizio Romano, the most authoritative voice in transfer reporting today, tweeted on September 21 that despite Juventus wanting to move Costa on, no bids had been received, and that no interest from Wolves had been confirmed.
Despite the tendency of any transfers involving Wolves to move quickly and for information regarding them to be kept under wraps until very shortly before the completion of the move, the transfer appears far-fetched at best.
Costa simply does not fit the profile of the type of player that Wolves tend to sign. Wolves usually sign two types of player - either a young player between 18 and 25 years old, somewhere in the £10-£20million bracket with obvious room for improvement and high potential for increased resale value (for instance Jota, Neves and Neto), or, less commonly, a slightly more expensive player entering the prime years of his career (for instance Patricio, Semedo and Raul Jimenez).
Players older than 30 are not bought by Wolves unless they are both very cheap (Moutinho for £5million; Marcal for £1.8million) and able to fill a specific role in the squad (Moutinho as a mentor for the young Neves; Marcal as a medium-term replacement for the injured Jonny Castro Otto).
Given his age and the physical demands of his position on the wing, it is safe to assume that the best years of Costa's career are now behind him; Juventus would probably be keen to keep hold of him if the opposite were true. His tendency to pick up injuries definitely doesn't help him here - Fosun are unlikely to spend an enormous amount of money on both transfer fees and wages for a player likely to spend a good amount of his time on the treatment table.
It would seem most unlike Wolves to go out and spend big money to bring him to Molineux when his age will only cause a depreciation in his value and a decline in his powers, offering no return on investment from Fosun's point of view, and when he is not an obviously massive upgrade on Wolves' current options in his position (Podence, Neto and Adama Traore) in any category other than experience.
Further, having just spent €30million on an elite attacking wing-back in Semedo, Wolves' need to strengthen in attack is not a desperate one - arguably the only position which might need extra depth now is centre-back, so that Leander Dendoncker can focus on the midfield, where his talents are best applied. Or, if Dendoncker decides to focus on defence, a new workhorse-type player would be needed in the centre of midfield.
In short, the Costa to Wolves rumours have nothing in them at the moment, and a deal between Wolves and Juventus for him is highly unlikely to materialise.