It was really out of nothing that André Horta was linked to West Bromwich Albion on Thursday. There weren’t any serious reports of West Brom interest in the player before, and now they’re said to be leading the race to sign him.
Usually if a talented youngster was set to move to the West Midlands on loan, it would be Nuno Espírito Santo’s Wolves linked, but this time it’s firmly West Brom.
Horta has an interesting background. He played for Benfica’s youth set-up for a few years as a teenager, before leaving for Vitória de Setúbal at the age of 16. He showed some great potential at the club, which earned him recognition with several youth levels of the Portuguese national team.
That’s why Benfica worked on signing him back last summer, when he was already 19. He was expected to get more game time at the Lisbon side, but only made 16 appearances, which caught the attention of the local press.
Correio da Manhã published a story about it at the end of last season, and heard from two different sources. One told them it was because he had refused to change his agent to Jorge Mendes, who will be known at West Brom for his work with rivals Wolves, despite several approaches.
The super-agent is said to have strong influence at Benfica, just like at Wolves, and as the player chose to stick to his representative Carlos Gonçalves, the lack of games would be a backlash from Mendes.
Just to make it clear, Gonçalves’ company Proeleven is pretty valuvable as well. They have some important clients such as Rui Patrício, Eliseu, André Villas Boas and Marco Silva.
Horta wasn’t expected to be at the stage now that a loan to West Brom, or anywhere else would be considered, so it was one way of reasoning the situation.
The second source told the newspaper a different story, saying the player had failed to do his best in training and wasn’t showing a ‘sacrifice spirit’. His many injuries didn’t help either.
All this controversy makes one wonder if the player would be in the same market situation if he had picked the other option.
The impression left by Jorge Mendes’ latest market moves is that if you’re one of his stars, you’re getting a great transfer. Otherwise, you’ll be used as an exchange to pay one of the agent’s favours.
That seems to be the case of several players who keep moving between the clubs the agent has a better relationship with, such as Rio Ave, Benfica, Valencia, Monaco and Wolves.
So if Horta was one of Mendes’ targets to be sent here and there, it’s very likely that it would be Wolves and not West Brom who would be having the chance to take him now. English clubs are getting more and more interested in Portuguese league players and Mendes would certainly give Wolves the priority.
Or maybe Horta would be one of Mendes’ stars like Gonçalo Guedes, who made a big move to Paris Saint Germain last winter, even though he was never a big star in Portugal. The same happened to Renato Sanches and Bayern Munich.
So between having to live a career of ups and downs with Mendes or taking a more regular path under Carlos Gonçalves, what would you choose? Time will tell if Horta was right or not, but he definitely didn’t want to take any risks.