Mino Raiola was a football agent who belonged to a separate league of wheelers and dealers in the world of football – a league in which he was partly responsible for some of the highest transfer fees football has ever seen. During his time as a super-agent, the economics of football transformed in favour of agents to such an extent that the world body of the sport (FIFA) decided to go out on war against the middlemen of the sport, a move that incensed Raiola. He was also known for his combative nature and had fallen out with many managers across leagues and clubs over the handling of his players.
His death at the age of 54 came amid two of his biggest clients – Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba and Borussia Dortmund striker Erling-Braut Haaland – in the middle of an epic summer of transfer battles and signature chasings. Raiola was going through a long illness, underwent surgery in January this year and was wrongly considered dead only a few days ago.
How did Raiola make his money from transfers?
In 2019 it was ascertained that football agents made $653 million in commissions. According to the Guardian, this was an 18% rise from the previous year.
Using data provided by Forbes, it was calculated that despite possessing fewer players than other super-agents, Raiola still made close to £800,000 per deal. This was mostly down to the quality of players that his agency possessed and one other factor – his ability to be a thorn in the side of the player’s current club.
The Pogba to Manchester United transfer netted him millions as he represented all parties involved and took commissions from the player, the buying club and the selling club to broker a then world record transfer fee for the Frenchman to move back to his former team in Manchester.
What was Raiola’s relationship with clubs and managers like?
Raiola successfully inflated the prices of certain football players under his wings through simply sowing discord in the current club of the player. He would criticise management, the manager of the club and essentially keep the image of his players as that of talented, yet underutilised and settled, yet ready to move.
The ploy would work as the club would continue to remain destabilised while the stock of the player rarely went down, come injury or poor form. He once said that Pep Guardiola should be sent to a psychiatric hospital for keeping Ibrahimovic on the Barcelona bench. But such has been the power of the agent and his ability to build relationships with his clients that the Guardiola-led City continue to make Raiola-client Erling-Braut Haaland a priority target for Manchester City this summer.
Sir Alex Ferguson described his relationship with the Dutch agent as ‘oil and water’ in his biography. The former Manchester United great blamed Raiola for sowing discord among the club and Pogba which led to the talented teenager moving from England to Juventus on a free transfer.
Why did Raiola tussle with FIFA?
Before Raiola died, he had formed the Football Forum alongside fellow super-agent Jonathan Barnett (Agent of Gareth Bale, Mason Mount and Jack Grealish). This was to counter FIFA and their plans to reform agents’ hold on football through commissions.
Football Forum intended on organizing agents across the world under one umbrella and taking on FIFA’s oncoming rulings on agent fees. Raiola went as far ahead to even predict that ‘FIFA will not exist in 10 years’ time’.
FIFA’s new regulations for agents suggested that an agent representing a buying club would receive 3% of the transfer fee while an agent representing a selling club would receive 10% of the transfer fee. Crucially, the new regulations would also force an agent to represent either the player or the selling club or the buying club but not all. An exception would have been that the agent could represent the buying club and player, if all parties involved agreed.
For a man that always fought tooth and nail for his players and for himself, the oncoming fight against FIFA was one that he would eventually not be able to represent.