MILAN (AP) — Mino Raiola, the influential and often controversial sports agent to some of soccer's biggest players, has died. He was 54.
Raiola died after a long illness, his family confirmed on Saturday. He had been undergoing treatment at Milan’s San Raffaele hospital, where he was visited by Zlatan Ibrahimović this week. Raiola underwent surgery in January but it was said at the time that it was not life-threatening.
“In infinite sorrow we share the passing of the most caring and amazing football agent that ever was,” read a post from “The Raiola Family” on his social media accounts.
“Mino fought until the end with the same strength he put on negotiation tables to defend our players. As usual, Mino made us proud and never realized it.”
Raiola was the agent of stars such as Erling Haaland and Paul Pogba, as well as Ibrahimović.
He was famous for getting his players big-money moves but also drew the ire of soccer managers, including Alex Ferguson after he negotiated Pogba’s transfer from Manchester United to Juventus in 2012.
He also dealt with Pogba’s return to United in 2016 for a then-world-record fee of 105 million euros (then $116 million) of which Raiola earned 27 million euros ($30 million). He was paid millions more by Pogba and United.
Raiola was in the process of negotiating Haaland’s expected move away from Borussia Dortmund this summer, with Manchester City one of several possible destinations for the Norwegian starlet.
Raiola also oversaw the departure of Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma from childhood club AC Milan to Paris Saint-Germain last year. Mario Balotelli was another of his clients.
“Mino touched so many lives through his work and wrote a new chapter in the history of modern football. His presence will forever be missed,” added the announcement of his death.
“Mino’s mission of making football a better place for players will continue with the same passion.”
Italian and international media widely reported on Thursday that Raiola had died but that was categorically denied to The Associated Press by his agency and later refuted apparently by Raiola himself on social media.
“Current health status for the ones wondering: p(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)d off second time in 4 months they kill me. Seem also able to resuscitate,” read a message on Raiola’s Twitter account.
It was also wrongly reported he had died in January when he was taken to the hospital for what were later confirmed as “ordinary medical checks that require anesthesia.”
Raiola was born in the southern Italian city of Nocera Inferiore but moved to the Netherlands after less than a year.
He worked as a waiter in his father’s Italian restaurant while at high school and went on to study law for two years at university.
Raiola was a youth team soccer player and administrator before starting his career as a sports agent by assisting in the transfer of Dutch players to foreign clubs.
He was rarely far from controversy or the limelight — much like several of the players he represented. Raiola compared FIFA to a mafia organization in 2013 and called the governing body’s then-president Sepp Blatter a “demented dictator.”
Along with fellow “super agents” Jorge Mendes and Jonathan Barnett, Raiola threatened FIFA with legal action over plans for a cap on transfer payments in 2020.
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Daniella Matar, The Associated Press