When Jose Mourinho took the Old Trafford hot seat in May, many people cited Jorge Mendes – Mourinho’s representative and ‘super-agent’ to the stars – to take centre stage in terms of incoming transfers this summer. While that still might be the case, it’s another man who holds all the cards as the Portuguese manager looks set to assemble a squad worthy of challenging for the Premier League crown next May. That man’s name is Mino Raiola, a football agent with an increasing reputation. Unlike previous summer transfer windows, the Reds have conducted their business early, having already brought in Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Ibrahimovic and Mkhitaryan are both represented by Raiola as are rumoured United targets Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi. But who exactly is Mino Raiola?
The Italian-born Dutchman is one of the leading names in the sports agent industry and has overseen some of the biggest transfers over the last two decades. Raiola has come a long way since working in his father’s restaurant as a teenager. He had a brief spell at local side HFC Haarlem at 18 before spending two years at law school. His couple of years studying law stood him in good stead as he joined the board of HFC Haarlem at the young age of 22 however it was short-lived as Raiola grew frustrated with the other board members.
From there Raiola he began working at ‘Sports Promotions’, a sports agency company who looked after the interests of all Dutch players at the time. He was involved in the team who engineered the move for Dennis Bergkamp leaving Ajax to join Serie A giants Inter Milan, a deal which including his Ajax teammate Wim Jonk for a combined fee of £10.4 million in 1993. After negotiating deals for several Dutch players, Raiola decided to go it alone, creating his own company where he would have full ownership of player transfers and representation.
His first big client was Czech Republic star Pavel Nedved. Following a successful Euro 1996 campaign in which his country made the final, Nedved joined Lazio from his native Sparta Prague for £1.2 million. The attacking midfielder would spend five years at Lazio before joining Juventus for a staggering £25 million in 2001, again under the watchful eye of Raiola. In the early 2000’s Raiola started to cherry-pick some of the best talents coming out of the Ajax youth system. He secured a young Swedish striker by the name of Ibrahimovic, he also captured the services of left-back Maxwell, striker Mido and defender Zdenek Grygera.
Let’s take a look at some of Raiola’s biggest deals*:
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Inter Milan to Barcelona, 2009 – €46 million
- Pavel Nedved: Lazio to Juventus, 2001 – €41 million
- Henrikh Mkhitaryan: Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United, 2016 – €30 million
- Mario Balotelli: Inter Milan to Manchester City, 2010 – £24 million
- Robinho: Manchester City to AC Milan, 2010 – €15 million
*Figures as of Wikipedia
It’s safe to say that Ibrahimovic has been Raiola’s biggest success story having taken the Swede across Europe’s most elite clubs racking up almost £130 million in transfer fees alone. As well as Ibrahimovic, Raiola orchestrated Mkhitaryan’s move from Borussia Dortmund to Old Trafford earlier this month. The ‘super-agent’ could yet finalise his third client to the Theatre of Dreams this summer as Paul Pogba’s future is well and truly in the air. The midfielder joined Juventus from United in 2012 as a 19-year-old and it’s clear that manager at the time Sir Alex Ferguson and Raiola didn’t have the greatest of relationships. The former United manager blamed the agent for Pogba’s exit four years ago, claiming himself and Raiola were “like oil and water”.
“He and I were like oil and water. From then on, our goose was cooked because Raiola had been able to ingratiate himself with Paul and his family and the player signed with Juventus.” Ferguson said in his autobiography ‘Leading’.
If the rumoured fees are to be believed then Raiola will only allow his client leave Juventus for an eye-watering amount of money. Are we about to witness the first 9-figure transfer in world football? Who knows. One thing is for sure, though, the ball is well and truly in Raiola’s court.