Superagent Mino Raiola’s death leaves an iconic legacy and a void in modern football

A few months ago, Mino Raiola, super spy who passed away on saturdayis being bombarded with complaints from representatives of various clubs against the work of agents and middlemen: they are greedy, they suck money out of the game, they are manipulative.

“Fine, we’re all, we’re the bad guys,” Raiola said. “But who is that person you call in the middle of the night when you want to sign a player or even more so, when you need to change a player? It’s me … and people like me. You tell us problems and then you come to us, over and over.”

Even now, I can picture Raiola in a discreet T-shirt (he rarely wears a vest) and sunglasses that remind the clubs that, to paraphrase Jack Nicholson’s character in “A Few Men” good man”, Raiola’s existence, while grotesque and confusing to some, keeps the game ticking. They don’t want the truth because deep down, in a place they don’t want to talk about at parties, they want him to follow that call. They NEED him on that call.

For more than three decades, Raiola has represented the best players in Europe: from Dennis Bergkamp and Pavel Nedved, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mario balotellifrom Mathijs De Ligt arrive Paul Pogbaarrive Erling Haaland and Ryan Gravenberch. He claims he has never signed a contract with his client; They are free to leave whenever they want, but because they are family they never do. Some have questioned it, but the reality is that very few people have left him – and many who have made their way through the ranks (Haaland being a prime example) have specifically chosen him – for see there is more than one kernel of truth in it.

Raiola has a reputation for fighting for his clients, finding the best deal possible for them, and unconcerned with any threat the clubs throw at him. In fact, while some of his super-agent colleagues are closely identified for their business with certain clubs, Raiola has always spoken of how fiercely independent he is and Only cares about its customers.

Raiola often speaks with the frankness and certainty of a self-made man, who bystanders wrecks the party and soon realizes that much of high society is a facade, a lie, a club. set of old boys. Maybe it was his upbringing.

Born near Naples, his family immigrated to the Netherlands and opened a series of successful restaurants where young Raiola worked during school, always connected, always hungry for the next big thing. . He made his first big contract at the age of 24, taking Dutch winger Bryan Roy from Ajax to Foggia in Series A. The source of that move? Young Raiola, in the meantime, told Ajax officials how much money they could make if they just let him find him a club in Italy, which at the time was the richest league in the world. world. They bite. They gave him a chance and he delivered – just as he did a few years later when he started a bidding war between Juventus, Napoli and Burial to secure Bergkamp. This is a man who pushed his way into the big time. No one opened the door for him.

That put him on his way and he never looked back. When Pogba moved from Juventus to Manchester United for a fee of around $100 million and signed a five-year contract, then it emerged that every party in the deal paid for him: the selling club (Juventus), the buying club (United) and Pogba himself. Not only that, but they also paid him handsomely: nearly $50 million between them, according to Football Leaks records. Raiola was criticized for being greedy. He replied the way he always did, noting that no one was forced to pay him, everyone did it voluntarily, and people could walk away at any time.

In recent years, he has become an advocate for his vision of the game, which he says is focused on the player, not the player. FIFA (although he did say he would run for FIFA president to then disband it), not a federation and not a club.

As he has seen, players make money. They’re what fans pay them for, but they’re subject to rules, whims, regulations and restrictions and often have very little say. That’s why he’s against wage caps, agency regulation, and any form of surveillance that isn’t an unregulated free market. He sees himself as the Ayn Rand of football, fighting hypocrisy and corruption while getting rich – insanely rich, his critics will point out – along the way.

As Raiola said, “You don’t like me? You don’t like what I do and the way I work? Don’t deal with me. No one is forcing you.” That could be his mantra. And if someone counters that they have no other choice, because their players have chosen to be represented by Raiola, he has a catchphrase: “Nobody forced my players to choose me. No one forced them to stay with me.”

Indeed, the loyalty he instills in his customers is something that many of his colleagues envy. Early on, his critics were excited for his age, because he became influential so young that his customers were often contemporaries. Then they cite some sort of cultural nexus (Ibrahimovic is also the son of immigrants, also bigger than your life and face). These explanations fell into disarray when he began representing the likes of Pogba, De Ligt and Haaland (what a fifty-year-old former Italian-Dutch waiter has in common with a young Englishman). Norwegian yoga and meditation?). The simplest answer is that his customers are very loyal to him because that loyalty is mutual. And he usually delivers what they want.

Dealers – whether representing players directly or, more often, acting as intermediaries – have been a staple of the game for over thirty years. But no one has been the protagonist for three decades like Raiola. The odds are that, as football bodies merge and merge, Raiola’s archetype – one who deals with phones, many things, and has no fear – will disappear and we won’t see a single person. other like him.

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