Mino Raiola, the soccer super-agent who represented top players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Erling Haaland has died aged 54 in Milan.
The son of Italian immigrants in the Netherlands, who grew up serving tables and washing dishes in his family’s pizzeria, went from football underdog to one of the most feared negotiators and most influential in the game, transferring its players for record sums.
“In infinite sadness, we share the passing of the most caring and incredible football agent to ever exist,” Raiola’s family said on Saturday. “Mino fought to the end with the same strength he brought to the negotiating tables to defend our players. As usual, Mino made us proud and never realized it.
Beloved by his clients, many of whom described him as a father figure, Raiola was often looked down upon by football managers and fans, who viewed his negotiating style as hostile and his ability to push players to move to win more, to the detriment of the sport. .
Legendary Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson had a particularly scathing view of Raiola: “I was suspicious of him from the moment I met him. »
Their dispute arose in 2012 when Raiola demanded an improved contract for Paul Pogba, then a young talent at United. The fierce-tempered Scotsman and the super-agent clashed. The eventual World Cup winner left for Juventus but returned to United, following Ferguson’s retirement, for £89.3m, a world record transfer fee.
Raiola was part of the small circle of super-agents whose names are widely known among fans more accustomed to discussing star players than power brokers negotiating their contracts. His rivals included Portugal’s Jorge Mendes, Manchester United’s agent for Cristiano Ronaldo, and Jonathan Barnett, who represents Gareth Bale.
Mido, the Egyptian who played for Ajax, Roma and Tottenham Hotspur, paid tribute to the agent on Twitter: “I learned so much from you and wish I had listened to you a little more!! He always fought for his players no matter who was sitting across the table!! »
Italy’s AC Milan, Amsterdam’s Ajax and France’s Paris-Saint Germain were among the clubs that paid tribute to the late football agent on the social media platform.
Raiola had a fairly small stable of players, including wayward Italians Mario Balotelli and Gigi Donnarumma, who depended on him in contract negotiations as well as personal matters.
When Balotelli’s house caught fire in 2011 after fireworks were set off in his bathroom, Raiola was one of the first people he called for help. In a lengthy interview with the Financial Times in 2016, the Dutch-Italian recalled advising the player to call the fire brigade for him.
In January, Raiola underwent medical checks requiring anesthesia, according to his Twitter account.
When his death was reported prematurely this week, Raiola tweeted: “Current state of health for those who are wondering: pissed off second time in 4 months they are killing me. Also seem able to resurrect.
Before becoming one of football’s most feared and highest-paid deal-makers, Raiola became a millionaire by buying a branch of McDonald’s and selling it to property developers.