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Mino Raiola changed the agent game: Focusing on hype and superstars changed the transfer market forever

It is not easy to describe Mino Raiola in its entirety. He was the most influential soccer agent in the world. Every person involved in the industry knew who he was. He was unique but he had a totally different approach in the way he worked for the players from him. Raiola died on Saturday at the age of 54 after being hospitalized following a long battle with the disease.

Where other agents worked behind the scenes, Raiola was out front, giving interviews, working in public. The big contracts and higher transfer fees he negotiated meant that while football fans around the world might not have liked him very much, you’d have to look hard to find players who weren’t happy with the way he worked with them. His job was to make his players the best and possibly the richest as well. The players knew it and felt protected.

There is an episode that explains who Mino Raiola was and why he was so good at his job. Zlatan Ibrahimovic relates it in his first book, i am zlatan ibrahimovic. The first time Raiola met the star striker, who became probably the closest player to him, it completely changed Ibrahimovic’s life. The Swede was playing for Ajax and asked a journalist friend for advice to help him find a new agent. The journalist returned with some options. There were two in particular, one was one of the top agencies in the world, the other was Mino Raiola.

“Trust me, you will like this boy, he is just like you,” he told Ibrahimovic. Zlatan agreed to meet Raiola in Amsterdam at a restaurant and arrived at the meeting with his brand new car and elegantly dressed. He waited a long time and minutes later Mino Raiola arrived at the meeting wearing a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and sneakers. Ibrahimovic was speechless. Raiola ordered sushi for seven people when there were only three at the table. “Don’t worry Zlatan,” Mino said after Ibrahimovic asked him who was going to eat that much food. Then the meeting entered the key phase. Raiola came up with some statistics on a piece of paper with the numbers of strikers like Christian Vieri, Andriy Shevchenko, Pippo Inzaghi and others, saying: “They score a lot of goals. You’ve scored four in 21 games. It’s impossible to make a transfer with these numbers.”

Ibrahimovic, according to his account, responded immediately. “With the numbers of those strikers, even my mom can sell me, that’s why I need you.” Raiola laughed, and that day began one of the most incredible relationships in football history between an agent player. Ibrahimovic was one of the last people to visit him in hospital before he died on Saturday.

Raiola was unique. He started from scratch in the Netherlands, where his family had emigrated from Italy a year after his birth in 1967, and he was a self-made man. He played as a soccer player but then decided to create a soccer intermediary agency. He mainly worked as a go-between between the Netherlands and Italy in the 1990s and used his language skills to close some notable deals, including Dennis Bergkamp’s move to Inter Milan from Ajax. Raiola, in fact, could speak Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, French, English and German. He dominated them all, a factor that helped fuel his meteoric rise to represent some of the biggest names in world football.

In many ways, he invented a new way of being a soccer agent. He worked with very few players, only the world-class ones, and he often controversially placed himself center stage. He would be a defender of his players in public, a man who would happily expose himself to fan abuse as a public figure, but that was him doing the job his players asked of him.

He was the agent for many megawatt stars. Not just Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but Paul Pogba, Erling Haaland, Mario Balotelli, Matthijs de Ligt, Gianluigi Donnarumma and many others. Over the years, he too fought to change FIFA’s rules and had aggressive ideas about what the future of football should look like. “I think the transfer window should be open all year or just two weeks,” he once told Sky Italia. “The one in January is useless, while in summer everything must be done in the first two weeks of July”

Raiola was one of the most incredible and rare figures in the world of football and sadly he will not be able to see some of his players move this summer, including Haaland, who is expected to be one of the most anticipated transfers in recent history. . His legacy will continue, because the impact he has left on “his” players will never go away. There was only one Raiola. Because of his style, because of his interviews, because of his way of working, he was unique and nobody can even try to emulate his presence. This was Mino Raiola, the best soccer agent in the world. Love him or hate him, the world of football won’t be the same without him.