He’s the super-agent to football’s superstars. The blustering big shot who can hold clubs to ransom. So just who exactly is Mino Raiola?
Probably the most high-profile name in the business, Carmine “Mino” Raiola didn’t attain his reputation by being a nice guy. Nonetheless, we’re a little taken aback that Raiola has this week put us in the unprecedented situation of feeling a twinge of sympathy for Manchester United.
In previous eras, football managers could negotiate with players and their agents with relative simplicity. The likes of Brian Clough or Sir Alex Ferguson could meet players, spelling out their plans and schemes, selling the vision, refusing to take no for an answer.
These days, there are more hoops to jump through. Still, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also tried the personal approach when he flew out to Salzburg in December. The Man Utd boss met 19-year-old striker Erling Haaland, with a view to signing the player in the January transfer window.
Whether Haaland and United are obvious bedfellows is debatable. Famously, Haaland’s father Alf Inge was the victim of Roy Keane’s on-field assault back in the late 90s. In any case, Solskjaer’s attempt to bring the teenager on board didn’t work out; the player has since signed for Borussia Dortmund in a deal that saw RB Salzburg receive €20m. Facilitator Raiola collected an additional €15m commission for his troubles.
Fair enough, moves fall through. But the word from United was that the two parties couldn’t come to an agreement because of demands the player’s agent was making. Namely that Haaland should receive a share of any subsequent transfer fee that United would receive if they sold on the player.
If the explanation was an attempt by Ole to try and save a bit of face, it may have backfired. Haaland’s agent Raiola says the player rejected United – and went on to claim the Manchester club are “out of touch with reality.” The 52-year-old added “I wouldn’t take anyone there, they would even ruin Maradona, Pele and Maldini.” Oof.
So who is Raiola? Born in Italy in 1967, he moved to the Netherlands with his family as a child. Early in his career he found employment with a Dutch sports agent company, but after playing a role in transfer deals with such heavy hitters as Dennis Bergkamp, in the mid-nineties Raiola went into business for himself.
He speaks seven languages; represents the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Matthijs de Ligt and Zlatan Ibrahimovic; and his rewards for being a middle man have been plentiful. While he lives in the rich man’s playground that is Monaco, he also owns a €9million home in Miami that once belonged to the notorious gangster Al Capone.
If the football agent identifies with the portly, pintsized mobster who ruled with an iron grip before his downfall, well, we probably shouldn’t be surprised. And Solskjaer is just the latest in a long line of managers at big clubs to have been riled up by Raiola.
Both Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola have, by necessity, had dealings with the Dutchman – and both men reportedly came out of the experience with a keen loathing for the man.
In the here and now, Raiola may be irritated that Man United are citing his demands as a reason for losing out on Haaland. But he is also looking to instigate another big money move for a separate client. Current United star Paul Pogba is also represented by the Italian.
While Pogba has seldom been at his best for United, he is still regarded by many as a crucial element in the club’s attempts to restore their previous glories. Yet all signs suggest the Frenchman cannot wait to leave. Just three years ago, Pogba moved to United for a then world record fee of £89m in what many observers felt was, on the face of it, a breathtakingly objectionable deal.
Not because Pogba was a bad player, or that his worth to United in terms of marketing weren’t a valid factor – but because United themselves had moved the player on to Juventus in 2012. He had made just three appearances for the team before manager Ferguson tired of the young Pogba and his agent’s demands.
In 2012, Fergie had said “I don’t think Pogba showed us any respect at all, to be honest.” In a later unguarded moment he also referred to Raiola as “a shitbag”. So God knows what the United legend thought five years later when the prodigal son returned to Old Trafford. Raiola pocketed an estimated £20 million for his part in the deal, thanks to a clause written into Pogba’s contract with Juventus that entitled Raiola to a 20% cut of any future sale, on top of the fee paid for the player.
Back to the present – and on New Year’s Day, Solskjaer revealed that Pogba had been “advised by his people” to have ankle surgery, which will rule him out for three to four weeks. The 26-year-old has only figured for United on eight occasions so far this season.
Who knows how long Pogba will remain in Manchester – but when he does eventually depart, Raiola will certainly enjoy another hefty payout. And once that move has been concluded, United will surely continue to deal with the agent, albeit through gritted teeth. For Mino, there’s always another deal to be done…
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