Italian football agent Mino Raiola has died

MILAN (AP) — Mino Raiola, the influential and often controversial sports agent to some of football’s greatest players, has died. He was 54 years old.

Raiola died after a long illness, his family confirmed on Saturday. He was being treated at San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, 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 sadness, we share the passing of the most caring and incredible football agent to ever exist,” read a publication of “The Raiola Family” on his social media accounts.

“Mino fought to the end with the same strength he put on the negotiating tables to defend our players. As usual, Mino made us proud and never realized it.

Raiola was the agent of stars like Erling Haaland and Paul Pogba, as well as Ibrahimović.

He was famous for making big money for his players, but also drew the ire of football managers, including Alex Ferguson after brokering Pogba’s transfer from Manchester United to Juventus in 2012.

He also handled Pogba’s return to United in 2016 for a then-world-record €105m ($116m) fee of which Raiola earned €27m ($30m). He was paid millions more by Pogba and United.

Raiola was negotiating Haaland’s planned departure from Borussia Dortmund this summer, with Manchester City being one of several possible destinations for the Norwegian starlet.

Raiola also oversaw the departure of Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma from boyhood club AC Milan to Paris Saint-Germain last year. Mario Balotelli was another of his clients.

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“Mino touched so many lives through his work and wrote a new chapter in the history of modern football. His presence will be forever missed,” the announcement of his death added.

“Mino’s mission to make 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 this was flatly denied to The Associated Press by his agency and later apparently refuted by Raiola himself on social media.

“Current health status for those wondering: p—-d off second time in 4 months they are killing me. Also seem capable of resurrecting,” read a message on Raiola’s Twitter account.

It was also erroneously reported that he died in January when he was taken to hospital for what was later confirmed to be “ordinary medical checks requiring anesthesia”.

Raiola was born in the town of Nocera Inferiore in southern Italy, but moved to the Netherlands after less than a year.

He worked as a waiter in his father’s Italian restaurant while in high school and then studied law for two years at university.

Raiola was a football player and administrator of a youth team before starting his career as a sports agent helping transfer Dutch players to foreign clubs.

He was rarely far from controversy or the limelight, as were many of the players he represented. Raiola compared FIFA to a mafia-like organization in 2013 and called then-president of the governing body Sepp Blatter a “demented dictator”.

Along with fellow ‘super agents’ Jorge Mendes and Jonathan Barnett, Raiola has threatened legal action against FIFA over its plan to cap transfer payments in 2020.

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