Agent who goes the extra mile

Mino Raiola, who is the agent for Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic and potential Red Devil Paul Pogba, is famed for his work ethic and tenacity.
Mino Raiola, who is the agent for Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic and potential Red Devil Paul Pogba, is famed for his work ethic and tenacity.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • At first sight, there is little about Mino Raiola that is impressive. A pot belly protruding from his short, stumpy body, turned sideways, his torso forms the shape of a letter D. But appearances can be deceptive.

The security staff at Carrington may have thought that the man riding in the back of Zlatan Ibrahimovic's car on July 1 as the striker turned up for his medical check-up was a nightclub bouncer or a retired rugby prop forward, but Raiola is, in fact, one of the most powerful men in world football.

The 48-year-old is a familiar face at Carrington now. He has overseen two of the first three transfers of Jose Mourinho's reign as Manchester United manager.

But Raiola's biggest payday could be still to come because Paul Pogba, the most wanted player in European football, also happens to be on his client list. And the agent is not ruling out a deal even though he clashed with the club in 2012 when the Frenchman left for practically nothing.

"I hold no grudge (against United)," Raiola told The Times.

Although he would not comment on the claim, he reportedly stands to earn 30 per cent of Pogba's next transfer fee. Given that United may have to pay up to £110 million (S$195.6 million) to bring their former academy player back to Old Trafford, the agent could earn another £25.6 million.

In total, he stands to make more than £32 million this summer, just from those three deals alone.

So why do the world's top players sign with the Italian-born Dutchman? What makes him stand out from thousands of other agents?

He is a workaholic, according to those who know him. If you are one of his clients, he will go the extra mile for you.

He will not only get you a move and a bumper contract; he will find schools for your children, offer advice on where to live and where to eat. Mark van Bommel once claimed that if his car broke down in Milan, the first person he would call would be Raiola as the agent would get a mechanic to him within minutes.

Raiola's tenacity is one of his key selling points. The day after Hans-Joachim Watzke claimed publicly that Henrikh Mkhitaryan would not be leaving Borussia Dortmund this summer, Raiola met the Dortmund chief executive to demand an explanation.

The agent's mood turned dark and he reportedly sent a chair flying across the room as he listened to Watzke insist that the midfielder would stay. Raiola got his way in the end, of course, but that did not come as a surprise.

After all, Raiola, who speaks seven languages, has been negotiating business deals since his 16th birthday, when he was put in charge of administrative and financial matters at the family restaurant, Napoli, in Haarlem, the Netherlands.

Raiola and his parents had emigrated to the Netherlands from the small town of Nocera Inferiore, 20km from Naples, when he was one year old.

Although he did not mind grafting for his family, his real passion was football. He wanted to be at the centre of something bigger. He wanted to be part of the biggest deals in world football so once he had become a licensed agent, Raiola set about acquiring some of the hottest talent in Dutch football in the 1990s.

The commission started rolling in. Dennis Bergkamp, Bryan Roy and Wim Jonk moved to Italy after he snapped them up.

However, Raiola has also crossed swords with many in his career. The most high-profile figure, of course is Alex Ferguson. The former Manchester United manager said he and Raiola were "like oil and water" and he accused the agent of pushing Pogba to the exit door at Old Trafford four years ago. David Gill, the former chief executive, tried - and failed - to act as peacemaker.

Given that United received less than £1 million for Pogba in compensation, it will be viewed as an expensive mistake if they have to pay £110 million to bring the Frenchman back to United.

But one thing is for sure, Raiola is keen to do a deal with Gill's successor, Ed Woodward, if Pogba wants to return to United.

"I don't live in the past. I live in the future," he added in his interview with The Times.

"I have moved on. Paul decided to go (in 2012). I hold no grudge. If I did, I would not have done the two deals I have done with Ed this summer."

Over to you, Mr Woodward.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2016, with the headline 'Agent who goes the extra mile'. Print Edition | Subscribe