Manchester United of England star, Paul Pogba, as well as Erling Haaland of Borussia Dortmund and Zlatan Ibrahimovic of AC Milan owe a lot in their careers to the man called ‘super agent of the world, Mino Raiola, but now thy are saying rest in peace to him.
Indeed, the world over, Raiola was regarded as the quintessential and exemplary embodiment of the ideal football agent, though rivals regarded him as brash, outspoken, arrogant, greedy.
Lots of caustic descriptions were levelled at him, but Daily Mail is quick to point out in a lengthy tribute to him that fond memories will linger about him for a long, long time to come.
Megasportsarena.com gathered that even his accountancy firm was named Maguire Tax and Legal, as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the Oscar nominated film Jerry Maguire where Tom Cruise‘s agent character coined the phrase ‘Show me the money.’
However, behind the tough façade, Raiola was a sensitive soul, a family man, fiercely loyal and protective of all those he represented.
‘There are one or two football agents I simply do not like and Mino Raiola, Paul Pogba’s agent, is one of them. I distrusted him from the start,’ said former Manchester United coach, Sir Alex Ferguson, before later going on to call him a ‘sh**bag’.
Raiola would simply laugh before explaining to Sportsmail: ‘When Ferguson criticised me, that was the biggest compliment anybody could give me.
‘I had two meetings with Mr Ferguson. The first was nasty on his part but the second, I’d never had so much fun in my life!
‘He is an iconic manager but I still believe the fact the Glazers called to buy back Paul Pogba confirms I was right to do what I did.’
Raiola had in fact warned Pogba not to go to Juventus for fear of his young star not getting his big chance but the Frenchman told him he wanted to prove himself ‘the hard way’.
When asked directly what it was like to be called ‘a parasite’, Raiola dropped his guard and admitted he would be lying if it didn’t upset him. ‘It’s not nice always to hear this preconception but maybe the public can also think: ”If this man is so greedy and so bad, how are his players all happy and stay with him?” The only ones who can judge are my players themselves.’
Testimony to that was his stellar client list. When Moise Kean’s move to Tottenham from Juventus collapsed, an irate Raiola had no qualms chastening the club’s leading figures, Daniel Levy et al, for how they had let down his client.
‘He was fearless, it wasn’t a nice experience,’ said one club insider. ‘Yet in a way you had to admire him for having the balls to do it. He was all for the players.’
Born in Italy, Raiola’s family moved to Holland when he was an infant. His father, a mechanic, re-trained with the help of his grandmother to set up the family restaurant business.
‘I worked hard, I cleaned dishes, waited on tables, I was a barman but I never baked a pizza in my life — despite what has been written.’
A highly intelligent man, who could converse in seven languages, Raiola was gregarious, witty and caring in company. Though you could never leave a voicemail on his phone, you could text or, if lucky, he would answer or call you back.
After gaining his trust, he would keep in touch, texting for birthdays and ‘Happy New Year to you and your loved ones’. Never politically correct, he would answer queries matter of factly though direct questions about a transfer were often met with a polite rebuttal.
When this paper called him ‘The Godfather of agents’ he cringed at the mafioso comparison, a description used by his friend Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
He laughed at claims he was to buy Al Capone’s old home in America. ‘The media needs to create content. Sometimes it is not fair,’ he said, knowing all too well how to manipulate it himself.
‘Sometimes they do not know what is behind the image. I’d have loved to represent Paul Gascoigne. Gazza was my kind of player and personality. When I see images some of the media carry of him’, it’s not right.’
His departure will leave the football world all the less colourful and questions will be raised over the future of his stable of stars.
However, Raiola was nothing but meticulous and with illness upon him had put plans in place for his players.
His trusted associates, such as lawyer Rafaela Pimenta, and family members have continued to work to ensure Pogba’s next move, potentially to Paris St Germain, is not jeopardised as with Erling Haaland’s expected transfer from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City.
Those big summer moves may yet provide the epitaph for one of football’s great wheeler-dealers.