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Football super agent Mino Raiola has died aged 54 following an illness, according to reports in Italy.
Confirmation of the Italian's tragic passing emerged on Thursday, with the news sending a shockwave through the world of football. He had been taken to hospital in Milan back in January where he underwent surgery, though the nature of the illness was not revealed.
Raiola was one of the world's most famous agents, with some of his most famous clients including Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba and Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. Yet he came from humble beginnings.
Although he won fame and fortune through the beautiful game, he started out working in his parents' pizza restaurant in Haarlem before founding Intermezzo, exploring opportunities for Dutch companies in Italy, at 17. Raiola claimed to have been a self-made millionaire when he was a teenager.
In the modern era, Raiola was known across the world for his role as a football agent to the stars. He began life in the football business during a boom time for Dutch talent and Serie A – then the world's most famous league.
Raiola's aptitude for languages – he could speak Italian, Dutch, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese – alerted him to the attention of Rob Jansen, Holland's most famous agent who need an interpreter for Dennis Bergkamp's move to Inter Milan.
The Italian soon got a job working for Jansen's company Sport-Promotion, but he left not long after to go it alone. What a decision that turned out to be.
His first big deal was the one that took Pavel Nedved to Lazio after Euro 96, but his life-changing moment – and one that would ultimately alter the careers of so many footballers – came when he met Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
In Raiola, Ibrahimovic found a kindred spirit. The pair hit it off like wild fire and their association subsequently saw the Swede join Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, PSG and Manchester United with the help of Raiola.
From there, Raiola gained a client list that would make any agent blush.
Until his death, he was the agent for stars including the aforementioned trio of Haaland, Pogba and Donnarumma, plus countless other players including Romelu Lukaku, Marco Verrati and Matthijs de Ligt.
A study from OLBG – using data from Forbes – found that Raiola earned an average of £796,345 per every transfer deal he brokered. But, being one of the world's most pre-eminent agents, not everyone always took to the man once dubbed 'Mr Three Hundred Million.'
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola was never much a fan of Raiola, while legendary Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson offered a brutal assessment of him in his autobiography.
"I distrusted him from the moment I met him," Ferguson wrote" He became Zlatan Ibrahimovic's agent while he was playing for Ajax, and eventually he would end up representing Pogba, who was only 18 years old at the time.
"We had Paul under a three-year contract, and it had a one-year renewal option which we were eager to sign. But Raiola suddenly appeared on the scene and our first meeting was a fiasco.
"He and I were like oil and water. From then on, our goose was cooked because Raiola had been able to ingratiate himself with Paul and his family and the player signed with Juventus."
Raiola wasn't loved the world over, but it could never be argued that he didn't do the best by his clients. He will be sorely missed.
- Manchester United FC
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