Everyone knows the unconquerable Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the lion in the football jungle. Everyone knows he isn’t someone to mess around with or talk back to because when one does, a befitting reply awaits him on and off the pitch.
But even the great Zlatan, the 6 feet 4-inch mammoth, had to mend his arrogant ways before the super-agent Mino Raiola.
The 54-year-old Mino Raiola who secured deals for players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Erling Haaland, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Marco Verratti, Moise Kean sadly passed away on Saturday. His death has left an unspeakable legacy and void in modern-day football that for years to come might just be impossible to fulfil.
Raiola wore his heart on his sleeve. He would go to war with the clubs to complete and secure a hefty and favourable deal for his clients. And the players loved him. “Nobody forces my players to choose me. Nobody forces them to stay with me.” Raiola was often vocal about his thoughts and views on football. He believed that the power should rest in the hands of the players and not just any footballing body, like FIFA.
So when Zlatan met Raiola, he thought it would be an easy lunch where the agent will beg him to take his services. But when Raiola entered, Zlatan’s confidence faltered for a bit. Hard to digest? After devouring heaps of Pasta, Raiola brought out a piece of paper which comprised Zlatan’s stats for the season. They were below par at the time and Raiola retorted, “Do you think I’ll be able to sell you with stats like that?”
Zlatan went quiet. He pondered for a bit and realised that Raiola was right. But Raiola wasn’t finished. He criticised Zlatan’s extravagant lifestyle — the Gucci jacket, the gold watch, the Porsche and clearly stated that he needs to give up this bling to become a serious contender in the world of football.
Zlatan wasn’t just taken aback by Raiola’s unflinching audacity, but what also intrigued him was the way Raiola dressed. “A Nike T-shirt, jeans, and a with a stomach like one of the guys in Sopranos,” is how the AC Milan forward remembers him in his autobiography, I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Raiola was the man who reached the top level of managing football players with his true grit and determination, a quality he also sought in players he signed. And when you have the super-agent gunning for you at all times, the clubs listen, the fans listen, and the footballing world listens.
Rest in peace Mino Raiola. You made careers and brought joy to many all over the world. The world of football will surely miss you.