THE SCRUFFY PIZZA CHEF COOKING UP THAT PS100m POGBA DEAL; ...and How Mino Raiola Will Rake in PS20m for Himself; SPECIAL REPORT

Daily Mail (London), July 27, 2016 | Go to article overview

THE SCRUFFY PIZZA CHEF COOKING UP THAT PS100m POGBA DEAL; ...and How Mino Raiola Will Rake in PS20m for Himself; SPECIAL REPORT


Byline: JOE BERNSTEIN

WHEN agent Mino Raiola got his first big break as a translator in the transfer of Dennis Bergkamp to Inter Milan in 1993, he secretly photocopied all the relevant documents so he would know how to do the deal himself next time.

It was an act of ruthlessness that has helped turn the dumpy 48-yearold into the agent at the centre of world football's biggest transfer, adored by clients such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba and detested by almost everyone else.

Bombastic and provocative, he has insulted Pep Guardiola, fallen out with Sir Alex Ferguson and kicked and shouted his way through various lucrative deals that have earned him the nickname 'Mr Three Hundred Million'.

Ibrahimovic regarded him as a 'weirdo' when they first met, before the former pizza chef made him a vast fortune.

Now Manchester United are in his debt, having already signed two of his players -- Zlatan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan -- with a world record PS100million deal for Pogba next, with Raiola personally pocketing an additional PS20m.

But who is this tough, rude and uncompromising agent whose company, Maguire Tax & Legal, is a tribute to film character Jerry 'Show me the Money' Maguire, and whose ability to divide opinion matches that of Donald Trump.

How does a pizza chef from Haarlem in Holland end up living in a flash apartment overlooking the yachts in Monaco harbour, who spends his holiday time discussing business with Pogba in Miami swimming pools? His success story is a mix of talent and ruthlessness. Born in Italy, he moved to Holland as a baby and was raised in Haarlem at the family pizza restaurant.

With his own football career over at 18, young Raiola studied law, helped out with the family business and persuaded the local football club to make him a director of football. Most significantly, he developed an aptitude for languages and can speak seven -- Italian, Dutch, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese.

It was that talent which alerted Rob Jansen, Holland's most famous agent, who needed an interpreter when he oversaw the transfer of Bergkamp from Ajax to Inter Milan in 1993.

Raiola was professional, seemed diligent and got a full-time job working for Sport-Promotion, Jansen's company. So it was an enormous shock when Raiola left suddenly to set up on his own as a direct rival. Jansen has not spoken to him since.

Raiola's first big deal was the one that took Pavel Nedved to Lazio after Euro 96. But his life-changing moment came when he invited young Ajax forward Ibrahimovic to a restaurant, and found they were kindred spirits, not giving a damn about what others thought of them.

The agent, under 5ft 7in tall and weighing more than 16st, turned up in jeans.

'Was he supposed to be an agent? Weirdo,' said Zlatan. 'We got a massive spread, enough to feed five people, and he started stuffing himself.' By this time, the horror had turned to grudging admiration and the pair became lifelong partners.

Ibrahimovic allowed Raiola to drive his Porsche around Amsterdam and the agent plotted with Juventus chief Luciano Moggi to force Ibra's way out of Holland.

The striker got his move, and then more big ones to both Milan clubs, Barcelona, PSG and now United. To reward himself, Raiola moved to the Riviera and took to the glitterati lifestyle.

He was dubbed 'Mr Five Per Cent', and seemed to specialise in eccentrics.

He sold Robinho from Manchester City to AC Milan and guided Mario Balotelli through extreme highs and lows.

When times were good, Raiola described Balotelli as an important part of Italian culture. Now the striker is rotting at Liverpool with no obvious buyer, his agent is taking on the role of chief encourager. …

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