How Mino Raiola got Man United to pay Juventus £60m more for Paul Pogba and why FIFA’s agency regulations aren’t enough

In his second Exclusive Column for caughtoffside, Jon Smith, one of football’s first-ever agents and a man who was an integral figure in the forming of the Premier League, discusses all things football, including a tribute to the late Mino Raiola and the confusing world of agents.

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I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Mino Raiola over the weekend.

I really enjoyed Mino’s company. He was very bullish. He was aggressive. I will always remember when I organized one of the original FIFA meetings about agent regulations and Mino didn’t like the seating arrangements. He pointed at me and said ‘can I swap sides with you?’, I said ‘no problem’, but I thought to myself ‘how bizarre!’, but we all moved to make him comfortable.

Then, an hour or two later, we were all having lunch and he was standing by himself in the lobby, I went over and asked him what all that was about earlier and he put his arm around me and said ‘thank you, my friend . I felt very uncomfortable and you were kind enough to help me’. Ever since then, he and I always had a connection.

So for me, as aggressive and as awkward as he could be, he believed in whatever he believed in and did what he did and if you worked with him, he worked with you. He and I would often speak, we’d laugh and have a joke – we got on very well. He was a really good block.

You don’t get Real Madrid and Juventus coming out and saying ‘we’re really sorry you’re no longer with us…’ if you weren’t well respected.

The biggest question with him though was always ‘how the hell did he get £40m out of the Pogba deal to Man United?’ – well, and he said this to me over lunch one day – ‘Juventus were prepared to accept just £20m for Paul, so I put in various different clauses and I got the price up to £40m, then up to £60m, then eventually, I got them £80m. £60m more than they originally wanted. How bad is it that Juventus rewarded me for that?’ – and he was right.

It always amazes how little clubs talk to each other. It’s getting better but for years, they have barely spoken to one another. I remember in the past going in to meet with Chelsea about the possibility of buying a player without mentioning who the interested club was because if Roman Abramovich had known who wanted his player, he would have bumped the prices up – things like that. It was crazy.

We’re in a position where if you look down the leagues, the bottom tiers, including League One and League Two, are in survival mode. The top is all about success, worldwide glamor and money. This gives intense insecurity to people who are on short contracts, which includes the players. We’re in a position where some of the officials and some of the agents want to earn as much cash as they can because they don’t know how long this is going to last.

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Meanwhile, we’ve had that sentiment for the best part of 20 years, so clearly, the sport is lasting okay and it isn’t going anywhere. The global football numbers are excellent. It is a bit of a concern that the insecurities of some of the individuals in our industry are creating a kind of gray market where certain agencies are able to buy into those insecurities, give them some money upfront and take huge rewards which are not commensurate to the work they have done.

I have been in the agency world for over 36 years and I am astonished that the new FIFA regulations don’t address any of this. Their regulations are all about limiting the agents to 3% in fees – how stupid is that? – All that happens is the clubs and the agents get together and find ways around it. All it leads to is more corruption.

I like Gianni Infantino, I believe he came up with these ideas with genuinely good intentions but it has been taken over by people in the administration side of FIFA who don’t know the agency world.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has tried to introduce stronger agency regulations.

The agency world is the exit route for cash that operates around the football world. People just don’t understand that world unless they’re in it.

Jonathan Barnett, for example, I like him a lot. I have known Jonathan for a lifetime and he’s a lovely man – but FIFA should talk to him, and the likes of Jorge Mendes, about what he works and what does n’t work. Unfortunately, despite two or three meetings taking place, FIFA failed to listen and now it appears they will face a sizable legal challenge.

Don’t try and beat the agents up – they’re not going away. They’re heavily involved in the transferring of cash in a football deal, so the organizations should speak to them about what works best. But while that isn’t happening, all the other insecure individuals are trying to get their pound of flesh. All of that is why you get a sizable adjustment of finances in strange places and people question how you can earn that amount of money from a particular deal.

FIFA are more concerned with regulating somebody who hasn’t filled in their agent’s paperwork correctly than some of the monies that have been laundered out of territories and into places like Turkey and Iraq.

There are owners of certain football clubs who have global operations or have involvements in different countries. They will say to an agent ‘I am selling this player for £8m but I don’t want the whole £8m to be declared in my domain, so why don’t I pay you a circa £4m commission’ and that money gets taken by the agent and placed in a bank somewhere. That money is now out of the home base.

Although ‘washing’ is too strong of a term, there is no denying that the money has been removed from the country for a service, but the value of that service is not established by the regulating bodies.

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