Mino Raiola, the agent of the football stars, has died

His name had eventually become almost as famous as that of his clients. Mino Raiola died at the age of 54, announced his family on Saturday 30 April on Twitter. “It is with infinite sadness that we announce the death of the most thoughtful and brilliant player agent that has ever existed”, wrote his relatives. For thirty years the Italian agent had become one of the protagonists of the football market.

To sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Marco Verratti or hope to borrow the Norwegian nugget Erling Haaland, the club presidents had to deal with Raiola, his personality and his manners. “Mino is the kind of guy who can go to the VIP room of a Champions League match in shorts and tap shoes”his colleague Bruno Satin, questioned by The world in 2014.

Read also: Mino Raiola, creator of Zlatan

“He looked like one of the guys from the Soprano series”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic recounts his first meeting with his future representative in the early 2000s. “The first time I saw Mino, I thought it was a joke (…). He looked like one of the guys on the show Sopranojeans, Nike t-shirt with huge belly “describes Swedish in Me, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (JC Lattes, 2013).

Suit and tie and physical maintenance, very little for him. Raiola left all this to Jorge Mendes, the other superstar agent. The trajectory of the two men, however, describes the same story, that of two talkers who started from nothing to become characters as essential as they were denigrated to the “market”, a spectacle that has become permanent in the transfer economy.

To each his own legend. Mendes is the owner of a nightclub in northern Portugal who has become Cristiano Ronaldo’s pygmalion. Mino Raiola was the former pizza chef who spoke seven languages ​​and with a personal fortune estimated at 50 million euros. Not without some gray areas. The agent was then embroiled in the “Football Leaks” scandal in the mid-2010s, which revealed facts of tax evasion in the foot industry.

Born on November 4, 1967 in Nocera Inferiore (Campania, Italy), Carmine (his real name) was only one year old when his parents moved to Harleem in the Netherlands where the Raiola family’s Ristorante Napoli finds its customers. If he doesn’t put a single pizza in the oven, Mino helps with the dishes, the service and puts his nose in the accounts. He also takes the time to discuss with FC Harleem management. “At one point they just said to him: since you know so much, why don’t you join the management? “a local journalist, Edwin Struis Struis, testified to Agence France-Presse in 2016.

But the young man did not linger long as the sporting director of a club too modest for his ambitions. In 1993 he placed two of Ajax Amsterdam’s stars, Dennis Bergkamp and Wim Jonk, at Inter. Mino Raiola will never serve pizza again. The Monegasque resident since 1996 imposes his style and methods. He does not sign any formal contracts with his proteges and does not hesitate – like Mendes – to steal clients from his colleagues. And like the Portuguese, he wields a fascinating power over his players.

To defend them, Raiola highlights them as paintings (Zlatan is therefore his Mona LisaMatthijs de Ligt nv night patrol by Rembrandt) and goes into conflict to defend his own interests and his own. He is not friends with the club officials but his players. And as soon as they have a problem, he goes to see them “, confided a colleague of his to World in 2014.

Excessive and tight negotiations

Always between two planes, the man accumulates both the miles and the noisy declarations. From Pep Guardiola (then coach of FC Barcelona and angry with Ibrahimovic), he confided in the Mirror all his contempt. “As a coach he is fantastic, but as a person he is an absolute zero, a dog, a coward.” In 2012, he named the Dutch idol Johan Cruyff a “senile dickhead”before apologizing.

In the same year, the Italian places his “Mona Lisa” Ibrahimovic in Paris and becomes the privileged agent of the PSG management. When the Parisian club signed Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma in July 2021, at the risk of undermining incumbent Keylor Navas, some see Raiola’s influence on sporting director Leonardo.

In 2016, Mino Raiola made Paul Pogba the most expensive player in history with an estimated € 120 million transfer to Manchester United. In recent months, the agent has multiplied the statements and insinuations (such as that of PSG) about the future of his protégé, whose game made him think of the creations of the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

From now on, the world of football will have to coexist without the excesses, the tight negotiations and the artistic references of Carmine Raiola.

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