Super agent Mino Raiola is set to play a major role in Manchester United’s transfer plans this summer, with Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland top of their wish list.
The MEN understands that Haaland is United’s top priority in the summer transfer window as the club look to find a long-term replacement for Romelu Lukaku. That pursuit will mean United working with Raiola.
The Italian agent, who is renowned around the globe and who has had some of football’s biggest names among his clientele, oversees any dealings related to Norway international Haaland and works closely alongside his father and former Premier League star Alf-Inge.
Raiola and United’s hierarchy have crossed paths on a number of occasions down the years. He negotiated the deal that brought Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Old Trafford and also oversaw the return of Paul Pogba in 2016.
Relations haven’t always been smooth though and it was the French midfielder’s exit in the first place which caused rather public ructions.
Pogba left United for Juventus in 2012 and went on to become one of the best midfielders in Europe, meaning that when United re-signed him it cost them £89million.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Pogba’s boss at the time of his exit, initially attempted to persuade the player to remain at the club, but he was unsuccessful and ultimately laid the blame at Raiola’s door.
Indeed, Ferguson was quite honest, sharing his opinion of Raiola in his autobiography as he reflected on his career having retired from management in 2013.
“There are one or two football agents I simply do not like and Mino Raiola, Paul Pogba’s agent, is one of them,” he wrote.
“I distrusted him from the moment I met him. 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.”
The feeling is mutual. There has been a dislike of each other pretty much since the first time that Ferguson and Raiola exchanged a conversation. The Italian claims that it doesn’t bother him all that much.
In an interview with the Athletic, he was quizzed about his working relationship with the legendary United manager, once it had been made clear what Ferguson made of the agent.
“When Ferguson criticised me, that was my biggest compliment anybody could give me. Ferguson is used to people coming in and, ‘Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir,’” Raiola told the Athletic.
“All I have to say that when Ferguson left Manchester United the club’s owners [the Glazers], by buying back Paul Pogba, told me that I was right. Because I didn’t want to take Paul Pogba away. He [Ferguson] didn’t believe in Paul Pogba.
“So when Ferguson says, ‘I don’t like him’, it’s the biggest compliment that I could have. It’s like saying Sepp Blatter says, ‘I don’t like him’. Fantastic. I don’t care what Ferguson says.”
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Raiola now, of course, would deal with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ed Woodward, John Murtough and the Glazer family in the current Old Trafford set-up, rather than his old enemy.
If the Red Devils were to make a move for Haaland then Raiola would once again be at the forefront of negotiations.
Dortmund, who are struggling to secure a Champions League place as things stand, remain reluctant to part with Haaland and have reportedly placed a £154m price tag on the 20-year-old attacker.
Pogba, meanwhile, could face another summer of uncertainty himself if Raiola’s comments in December about him being unhappy are anything to go by.
Whatever transpires, everything is pointing to another big transfer window for United and the man who holds the keys to the club’s transfer strategy.