Paul Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola has been speaking about his unpopularity in the UK and in particular with Manchester United.
The agent has made a number of public comments about Pogba’s unhappiness at United that have created a rift between him and the club and that have elevated him to arch villain status among United fans.
In a Zoom chat with fellow agent Jonathan Barnett for The Athletic, Raiola addressed the situation with characteristic bullishness.
‘This image that we are bad people, it’s not true,’ Raiola said.
‘When I walk on the streets of Italy, in Holland and in France, I have the respect of all the people. I feel that there is much more respect and appreciation for what I do [outside England].
‘I don’t think in Italy they look at me as a criminal. In England, because some ex-players [whom The Athletic names as Gary Neville and Paul Scholes] get totally nervous when I talk about Pogba and Manchester United, I think they look at me like this. But I also think that deep inside, they will always be thinking, “F–k, I would have loved him as my agent when I was a player”.’
Raiola’s message throughout the interview is that if players keep turning to him, he must be doing something right, even if clubs such as United appear to have problems with him.
‘When [Sir Alex] 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.
‘All I have to say that when Ferguson left Manchester United the club’s owner [the Glazers], by buying back Paul Pogba, told me that I was right. Because I didn’t want to take Paul Pogba away. He [Sir Alex] 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.
‘With Mr Ferguson or Guardiola, I have this problem — and I think that it is changing now — that [they believe] we should submit to them because “otherwise, tomorrow, you don’t do a player with Manchester United”.
‘I don’t give a f–k if I never do another player with Manchester United. I’m not in their hands. I’m independent. We have only one party that we take care of: our players. And as long as our players like us, you do what you have to do.’
Raiola also discussed Pogba’s situation and made encouraging noises about his future with the club.
‘Today, if somebody asks me, “Can you find a club for Paul?” I could take my nephew of five and find a club for Paul at a high level.
‘Again, 50 per cent of people like you, 50 per cent hate you. But Paul has fantastic appeal worldwide.
‘Maybe the bother with the big transfer, the strange story of going away for free and then coming back for that money, was something that people were not used to. Maybe that haunted him for a little bit of time.
‘But I think that he should be appreciated overall. I heard from the club side that he is, at least, and from Solskjaer’s side. So that’s the only thing that matters.’
When Raiola has spoken in the past about the Frenchman’s unhappiness, it has always been in terms of feeling unappreciated at United. He also alluded in the interview to the rift between José Mourinho and Pogba that he claims left everyone, including the United board, baffled. The fact that the former pizza chef – who despite all his bluster, chooses his words carefully – describes manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as appreciative certainly seems to be an olive branch. It could be interpreted as a very positive sign that paves the way to the possibility of Pogba signing a new contract that could potentially keep him at Old Trafford for the rest of his career.