Mino Raiola told Zlatan Ibrahimovic ‘to go f*** himself’ when trying to sign him and the unusual approach brought a lasting friendship and transfers to the biggest clubs

    “Tell this Zlatan to go f*** himself.”

    And that was enough to convince Zlatan Ibrahimovic that Mino Raiola was the agent he had been looking for.

    Raiola had a wealth of high-profile sporting talent on his books, with Ibrahimovic one of the most well known

    Getty

    Raiola had a wealth of high-profile sporting talent on his books, with Ibrahimovic one of the most well known

    Then an Ajax player, the striker wanted new representation and asked a friend, a Dutch journalist called Thijs Slegers, for some suggestions. Slegers told he he’d heard the firm that looked after David Beckham were supposed to be good. “And then, there’s another guy,” he explained.

    Questioned further on the other man in the mix, Slegers light heartedly called him a ‘mafioso’.

    “Mafioso sounds good,” Ibrahimovic said. It was Raiola, who, until his death at the age of 54, was one of the most powerful agents in football.

    Ibrahimovic had heard of him before as his friend, Maxwell, was represented by him. In his book, I Am Zlatan, he revealed Raiola had been in contact with him previously, going through Maxwell – he didn’t like to appear to keen and give away the upper hand.

    It didn’t sit well with the player and, admitting he was cocky, told Maxwell to tell Raiola that if he had nothing to offer then he wasn’t interested.

    That prompted Raiola to tell him where to go and a friendship was struck.

    Ajax was an excellent stepping stone for Ibrahimovic

    Getty Images – Getty

    Ajax was an excellent stepping stone for Ibrahimovic

    “Go f*** yourself, and stuff. I feel comfortable with that council-estate talk and I suspect that Mino and I had similar backgrounds,” he recalled. “Neither of us had been handed anything on a plate.”

    Raiola didn’t pander to him either, instead he told him he stats were rubbish and no top club would buy him unless he got his head down to work and forgot about the flash cars and expensive watches – that would all come.

    Speaking about one of their first meetings in an interview last year, Ibrahimovic recalled: “The first meeting, he pulled out these bits of paper and said these are great players with great statistics.

    “He showed me, Andriy Shevchenko, 25 games and 23 goals. Filippo Inzaghi, 27 games and 25 goals. Christian Vieri, 24 games and 23 goals.

    “Then Ibrahimovic, 21 games and four goals. He said: ‘How can I sell you if you have these statistics?’

    “I believed in myself and said if I had those statistics, I wouldn’t need an agent, even my mother could sell me. This is why I need an agent. Mino laughed.”

    As a result of his relationship with Raiola, Ibrahimovic has played for the world’s biggest clubs

    AFP or licensors

    As a result of his relationship with Raiola, Ibrahimovic has played for the world’s biggest clubs

    It worked. Ibrahimovic knuckled down, lived more humbly and eventually moved to Juventus in 2004 in a career that took in Inter, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Milan.

    He will be 41 years old later this year and still has not lost the hunger and desire to train.

    The two remained close as one of Raiola’s most famous clients and, as the agent’s condition deteriorated before his passing on Saturday, it was reported that Ibrahimovic left Milan training early to be by his side.

    Raiola had a relentless drive to be the best and get his players the best contracts.

    He was much loved by those he looked after, with Erling Haaland tweeting a picture of the two together alongside a caption

    That is all that mattered to him really.

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