POGBA IS A STATE­MENT OF IN­TENT

The Star (Kenya) - - Sports -

You need to have big balls to com­plete a world record trans­fer and Jose Mour­inho has those balls. Mino Raiola is straight, as he likes to. “It’s not just a case of spend­ing the money,” he in­sists. “It’s shoul­der­ing the re­spon­si­bil­ity of spend­ing that money and say­ing, ‘yes, this is my man’. Ar­se­nal have the money but do they have the balls?

“Real Madrid? The will of Zine­dine Zi­dane was strong but we were not sure it was the will of the club.

“Manch­ester United showed the world this summer that they were not go­ing to stand still, they want to be the best. They sent out a mes­sage with the trans­fers they did that this is the big­gest club in the world.”

Raiola is the man who bro­kered the world record £89mil­lion (Sh11.67bn) trans­fer of Paul Pogba to Manch­ester United and boasts a client list that in­cludes Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic, Mario Balotelli, Romelu Lukaku and Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan.

He made more than £30m (Sh3.96bn) from deals this summer (in­clud­ing about £20m – Sh2.64bn – from the Pogba trans­fer), his play­ers are wanted by the world’s big­gest clubs, so what gave telling it Manch­ester United and ex­ec­u­tive vicechair­man Ed Wood­ward the edge?

“I al­ways say to my play­ers we go where we are needed. United will al­ways be one of the big­gest clubs in the world whether by rep­u­ta­tion or bal­ance sheet.

“Yes, Manch­ester United had no Champions League and weren’t champions but they needed us the most. United had been talk­ing to us for two years about Pogba,” con­fides Raiola.

“We knew we had in­ter­est, we spoke to Ju­ven­tus, they re­ally wanted to try for the Champions League, they gave him the No 10 shirt and we said we would give it one more year. Then I worked on an exit plan. We had two of­fers from the Pre­mier League and two out­side. Paul said United was in his heart, Wood­ward wanted him at United a year ago and Mour­inho had wanted him at Chelsea too, so when the two com­bined we knew it was right.

“Mkhi­taryan was more com­pli­cated. We had al­most agreed with an­other Pre­mier League club but Dort­mund wouldn’t let him go, then United pushed it over the line.

“With Zla­tan, he fits the Manch­ester United brand per­fectly. His re­union with Mour­inho gives that feel­ing of ‘we are Manch­ester United, now come try to f*** us’!”

Be­ing po­lit­i­cally cor­rect is not Raiola’s forte, he has a pen­chant for be­ing di­rect, a qual­ity he cred­its to his Dutch her­itage, but rather than the tru­cu­lent image many per­ceive, there is a tongue-in-cheek hu­mour to what he de­liv­ers.

“I love in Eng­land when you ask some­one, “how are you?” They say ‘oh, not so bad,’ What does that mean? I’m Dutch, we say as it is. In Hol­land we are ei­ther ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It’s funny.”

Born in Italy, Raiola’s fam­ily moved to Hol­land when he was an in­fant. His fa­ther, a me­chanic, re-trained with the help of his grand­mother to set up the fam­ily restau­rant busi­ness.

“I worked hard, I cleaned dishes, waited on ta­bles, I was a bar­man but I never baked a pizza in my life — de­spite what has been writ­ten.”

The Ital­ian in him un­der­pins his strong fam­ily val­ues and the tight-knit bond with his play­ers. He is listed by Forbes mag­a­zine as one of the most in­flu­en­tial agents in sport.

His own sales pitch is not for all, though he is quick to ex­plain United’s Manch­ester derby de­feat and crit­i­cism of Pogba and Mkhi­taryan.

“It’s true Pogba is not play­ing his best yet, he is tak­ing time to ad­just but peo­ple don’t al­ways see the big­ger pic­ture. He will dom­i­nate for 10 years. He is United’s lost son.”

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