‘Super-agent’ Mino Raiola has become one of the most controversial and influential personalities in world football.
His clients include some of the game’s biggest stars, from Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Erling Braut Haland and Marc Verratti.
But as the sport faces an unprecedented financial crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is increasing control over agents and the huge amounts they can earn from transfers.
However, on many issues, Raiola has vowed to challenge the authorities in the game on behalf of his industry.
In a broad and exclusive interview, the Dutchman-Italian told BBC Sport:
- predicted Dortmund striker Haaland to be “one of the stars of the next decade”
- “he was bothered” by the agents’ perception, but “my players don’t call me a parasite”
- he “did not want to create problems” when he said that Pogba was dissatisfied with Manchester United, saying “whenever I say my opinion, everyone in England goes crazy”
- agents are “preparing to go to court” because of Fifa’s “ridiculous” plans to regulate their activities
- he welcomed the recent withdrawal of proposed salary limits for English Football League (EFL) players after the trial, saying it was a “logical victory”.
Haland is the “star of the new generation”
Top European football clubs are facing each other billion pounds losses as a result of the Covid crisis, but Raiola rejects the suggestion that the salaries and transfer fees of the best players – and thus agent commissions – will suffer as a result.
“I don’t think there is a correlation,” he told BBC Sport from his Monaco office.
“There’s always room for outstanding talent.”
One such talent is the 20-year-old Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland, one of the most interesting features in the game, and among 70 players on Raiola’s books.
The Norwegian joined Dortmund just over a year ago, but is linked to a big money move this summer, and the agent says he could be signed by a host of Premier League clubs.
“Obviously, everyone looks at Erling as one of those potential new future stars because it’s so hard to do what he does at his age at his level,” he said.
She will be one of the future stars of the next decade because we see stars like Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo and Messi coming at a time when everyone is wondering, ‘How much longer can we enjoy them?’ So everyone is looking for a new generation.
“Only a maximum of 10 clubs can afford to buy [Haaland] and give the platform you would like after you were in Dortmund … and there are four of those clubs [England].
“I don’t think there’s a sports director or coach in the world who would say“ I don’t care. ”It’s like saying,“ Is there a Formula 1 team that wouldn’t be interested in Lewis Hamilton? “
Detention of a colleague on Pogba
Raiola provoked a great reaction in December when, just before the key Champions League match for Manchester United, he suggested Pogba’s time at Old Trafford it could be over.
“I just expressed an opinion, I didn’t want to create problems,” Raiola said.
“I don’t think it destabilized anyone because they had a fantastic run and were even first, for a while, in the league.
“You think great players like Paul Pogba – or [Ole Gunnar] Solskjaer, who has conquered everything in his life – destabilized by what Mino Raiola says? Come on, please. But I don’t talk about it anymore. Life makes it a bit boring, but it’s the way it is. “
Open Raiola – who also represented Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, Italian striker Mario Balotelli and Dutch center-back Matthijs de Ligto, has had raids with a number of other managers, including Sir Alex Ferguson, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, but says he has learned his lessons.
He said: “Whenever I say my opinion, everyone in England goes crazy, and I’m the worst agent or the best agent … and the clubs are so stressed by the public and journalists that I’ve learned not to talk about it much.”
‘My job is to get the best deal’
He claims that Raiola earned 41 million pounds from Pogba a world record of £ 89 million from Juventus to Manchester United in 2016, it intensified criticism of agents. But he insists that the perception of greed and excess is unjust.
“It’s not nice to always hear the same prejudices,” Raiola said.
“But perhaps the public may also think, ‘If this man is so greedy and so bad, how are all his players happy and staying with him?’
“I would be lying if I said that I don’t mind … how can you judge whether I was a good agent for Ibrahimovic? The only one who can judge that is Ibra himself.
“I don’t have the power and influence … my job is to achieve the best job for my player. And no more than that. And that’s to provide a whole range of services that people don’t even know about.
“My players don’t call me a parasite and that’s what I work for. I only care about what my players call me.”
Fighting Fife over regulations
Fifa brings new regulations this year, which will see the disclosure of funds that agents receive from their clients, commission limits, licensing system, and conflict of interest suppression.
The football world governing body said deregulatory agents in 2015 were a “mistake” and wanted to fight “violent and excessive practices”.
Raiola – who is the president of the Football Forum, an organization founded to represent the interests of leading agents and their players – vehemently opposes it.
“We are no longer talking to FIFA,” he said, criticizing the extent to which agents have been consulted regarding the new proposals.
“I think there will be a lawsuit in the end.
“I have no problem with transparency. There are governments that check us every day fiscally, legally.
“What we have a problem with are people who don’t know how the transfer works, trying to make rules that are ridiculous.”
Raiola says that Fifa “used the aggression to hide its own problems”.
He said: “Yes, we have to change the football world, but we want to be a part of it, to be respected, because our job is to represent the players and their interests.
“We’re not saying we’re perfect, but Fifa can’t regulate that.
“No one is looking at the players’ interest in this. There is only interest [in] saying, ‘Let’s attack the agents because they took too much money out of the game.’ “
In a statement, FIFA said it had conducted a “very robust consultation process”, including agent organizations.
The governing body said: “Fifa has noticed a widespread conflict of interest and a market driven by speculation rather than solidarity and redistribution through the football pyramid.
“Fifa is responsible for resolving and regulating these issues. Our goal is a system of balanced and reasonable regulation, instead of the jungle law that currently exists.”
Last season, Premier League clubs paid agents more than £ 263 million.
The pay cap ‘wins’ and rejects relegation
Raiola is a fierce critic of the English Football League’s salary limits in Leagues One and Two and praised their removal earlier this month after what he called a “logical” decision by an independent arbitration panel.
He said: “There are no salary limits for CEOs running large or small companies, there are no salary limits for actors, there is no salary limit for Banksy!
“So why should the talent of footballers be limited then?”
Raiola insists on the deep-rooted problems of the financial sustainability of football that preceded the pandemic, and that radical ideas should now be considered.
He said: “I would like to give the clubs a chance [over] in the next three years, because of Covid, we might find a system in some countries [they] say, ‘Listen, you know what, let’s not let go anymore’, to have a more stable environment for building your reserves.
“In France, Spain and Italy, it’s a real financial disaster if you collapse. And that puts clubs in a stressful position, where they may not be able to make a decision for the future, but only on a short-term basis.”
“We need to look at the overall system.
“We are not here at the Football Forum to kill clubs. We should try to be more modern and sit with all the parties involved and see where we can help each other.”