After numerous false reports circulated in the days preceding Raiola’s death, claiming that the agent had already died, his family released a statement on the 30th: “In infinite sorrow we share the passing of the most caring and amazing football agent there ever was.” They continued, writing “Mino fought until the end with the same strength he put on negotiation tables to defend our players. As usual, Mino made us proud and never realised it.”
Born in 1967 in Nocera Inferiore in Southern Italy, Mino Raiola’s family would move to Haarlem in the Netherlands just one year later. Despite being an avid footballer from a young age, it was clear that his skills lay off the pitch. A shrewd businessman, Raiola negotiated deals for his family’s pizzeria and made his first fortune at just 19 by selling a branch of McDonald’s to a local property developer. His transition to football came when he assumed the position of technical director of his local team, HFC Haarlem.
Eventually leaving the role, Raiola joined the sports agency ‘Sports Promotions,’ where he was influential in such transfers as Dennis Bergkamp’s move to Inter Milan in 1993. A couple of years later, following a falling out with Sports Promotions’ founder, Raiola formed his own agency and signed Pavel Nedvěd, orchestrating the Czech international’s move from Sparta Prague to Lazio after an impressive display at Euro ’96. However, it was after instigating Nedvěd’s transfer to Juventus in 2003 that Raiola’s reputation would really start to grow.
Yet it was in 2001 when the agent would meet the player who would make him a household name. Arriving at a lavish Amsterdam restaurant in shorts and a T-shirt, Raiola met a young Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the two instantly hit it off. Raiola would say of their meeting “I realised straight away that he was an arrogant bastard – in other words, just like me.”
Over the years, Raiola would see his portfolio of players increase to include the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Matthijs de Ligt, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Erling Haaland. For an indication how much his players relied on him, Mario Balotelli once phoned the agent to inform him his house was on fire, with Raiola subsequently suggesting that he call the fire brigade instead.
Undoubtedly the transfer that brought Raiola the most notoriety is that of Paul Pogba’s. The Frenchman found his way into Raiola’s books when he was a youngster rising through Manchester United’s academy. Raiola demanded an improved contract for Pogba but was met with obstinate resistance from Sir Alex Ferguson. The impasse resulted in Pogba moving to Juventus before returning to United in 2016 for a then world-record fee of £89 million, with Raiola reportedly earning around £41 million in fees and commission from all three parties involved. With this money, Raiola bought Al Capone’s Miami villa, supplementing his perceived image as – as one Dutch journalist put it - a mafioso, whose also often been likened to a character from the Sopranos.
Indisputably a controversial figure in modern football, many believed that Raiola was a paragon of everything that was wrong with today’s game: a man who typified the greed that permeates the sport. He had twice been involved in disciplinary hearings for transfer irregularities and, in 2019, was briefly banned from acting as an agent representative for three months by FIFA; however, Raiola appealed the ban and it was overturned.
Nevertheless, Mino Raiola was as talented and charismatic as he was brash. Fluent in seven languages, he was a hardball negotiator who always wanted what was best for his players. He was not blind to his criticisms either, acknowledging them, saying "My players don't call me a parasite, and that's who I work for. I only care what my players call me." Raiola was incredibly loyal to those on his books, considering them not just clients, but family, and he always wanted to do the best for his family. His presence on the game will surely be missed.