Mino Raiola’s rocky relationship with Manchester United goes back years, from Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign through to the current era with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Although both sides have profited along the way, it’s been far from plain sailing, with much bad blood still lingering between the two parties.
Football’s most notorious super-agent is not averse to ruffling a few feathers, and it’s at United that he has perhaps done that the most. From Fergie to now, there are countless times when the relationship has reached breaking point.
Agent Mino Raiola has a fractured relationship with Manchester United going back years
Legendary boss Sir Alex Ferguson is just one of the men who has clashed with him
It is now at a crucial juncture though, with United not willing to deal with him – but Raiola holding a potential key to the club’s future.
Erling Haaland is arguably – and in all honestly, probably – world football’s hottest property, with many clubs desperate to secure his signature this summer in a big-money move from Borussia Dortmund.
United are, openly, one of them – but there is one rather large stumbling block in that he is on the books of Raiola. To get the player, you’ll have to ‘dance with the devil’.
Not my words, but those of Rio Ferdinand, who recently opened up on the difficult situation, urging his old club to put the past to one side in order to recruit a player that could feasibly take them back to the top of the Premier League.
‘They have got to go out and give everything they have got to get Haaland,’ Ferdinand said on his Vibe with Five YouTube show.
‘I don’t like to talk about players that come from other teams but this guy, we [United] can’t afford to let this guy go anywhere else. His only destination is England.
Paul Pogba, pictured with agent Raiola back in 2016, is where much of the angst comes from
Ferdinand (bottom) was speaking on his his Vibe with Five YouTube show about Erling Haaland
‘It’s the only place he is going. If he goes anywhere else I will be so surprised. He obviously loves English football, his dad played here. It’s one of his dreams to come and play in England, I’m sure. Why not in the red shirt at Old Trafford. Be the guy that brings trophies back to Old Trafford.’
‘Sometimes you’ve got to dance with the devil,’ Ferdinand added. ‘Because when a player like Haaland comes around, that’s 10 years’ service.’
So this summer looks set to make or break Raiola’s relationship with United. If Old Trafford’s new transfer chiefs John Murtough and Darren Fletcher decide to repair the differences and work with the agent to secure Haaland, it could signal a new dawn for their partnership.
Alternatively, go elsewhere and feasibly that’s all bridges burned and any of Raiola’s future clients will never step foot in the door at Old Trafford.
Manchester United great Ferdinand has demanded his club sign Erling Haaland (pictured)
New football director, John Murtough (left), and his technical director Darren Fletcher, need to decide whether they want to deal with Raiola going forward
As it stands, Pogba is perhaps his biggest client, and much of the reason for United’s anger at Raiola is down to dealings over the French midfielder’s future.
It all dated back to the first meeting involving Raiola after the agent had ingratiated himself with the then 18-year-old’s family. That meeting had been ‘a fiasco’, Ferguson said. ‘From then, our goose was cooked. He [Raiola] and I were like oil and water.’
After that, the legendary United boss was left fuming at Raiola’s role in Pogba’s initial exit from the club. Of course, a few years on, it was an £89million mistake from United to let him go, with them ultimately taking him back from Juventus for that fee in 2016.
After his retirement, Ferguson did not hold back in his comments about Raiola, calling him a ‘s*** bag’ and a ‘bad agent’ in a talk at Sale Sharks rugby club, the clip later going viral.
Solskjaer is now also enduring a difficult relationship with football’s most controversial agent
The Scot is well-known for being a no-nonsense character, and Raiola’s way of working clearly ruffled his feathers. To Sir Alex, the super-agent had too much power and it was indicative of modern football and the changing and increased role football’s intermediaries have in transfer talks.
In the past, it had been talks between the player and the club, an agent just there to help get things over the line and look out for their client. But now huge percentages of the deals go to the middle man, with Raiola perhaps the most well-remunerated of them.
In the post-Ferguson era, things seemed to pick up between United and Raiola when Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic joined Pogba back at United.
In recent times, though, there has again been friction, much of it surrounding Pogba’s future once again.
Raiola is not one to mince his words and it riled United when he went public with his criticism of Solskjaer’s handling of the player in December last year.
‘There’s no point beating about the bush. It’s better to speak out clearly, look forward and avoid wasting time to find culprits,’ Raiola told Tuttosport. ‘Paul is unhappy at Man Utd, he can’t manage to express himself like he wants to and like people expect him to.
‘He needs to change team, he needs a change of scenery. He has a contract that will expire in a year and a half, in the summer of 2022, but the best solution for all parties is a transfer in the next (summer) window.’
Clearly, United did not take that well – especially given the timing, with United heading into a huge week of matches – and in the months that followed the club were also forthright with their views on the Raiola relationship going forward.
‘It’s important that we use common sense,’ were the words from Solskjaer in January when he was asked about a potential pursuit of Haaland.
‘There are other things too when you sign players, that you have to keep in control. You can’t give agents the control by giving buyout clauses and stuff.
Raiola has a number of high-profile clients across world football, which is a problem for United
‘That has been touted around, that is for me, we have to be in control.’
In short, he was all-but ruling out another attempt at signing Haaland if Raiola were still keen to retain all the control.
And that, in a nutshell, is what it comes down to: who’s in charge? United will feel as though they should hold all the cards – a multi-billion pound football institution backed by history and hundreds of trophies.
But Raiola will feel that he has the player in his control, and United won’t get what they want until he too has lined his pockets. Contracts won’t get signed until football’s most controversial agent allows them to be.
And so dancing with the devil might well be what it takes. If it enables United to sign football’s bonafide next big thing, then a trip to hell and back is worth the risk.