Football super-agent Mino Raiola dies in Milan, aged 54

Mino Raiola, the football super-agent who represented top players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Erling Haaland has died at the age of 54 in Milan.

The son of Italian immigrants to the Netherlands, who grew up waiting tables and washing dishes at his family’s pizzeria, went from being an outsider in football to one of the most feared and influential dealmakers in the game, transferring his players for record sums.

“In infinite sorrow we share the passing of the most caring and amazing Football Agent that ever was,” Raiola’s family said on Saturday. “Mino fought until the end with the same strength he put on negotiation tables to defend our players. As usual, Mino made us proud and never realised it.”

Loved by his clients, many of whom described him as a father figure, Raiola was often despised by football executives and fans, who viewed his hostile negotiating style and aptitude to push players to move in order to earn more, as a detriment to the sport.

Alex Ferguson, the legendary Manchester United manager, had a particularly scathing view of Raiola: “I distrusted him from the moment I met him.”

Their dispute arose in 2012 when Raiola demanded an improved contract for Paul Pogba, then a youthful talent at United. The fierce-tempered Scot and the super-agent clashed. The future World Cup winner left for Juventus but returned to United, following Ferguson’s retirement, for £89.3mn, a world record transfer fee.

Raiola was one of the small circle of super-agents whose names are widely known among fans who are more accustomed to discussing star players than the power brokers who negotiate their contracts. His rivals included Portugal’s Jorge Mendes, agent to Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and Jonathan Barnett, who represents Gareth Bale.

Mido, the Egyptian who played for Ajax, Roma and Tottenham Hotspur, paid tribute to the agent on Twitter: “I learned so much from you and I wish I listened to you a bit more!! Always fought for his players no matter who was sitting on the other side of the table!!”

Italy’s AC Milan, Ajax of Amsterdam, and France’s Paris-Saint Germain were among the clubs to pay their respects to the late football agent on the social media platform.

Raiola had a fairly small stable of players, including Italy’s temperamental Mario Balotelli and Gigi Donnarumma, who depended on him in contract negotiations as well as personal matters.

When Balotelli’s house caught fire in 2011 after he let off fireworks in his bathroom, Raiola was one of the first people he called for help. In a long interview with the Financial Times in 2016, the Dutch-Italian remembered advising the player to call the fire brigade instead of him.

In January, Raiola underwent medical checks that required anaesthesia, according to his twitter account.

When his death was prematurely reported this week, Raiola tweeted: “Current health status for the ones wondering: pissed off second time in 4 months they kill me. Seem also able to resuscitate.”

Before becoming one of the most feared and well paid dealmakers in football, Raiola became a millionaire by buying a branch of McDonald’s and selling it to property developers.

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