As football’s global fan base burgeons by leaps and bounds both in terms of commercial revenue and viewership, mediators and agents are assuming ascendancy by staking a claim on the former. The irony of the footballing world stems from the fact that sometimes, the people off the field are as responsible for the performance on display as the ones on it. In this world, a successful sportsman is not determined merely by looking at the physical craft and the mental dexterity that goes behind it. One’s transfer value and commercial price tag in the ever-growing market of demand and supply has emerged as an important marker of fame.
The men off-field, tasked with pulling the commercial strings any player, are called their agents. In a sport where the grass is green and ready for play, money is evergreen and ready to be traded in exchange for the most talented of players. Over the years agents have become the centrepiece of this trading between clubs and among the most powerful men in football are successful agents. This is precisely because they have the ability to control where the best players are headed in each transfer window. Let us talk about one such agent who has taken the footballing world by storm – Mino Raiola.
Mino Raiola is a household name in the world of professional football. The Italy-born Dutchman, pre-eminently a super-agent commanding enormous clout in the transfer market, can be followed each of the Summer and Winter Transfer Windows respectively, brokering mammoth deals that oversee his clients get the best contracts from the financial as well as the sporting aspect of things.
More than 20 players playing in European leagues are represented by Raiola. A towering personality in the footballing world, Raiola’s client roster– of the past in addition to the present– is brimming with the decorated credentials of several star players. Zlatan Ibrahimovic of LA Galaxy (previously signed by clubs such as FC Barcelona, Milan, PSG and Manchester United), Paul Pogba (who made the record-shattering move from Juventus to Manchester United), Matthijs de Ligt (the 19 year old captain and wonder kid who took the world by storm in Ajax’s run to the UEFA Champions League semi-final), Romelu Lukaku (the Belgian’s sealed the transfer from Everton to Manchester United), Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marco Verratti, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Mario Balotelli top the list of players under his wing among many others.
Following his stint as the sporting director of Haarlem (to which he was appointed when he was only nineteen years of age after they were genuinely impressed by his entrepreneurial skills), he worked in a sports agency contributing to several high-profile Dutch transfers including that of Dennis Bergamp and Marciano Vink. Little time elapsed between his decision to opt out from his then job and forming his own company. His breakthrough arrived when he steered the transfer of Pavel Nedved from Sparta Prague to Lazio following his incredible performance at Euro 1996.
In strictly footballing parlance, “super-agent” is a term that fundamentally translates to an astute middleman – one who is extremely skilled at his job. Ergo, the term “super-agent” is unequivocally befitting the man who is famous not just for his ability to get all parties on board with the insuperable powers of persuasion but also for his notorious negotiating to a point wherein even the most illustrious of clubs are left with no option other than burdening their own exchequer. Mino Raiola takes home a salary of millions of dollars by serving his function as an intermediary. Moreover, his knowledge of the business side of things (demonstrated in the acute involvement in his clients’ lucrative sponsorship deals and media appearances) has for long been lauded by commentators. Such is the respect he wields in the transfer market that his choices can make or break the season of any elite club.
Analysts of the transfer market often cite Raiola’s comprehensive client profiling as a pivotal factor which has leapfrogged him into success. Raiola ensures that he ropes in the most talked-about stars and makes them the highest-paid earners of the sport. Back in the year 2016, he forced Manchester United to table a then world-record bid worth €105 million ($117 million) for the French international, Paul Pogba. As a consequence, he reportedly profited by pocketing €25 million (£22m) himself. According to Forbes, Mino Raiola has a net worth of £50m (€57m). What is utterly unimaginable is that the same Red Devils had let Pogba go for free a couple of years back. Raiola’s credentials lay in the way in which he shored up Pogba’s value. The 2018 FIFA World Cup winner joined the Old Trafford outfit after playing 178 matches for the Bianconeri, scoring 34 goals and making 43 assists.
As a representative of the most eminent of football’s personas, he has a somewhat nasty habit of grabbing the headlines. For instance, in the August of 2018, Raiola publicly tweeted in defence of his client Pogba. He fired a broadside at the Old Trafford faithful Paul Scholes who had criticized the latter claiming that legends the kind of Scholes, speak only for fear of being forgotten. Raiola has been immensely vocal about the manner in which he conducts business and gets the major clubs of Europe to better their offers. To paraphrase Raiola’s words, he gives his clients options. The moment a club comes knocking on his client’s door with a proposal, he lets all the other potential buyers and interested parties into the secret overture. This sparks of a bidding war more often than not and the clubs are pushed against the wall, leaving them with no choice but to better their offers for fear that their prospective target might reach an agreement with another club.
In the May of 2019, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) handed Raiola a three-month transfer ban along with the imposition of a two-month embargo on his brother. The suspension was initially applicable to only Italian territory but FIFA reinstated and upheld the decision later extending it to a “worldwide effect”. This aggravated the already tense square-off between Raiola and FIGC. FIGC hardly proffered any justifications for the ban in mainstream media. Its statement read:
“The Sports Procurators Commission, any other exception, deduction and defence rejected, condemns Mr Carmine [Mino] Raiola and Mr Vincenzo Raiola, on his own behalf and as legal representatives of the companies they represent to sanction of the suspension from the exercise of the activity of sports attorney to the extent, respectively: with regard to Mr. Carmine Raiola, of three months, with regard to Mr. Vincenzo Raiola, of two months.”
Considering the news of the ban could have inflicted severe damage in the individual careers of Raiola’s big-name clients who had been relying on him to oversee moves prior to the 2019-20 season, Raiola reassured them. He moved to allay all apprehensions among his clients and made it sufficiently clear that potential business in the coming transfer window would not be adversely affected. He publicly made his mind known by stating that he would work to contest FIGC’s decision. By rubbishing the somewhat imminent repercussions, Raiola showed an indefatigable spirit, with enormous confidence in his abilities. Raiola tweeted in response:
“I will seek justice against this injustice and for freedom of speech in every legal court possible to me as my main task is in the interest of Italian football. I will proudly conduct this fight in order to obtain what it is in conformity with law. This discussion is contained to the Italian territory and has no repercussion on the players I represent.”
As of June 13, 2019, Raiola and his cousin won their appeals against the three-month ban, thereby revoking the ban on their activities.
Picture Courtesy- 101 Great Goals