Mino Raiola: Six facts about football's super-agent

Who is the tracksuit-wearing businessman who saved Mario Balotelli's house from fire and made millions from Paul Pogba?

Mino Raiola
Football agent Mino Raiola
(Image credit: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty)

Recent reports about the work of football agent Mino Raiola, who allegedly made £41m from the Paul Pogba transfer and negotiated an extraordinary contract for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, have put the Italian in the spotlight.

The claims, made in the book Football Leaks: The Dirty Business of Football, which was published in Germany this week, have led to a Fifa probe and a welter of headlines.

But who is the 49-year-old super-agent at the centre of the controversy, and what do we know about him?

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He worked as a waiter

Raiola's family emigrated from Salerno in southern Italy when he was a child to open a restaurant called Napoli in the Dutch city of Haarlem. The young Raiola waited tables and worked alongside his father in the kitchen.

He also developed his entrepreneurial skills in the restaurant.

"The work honed his gift for talking to people (generally twice as fast as a normal person)," says the Financial Times. "He’d ask customers what they felt like eating, then come up with a personalised menu. If a regular customer was getting divorced, the boy would sit him down for a heart-to-heart. The business model worked: by Raiola's count, the family ended up with 11 restaurants."

He wasn't much of a footballer

According to Sky Sports, Raiola played for local youth side FC Haarlem, but it was off the pitch that he really made an impact.

"The club spotted his entrepreneurial flair and made him their sporting director at the age of just 19," says the broadcaster. "But it wasn't long before he moved on to join Sport-Promotion, a football agency which looked after a number of high-profile Dutch players."

He was a millionaire before he was an agent

Raiola became a millionaire when he was a teenager, "by buying a local McDonald’s and selling it to a property developer", says the FT, which secured a rare interview with the agent in 2016.

The businessman indulged his passion for football in his spare time and both worlds crossed when his company Intermezzo, set up to help Dutch companies do business in Italy, worked on the transfer of Dutch winger Bryan Roy from Ajax to Foggia in 1992, says the paper.

He's a 'one-man show'

Although he has a roster of around 50 players, fewer than most agents, Raiola's contracts were valued at $356.3m by Forbes last year.

It put his earnings in the first nine months of 2016 at $35.6m, describing him as "a one-man show… one of the most powerful agents in the soccer industry".

He is close to his players

After helping Bryan Roy's transfer, Raiola spent seven months with the player and even decorated his house. He has also fostered close relationships with many of his other clients, who he regards as family.

"Raiola has a reputation for confrontation, and for fiercely defending his client's interests - even when dealing with some of the biggest names in world football," says the Daily Telegraph.

He is often the first person they call when they need advice, says The Times, adding: "When Mario Balotelli called to say his house was burning down, Raiola suggested ringing the fire brigade."

He likes people to underestimate him

His combative nature and loyalty to his clients mean he does not get on with everyone. Sir Alex Ferguson was mistrustful of him while the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp also avoid him.

Raiola "remains an outsider, suspicious of the old boys' network" that controls much of the football world, says The Times. "No sharp-dressed spiv, he looks different too, but if he resembles an ill-kempt John Belushi, he says that he shuns suits for tracksuits and trainers to make people underestimate him."

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