Raiola went from pizza chef to engineering the world's biggest deals

Mino Raiola went from pizza chef in Holland to engineering the world’s biggest deals… Sportsmail’s JOE BERNSTEIN looked at how the super agent built his legacy and empire in football

  • READ: Super agent Mino Raiola died at the age of 54 on Saturday afternoon
  • Mino Raiola was one of the most powerful football agents in the world
  • He was at the centre of Paul Pogba’s £100m move to Manchester United in 2016 

Super agent Mino Raiola’s death was confirmed on Saturday following an illness, his family confirmed.

Raiola was considered a ‘super-agent’ due to the glittering array of talent that he represented and a number will be on the move this summer. He helped engineer some of the biggest moves in world football during his career.

Here, Sportsmail looked at how the 54-year-old made such a global impact on the game of football from such humble beginnings. 

High-profile super agent Mino Raiola has died at the age of 54 following an illness

When agent Mino Raiola got his first big break as a translator in the transfer of Dennis Bergkamp to Inter Milan in 1993, he secretly photocopied all the relevant documents so he would know how to do the deal himself next time.

It was an act of ruthlessness that has helped turn the 48-year-old into the agent at the centre of world football’s biggest transfer, adored by clients such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba and detested by almost everyone else.

Bombastic and provocative, he has insulted Pep Guardiola, fallen out with Sir Alex Ferguson and kicked and shouted his way through various lucrative deals that have earned him the nickname ‘Mr Three Hundred Million’.

Mino Raiola could pocket £20m from Paul Pogba’s move from Juventus to Manchester United

Ibrahimovic regarded him as a ‘weirdo’ when they first met, before the former pizza chef made him a vast fortune.

Now Manchester United are in his debt, having already signed two of his players — Zlatan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan — with a world record £100million deal for Pogba next, with Raiola personally pocketing an additional £20m.

But who is this tough, rude and uncompromising agent whose company, Maguire Tax & Legal, is a tribute to film character Jerry ‘Show me the Money’ Maguire, and whose ability to divide opinion matches that of Donald Trump.

How does a pizza chef from Haarlem in Holland end up living in a flash apartment overlooking the yachts in Monaco harbour, who spends his holiday time discussing business with Pogba in Miami swimming pools?

His success story is a mix of talent and ruthlessness. Born in Italy, he moved to Holland as a baby and was raised in Haarlem at the family pizza restaurant.

With his own football career over at 18, young Raiola studied law, helped out with the family business and persuaded the local football club to make him a director of football. Most significantly, he developed an aptitude for languages and can speak seven — Italian, Dutch, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese.

Ibrahimovic and Raiola (right) are pictured alongside Adriano Galliani and Silvio Berlusconi

It was that talent which alerted Rob Jansen, Holland’s most famous agent, who needed an interpreter when he oversaw the transfer of Bergkamp from Ajax to Inter Milan in 1993.

Raiola was professional, seemed diligent and got a full-time job working for Sport-Promotion, Jansen’s company. So it was an enormous shock when Raiola left suddenly to set up on his own as a direct rival. Jansen has not spoken to him since.

Raiola’s first big deal was the one that took Pavel Nedved to Lazio after Euro 96. But his life-changing moment came when he invited young Ajax forward Ibrahimovic to a restaurant, and found they were kindred spirits, not giving a damn about what others thought of them.

The agent, under 5ft 7in tall and weighing more than 16st, turned up in jeans.

‘Was he supposed to be an agent? Weirdo,’ said Zlatan. ‘We got a massive spread, enough to feed five people, and he started stuffing himself.’

By this time, the horror had turned to grudging admiration and the pair became lifelong partners.

Ibrahimovic allowed Raiola to drive his Porsche around Amsterdam and the agent plotted with Juventus chief Luciano Moggi to force Ibra’s way out of Holland.

The striker got his move, and then more big ones to both Milan clubs, Barcelona, PSG and now United. To reward himself, Raiola moved to the Riviera and took to the glitterati lifestyle.

He was dubbed ‘Mr Five Per Cent’, and seemed to specialise in eccentrics.

Raiola represented players including Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic

He sold Robinho from Manchester City to AC Milan and guided Mario Balotelli through extreme highs and lows.

When times were good, Raiola described Balotelli as an important part of Italian culture. Now the striker is rotting at Liverpool with no obvious buyer, his agent is taking on the role of chief encourager. ‘In life, it is never too late,’ is his current advice towards the player.Others have seen a less noble side. ‘He’s a scumbag,’ was Raiola’s opinion of Guardiola at Barcelona. ‘He was the one who took Ibra to Barcelona and then treated him like crap.’

Raiola claimed he was a Napoli fan and tried to develop a special relationship with the club, but their president, Aurelio De Laurentiis, called him ‘a pain in the backside’.

Ferguson was unhappy about the way he feels Raiola unduly influenced the Pogba family to force the 19-year-old player from Old Trafford in 2012.

‘I distrusted him from the moment I met him,’ said the United manager. ‘There are one or two football agents I simply do not like — and Mino Raiola is one of them.

‘We had Paul under a three-year contract and it had a one-year renewal option which we were eager to sign. But Raiola suddenly appeared on the scene and our first meeting was a fiasco.

Raiola acted as translator in the deal which took Dennis Bergkamp to Inter Milan from Ajax

‘He and I were like oil and water. From (the first meeting) on, our goose was cooked because Raiola had been able to ingratiate himself with Paul and his family and the player signed with Juventus.’

Raiola is typically dismissive of his reputation. ‘I put Pogba’s interests first and we decided to go to Turin. Maybe Ferguson only likes those who obey him,’ is the agent’s retort.

‘My public image does not interest me because in the world there is always someone who loves you and who hates you for what you say or do.’

Roberto Martinez, the former Everton manager, is another who felt used by Raiola last season over stories planted about Paris Saint-Germain’s interest in another of his clients, Romelu Lukaku. ‘I don’t entertain rumours,’ snapped the usually diplomatic Martinez.

The friends that Raiola has, and he trusts much of his business to son Vicenzo, worry about the damage all the stress can do to a man his size.

Raiola jokes with Pogba but many have had a bellyful of the agent already this summer

At Borussia Dortmund this summer, witnesses were shocked when Raiola became so worked up that he started kicking chairs and tables in fury when it seemed as if Mkhitaryan’s £28m move to United would collapse. It didn’t.

The superstar players love him though, and that’s the trick. Even Ibrahimovic will take criticism from Raiola above anyone else after the Dutchman complained he could not sell him unless he scored more goals. Their unique relationship meant the kick up the backside worked.

‘I had been too pleased with myself, thinking I was all that,’ said Ibrahimovic. ‘But it was the wrong attitude. I’d been too lazy and began to give everything I had in training and matches.’

Raiola, who has already taken more than £250m in cuts from deals and players’ wages, still dresses in polo shirts and trainers — finding it hard to find a stylish Italian suit to fit. Those shirts often get sweaty.

The falling Pound means that Raiola’s fee has increased significantly for United since Brexit on June 23.

Raiola, with AC Milan sporting director Galliani, is outspoken and unbothered by criticism

It bothers the agent not one bit. He and Pogba looked like football’s odd couple as they splashed about in Miami at the weekend with the Frenchman posting a picture on Instagram.

The world’s most valuable footballer and his agent seem to revel in their power.

It is unedifying, perhaps, but Raiola does not care.

‘I’m not in the world to please others but to do what is right. I am at the service of my players,’ he said. 

That is just as well, because they are probably his only friends.




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