If Erling Haaland lands in Manchester later this summer the £150million Norwegian goal-machine won’t be just bringing his goals.
He’ll have Mino Raiola in tow too – and whichever club the Borussia Dortmund striker chooses, the super-agents’ hovering presence will raise the stakes for Pep Guardiola and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
So who would cope better in dealing with football’s most out-spoken and hard-nosed agent? Ole or Pep?
Old Trafford boss Solskjaer knows all about the confrontational Italian fixer after United’s trials and tribulations with Paul Pogba, one of Raiola’s A-list stars.
Raiola gave Guardiola both barrels calling the Nou Camp legend a “cowardly dog” and saying: “As a manager Guardiola is great, but as a human he’s a zero!”
Raiola micro-manages the careers of his clients – and isn’t afraid to step on toes.
It’s believed at least one major Premier League boss wouldn’t have a Raiola player in his club such is his distaste for the abrasive nature of the agent and the methods he employs to look after the interests of his players.
Raiola doesn’t care who he aggravates – and being diplomatic isn’t part of his customer service mission statement.
For the last couple of years, Raiola has frequently run to the Italian media to fire long range missiles at Solskjaer, Ed Woodward and United in general as a tactic to agitate a move for Pogba.
Raiola attacked Solskjaer for keeping Pogba “a prisoner” at Old Trafford, effectively called him out for breaking a promise to allow the French World Cup winner to leave and claimed the Norwegian had big problems at the club.
That followed a major assault on United at the end of 2019 when Raiola saying the club were so badly run “they’d ruin even Maradona, Pele and Maldini”.
Solskjaer’s neatly side-stepped Raiola’s goading and still has a solid relationship with Pogba even though he has almost no contact with the agent.
He’s learned to live with Raiola’s sniping – and still has Pogba despite being pressured to let him leave.
Those who know Guardiola, however, believe he’d be way less tolerant of Raiola’s outbursts – and flashpoints would be guaranteed.
That’s because the City boss picks his teams as he sees fit and would feel no pressure to select Haaland every time.
Guardiola has had Kevin De Bruyne on the bench in plenty of games, likewise Sergio Aguero, David Silva and all his top stars.
Imagine Raiola standing idly by while Haaland was left out for some games? No chance.
Raiola would be the fox in the hen coop, stirring up trouble and disrupting Guardiola’s world the first time Haaland was benched in a big, or small, game.
Guardiola’s already had a taste of Raiola and it got nasty. Will he want a repeat if Haaland joins City?
Solskjaer seems better placed to deal with Raiola and it’s unlikely he’d have Haaland anywhere but up front leading United’s line.
Which ever half of Manchester Haaland chooses – red or blue – there will be a guarantee of goals galore.
And the sure-fire certainty of fireworks too.
[email protected] (Steve Bates)