POGBA IS A STATEMENT OF INTENT
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.”