Exclusive: Erling Haaland’s agent reveals life after Mino Raiola
Rafaela Pimenta, Erling Haaland’s agent and heiress to Mino Raiola’s empire, spoke exclusively to AS in Monaco and shed light on the Norwegian’s future.
Rafaela Pimenta (born in Sao Paulo, 1972) put aside a brilliant career as a lawyer to live a footballing adventure that led her to meet Mino Raiola in 1998 and be his partner for 25 years. The company of the late ‘super’ agent is still intact, just as he left it. In it is his eldest son Mario (21), engrossed in the screen of his laptop and in the company of Mío, the family dog. The agency’s offices occupy one floor of an emblematic building in Monaco. Inside, the activity is frantic, several employees pass from one place to another with big smiles on their faces. There is no trace of the painful absence of Mino, of which one year has already passed. It is what he wanted.
His partner for the last 25 years, Rafaela, is now the one pulling all the strings and taking care of the business. We sat down with her to find out more...
Are you comfortable in your new role leading the company?
I had no other choice. What happened with Mino was unexpected. These were difficult moments due to the emotions of the situation and the desire to help him as much as possible in the months when he was not well.
Did your life change much?
My father used to say, “It is better to be a friend of the king than to be the king.” And it makes sense. Now I have less time for my family, I travel more, because what we used to do together now I do alone. But we have added important people to the group and everything continues along its course.
How did you get into this business?
My partner offered me the chance to enter football as a lawyer to represent Rivaldo's company. We started an adventure and created a club called Guaratinguetá, which still exists. And it was at this moment that through this Rivaldo partnership, Mino arrived in Brazil. He wanted to enter that market. And there we began our collaboration.
And you became partners?
Yes. Our first transfer together was Fabio Monezine, who is in Qatar today as a coach. We took him to Udinese. Then I decided to travel to Italy to stay for just one year... But I settled down. I specialized in international law. At that time, sports law didn’t even exist… It was a mixture of international, civil and tax law.
What is it like to be a woman in this ‘world of men’?
I am positive. I always see the glass half full. But it is obvious that there are many prejudices. Men often try to demoralize women, and they do it with stupid arguments like that a woman doesn’t know about soccer. Why can a woman be an astronaut or your mother but can’t talk about football? There are men who use this to destroy your self-confidence.
Did you have any bad experiences?
Once I was arguing with a sporting director. The club had to pay something to the player and did not want to do it. The discussion continued and he was unable to impose himself. And when he had no more arguments, he told me: “But are you really a lawyer? I thought you were just a Brazilian whore.”
But I still see the glass as half full, because when I started in this, 25 years ago, women did not have relevant positions to decide, not even secondary ones. Mino was even given strange looks when he appeared in meetings with a woman.
Was he an open person?
Absolutely. A thousand percent. Mino had enormous merit. He didn't know what racism or prejudice meant. For him, all people were equal, regardless of gender, salary, color, religion... Mino had to face many prejudices. And not just with me. I never understood why it mattered, for example, whether or not Mino was fat. Or if he went to a meeting dressed casually.
How do you remember Mino's last months?
He thought, I believe, of us. Not of himself but of his children, of his family, of what would happen when he was not there...
What was your attitude towards this business that you built with so much effort?
He told me something important: “You must be free to do what you want. This partnership should not be an obligation for you. You don’t have to carry this burden if you don’t want to. You should do what makes you happy. If you want to continue that’s fine with me. If you don’t want to do it, fine also.” And I think it was an act of generosity on his part.
Did he pass knowing you would continue?
No. He didn’t ask me. He only told me: “You are free to do whatever you want.” But look, Mino was very smart and he knew that by telling me this, I would continue [laughs].
What was the last thing he said to you?
Were there people who wanted to take advantage of Mino's death?
Mino and I were constantly trying to understand how the people around us thought about this business. We knew what to expect from each other. And if he could talk to Mino today, he would tell him: “You were right again, for better or for worse.” For me, there were surprises, yes.
---what do you mean ’surprises’?
Because certain agents, if they can be called that, rang up some players the same day that Mino passed away. The same day! This for me exceeded a level that I did not expect. I also know what those players replied. And for Mino it would be a source of pride. On the other hand, the big agents, who are few, behaved well, supporting, calling, with their presence...
Did Mino leave Haaland's future closed before leaving?
No, no... Mino stopped working in December 2021, when he already knew what was going to happen.
Could Erling go to Real Madrid?
I can’t talk about this, I’m a lawyer [laughs].
What a shield you have with that role...
[Laughting]. I have an easy way out that Mino couldn’t use.
What is Haaland like as a person?
It is impossible to think of him and not smile. He is hilarious. We both look at each other and start laughing, it’s inevitable. It’s one facet of him, the other is that he’s hyper-professional and serious about his work. I recently saw him at his house, I brought him a report from his social media... 84 pages of it. He did not want highlights, he wanted to read it in its entirety. After three hours without getting up, studying it, he suddenly said: “I’m starving, when will you let me eat something?” By God, Erling, you are at home, eat when you want! He is a very devoted boy.
Do players have more and more power?
Definitely. Mino hated social media. I do not. As long as you use them in a smart and limited way, they will help you a lot. Before players could not control the bad narrative for himself. Now it is different. The player has absolute control of the story around him. You can explain to the world who you really are. And this, to me, is power.
Do they also have power over the contracts they sign?
I am in favor of freedom. It is my battle. I always say that one of my priorities as an agent is to offer the player what I call 'the key to the door'. When the player goes to a club, I do everything to create the conditions so that the key to the door is in his hands. And if tomorrow you can't stand being there anymore because you don't like it, or they don't pay you well, or because your wife wants to live in Paris? Well, you're leaving, aren't you? I don't like when my player is not free to decide.
The worker must have the right to be transferred, to decide his own life. I invite the fans to think that the players are also people.
Does Haaland have the key to the door?
I will answer in generic terms. I have done all the contracts for this agency in the last 25 years. Everybody. There wasn’t a single time that a player said “I want to go” and couldn’t do it.
Does Haaland have a release clause to leave after 2024?
It is difficult to answer this. If I don’t tell him anything, he’s going to be misunderstood. If I tell him something, he will also be questioned. So I prefer not to say anything.
So, by leaving it up in the air, you’re hinting that there is such a clause, no?
I'm not saying anything.
And why keep that possibility of clause alive if there wasn’t one?
Because the mystery is always interesting [laughs]. It’s always sexier, isn’t it?
Did Guardiola lie then when he said there was no exit clause for Haaland?
I have not seen what Guardiola said, I cannot say.
He simply said there was no clause.
I don’t know…
Where is Haaland’s limit?
He’s in a place that is not yet known in football. He is the peak of the modern player. He will go further than those who came before him because of everything we now know about the human body, the training possibilities, nutrition... He will break all records.
Will he end up playing in Spain?
My hope is that he is always happy wherever he is. And today he is very happy at City. Tomorrow, we’ll have to think about it. It is not positive for a footballer to play one season thinking about the next. It’s like you start thinking about your next woman the day you get married [laughs]. Today, Haaland is ‘married’.
So, just ‘married’ it’s hard for Haaland to have the key to the door, right?
That’s true but as a lawyer I have to prepare for the possibility that if you need the key, you can have it.
It was smart to sign that clause for Haaland in Dortmund, but then no one knew the potential he had. Was it easier?
Everything is relative to the moment the player is in. Haaland was not so well known to the public then, but he was to the professionals. At that stage of his career, that clause that was imposed was fair. That’s why Dortmund accepted it!
How much is Haaland worth today?
We priced Pogba at 80 million and everyone said... it’s incredible! Today many are worth that. The top is at Neymar’s 222... The numbers change. For me, Haaland is worth 1,000 million. Maybe nobody is going to pay that, but he has the potential he has when he arrives at a club. With it come fans, goals, results, professionalism, digital content, notoriety, sponsors... If you put all this together, his value is an aggregate of many things.
But the price of a footballer is actually set by a club. I know that nobody is going to pay 700 million for a player, but I am very clear that the value that Erling adds when he arrives at a club is immense, at least 1,000 million.
Will you continue Raiola's fight against FIFA?
My thinking was always aligned with Mino’s. That’s why we were together for 25 years. Mino did not have a fight against FIFA. He was trying to explain what a football agent does. And of course there are good and bad agents, like doctors, and nobody wants to kill all the doctors in the world. The agent is an important player in this market.
What do you think of the recently approved regulations for agents?
Here I am influenced by my legal training. When I see a regulation that, in my opinion, does not conform to national laws, I do not accept it. That's why we're going to take it to court.
Does it make sense to limit agent commissions?
Something that is not consistent with the law does not make sense. All abuses of power and dictatorships start with small things. Is this regulation a big or small violation of freedoms? It doesn’t matter, because one violation of freedom can bring more. I lived through the dictatorship in Brazil, and there the law no longer exists. That dictatorship began with small things, with small abuses by the Government. And then, if the lyrics of a song were not liked by the military, one could die. Everything that goes against the law, for me, cannot be upheld. Limiting commissions is not the main point for me.
The problem is that it is an intervention of contractual freedom between the parties. A non-governmental organization cannot do that. You cannot make that intervention of the private initiative.
Are you in favor of the European Super League?
We have to first understand what it is. They didn't even have time to explain well what they wanted to do. It was like a bomb that went off. For me the project is not yet clear. But it seems to me that there is an intention, a job, to add something more to the fun of football, to the opportunity to watch good games. It is about making an addition, not a break. And I think we should always have an open mind to create, add, build and increase the chances of living this passion that is football.
What is your opinion of Real Madrid as a club?
I have an empathetic relationship with José Ángel, although we only did Areola in the past. But of course, Madrid is football itself. Everything is nice there. Where you eat, where you sleep, the stadium, the training center... But this is actually something common to all the big clubs, City, Bayern, Barcelona...
Mino had a good relationship with Barça, right?
Yes, me too [laughs]. I always say that Laporta can’t ask me for anything in football. It’s not fair, because he knows I’m going to say “yes”.
Do you know Florentino Pérez?
José Ángel introduced him to me, but I have not been able to delve into the relationship. We have friends in common, like Galliani. They all respect him a lot. I can imagine that he is a great man and deserves all the respect.
Is the Premier League light years away from LaLiga?
When I started in this, if I offered a player the chance to go to the Premier League, he would answer me: “But what have I done wrong? I want Italy or Spain.” Today a player tells you: “My dream is to go to the Premier League.” They don’t tell you the team, only the league.
Look, I am Latina and I have a more intense emotional connection with Spain, Portugal and Italy. I want a strong Spanish league! And when you talk to Laporta, José Ángel, Sevilla or Valencia, they tell you that this effort is being made. They have a plan.
What’s the next big step in football?
For me it is in the new technologies, in the metaverse. Have you tried a 3D virtual experience? Is incredible! This is going to change football. It’s going to give people who can’t afford it the chance to travel and watch a game. What’s more, to be inside it.
I tried the United experience and it's like being on the pitch watching the players go by. You are playing with them!
Is it the future?
Travis Scott’s Fortnite concert was one of the most public in history, more than 12 million attendees. No stadium can accommodate this amount of people. I hope that the clubs can monetize these experiences, that a Colombian can enjoy the Bernabéu without leaving home. This for me is fantastic, it is the future.
It has been shown that the physical emotions of heartbeat, blood flow and body heat that the virtual experience gives you are the same as those that the real experience causes you. And I return to your question. How much is Haaland worth? It depends where the technology goes...
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