“Super-agent” Mino Raiola has become one of the most controversial and influential figures in world football.
His clients include some of the game’s biggest stars, from Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Erling Braut Haaland and Marco Verratti.
But with the sport facing an unprecedented financial crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic, agents are increasingly under scrutiny and the huge sums they can earn from transfers.
On a host of issues, however, Raiola vows to challenge the gambling authorities on behalf of his industry.
In a broad and exclusive interview, the Dutch-Italian told BBC Sport:
- he predicted that Dortmund striker Haaland will be “one of the stars of the next decade”
- he was “disturbed” by the perception of the agents, but “my players do not call me a parasite”
- he “didn’t want to cause a problem” saying that Pogba was unhappy at Manchester United, saying “every time I say my opinion everyone in England goes crazy”
- agents “prepare to go to court” over Fifa’s “ridiculous” plans to regulate their activities
- welcomed the recent withdrawal of the English Football League (EFL) from proposed salary caps for players after a court hearing, saying it was a “logical victory”.
Haaland is the “star of the new generation”
The best European football clubs face billion pounds losses in the wake of the Covid crisis, but Raiola dismisses the idea that the salaries and transfer fees of major players – and therefore agents’ commissions – will suffer.
“I don’t think there is a correlation,” he told BBC Sport from his office in Monaco.
“For extraordinary talent, there is always space. “
20-year-old Borussia Dortmund forward Haaland is one such talent. one of the hottest properties in the game, and among 70 players on Raiola’s books.
The Norwegian joined Dortmund just over a year ago, but has been linked with a major transfer this summer, and the agent has said many Premier League clubs could sign him.
“Obviously everyone sees Erling as one of those new potential future stars because it’s so hard to do what he’s doing at his age at his level,” he said.
“He will be one of the future stars of the next decade as we see stars like Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo and Messi coming to an age where everyone is wondering, ‘How long can we still enjoy this? Everyone is therefore looking for the new generation.
“Only a maximum of 10 clubs can afford to buy [Haaland] and give the platform you want after being in Dortmund… and four of those clubs are [England].
“I don’t think there is a sports director or a coach in the world who would say ‘not interested’. It’s like saying, “Is there a Formula 1 team that wouldn’t be interested in Lewis Hamilton? ”
Stay shy on Pogba
Raiola sparked a backlash in December when, just ahead of a crucial Champions League game for Manchester United, he suggested Pogba move to Old Trafford. could be finished.
“I just expressed an opinion, I didn’t want to cause a problem,” said Raiola.
“I don’t think that unsettled anyone because they had a fantastic race and they were even first, for a while, in the league.
“You think great players like Paul Pogba – or [Ole Gunnar] Solskjaer, who has won everything in his life – is he unsettled by what Mino Raiola says? Come please. But I don’t talk about it anymore. It makes life a little boring, but it is. ”
Outspoken Raiola – who has also represented Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, Italy striker Mario Balotelli and Dutch center-back Matthijs de Ligt, has had clashes with a series of other managers, including Sir Alex Ferguson, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, but says he’s learned lessons.
He said: “Every time I say my opinion, everyone in England goes berserk, and I’m the worst agent, or the best agent… and the clubs are so stressed out by the public and the journalists that I have learned not to talk about it much. ”
“My job is to get the best deal”
Claims Raiola won £ 41million from Pogba record transfer of £ 89m from Juventus to Manchester United in 2016 intensified criticism from agents. But he insists that the perception of greed and excess is unfair.
“It’s not always pleasant to hear that same preconception,” said Raiola.
“But maybe the audience can also think, ‘If this man is so greedy and so bad, how are his players all happy and stay with him? ”
“I would be lying if I said I didn’t mind… how can you judge if I was a good agent for Ibrahimovic? The only one who can judge this is Ibra himself.
“I have no power or influence… my job is to do the best deal for my player. And no more. And to do that is to provide it with 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 what my players call me. “
Fight against Fifa for regulation
Fifa brings new regulations this year, which will see the publication of the money agents receive from their clients, commission caps, a licensing system and a crackdown on conflicts of interest.
The world football governing body has said deregulating agents in 2015 was “a mistake”, and it wants to tackle “abusive and excessive practices”.
Raiola – who is president of the Football Forum, an organization created to represent the interests of key agents and their players – is fiercely opposed.
“We are no longer talking to Fifa,” he said, criticizing the extent to which agents had been consulted on the new proposals.
“I think at the end there will be a trial.
“I have no problem with transparency. There are governments controlling us financially, legally every day.
“What we have a problem with are people who don’t know how a transfer works, who try to create ridiculous rules. “
Raiola says the crackdown on agents was “used by Fifa to hide its own problems.”
He said: “Yes, we have to change the world of football, but we want to be 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 it can’t be regulated by Fifa.
“No one is looking at the player’s interest in this. There is only one interest [in] saying, ‘Let’s attack the agents because they took too much money in the game.’ ”
In a statement, Fifa said it had conducted “a very robust consultation process”, including with agent organizations.
The governing body said: “Fifa has observed widespread conflicts of interest and a market driven by speculation rather than solidarity and redistribution across the football pyramid.
“Fifa has a responsibility to deal with and regulate these issues. We are aiming for a balanced and reasonable regulatory system, rather than the law of the jungle currently in place. “
Premier League clubs paid agents over £ 263million last season.
“Victory” of the salary cap and abandonment of relegation
Raiola fiercely criticized the English Football League’s salary caps in leagues one and two, and praised the scrapping earlier this month, following what he called a “logical” decision by an independent arbitration panel.
He said: “There is no salary cap for CEOs who run large or small companies, there is no salary cap for actors, there is no salary cap for a Banksy. !
“So why should there be a cap on the talent of football players? ”
Raiola insists that the deep-rooted issues with the financial viability of football predate the pandemic, and radical ideas should now be considered.
He said: “I would like to give the clubs the possibility [over] the next three years, thanks to Covid, to maybe find a system where in some countries [they] say: “Listen, you know what, let’s stop relegating”, to have a more stable environment to build up your reserves.
“In France, Spain and Italy, it’s a real financial disaster if you get off. And that puts the clubs in a stressed position, where maybe they can’t make a decision about the future, only in the short term. “
“The whole system needs to be looked at.
“At the Football Forum, we are not here to kill clubs. We have to try to be more modern and to sit down with all parties involved and see where we can help each other. “