In Barcelona’s attempt to sign Ajax centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, there is a difficult obstacle in the way.
It is neither Ajax nor the player, but rather the representative of the 19-year-old, the well-known agent Mino Raiola, who has a controversial past with the Blaugrana. Finding an agreement is not going to be easy.
Barcelona have everything in their favour when it comes to signing De Ligt, particularly after agreeing a deal to sign his teammate Frenkie de Jong back in January for 75 million euros plus 11m euros in variables. The defender is determined to join De Jong at the Camp Nou, with Dutch players often succeeding with the Catalan giants, plus the obvious allure of Lionel Messi.
The clubs are in harmony over a potential 70m euro deal, and some claim that an agreement has already been made between Ajax and Barcelona. However, those at the Camp Nou are said to be only focusing on the Champions League semi-finals, though they will not stop thinking about the future, with De Ligt, like De Jong, being a priority.
But this is where Raiola comes in. The agent will likely drive up De Ligt’s price, which would enable him to go to Ajax with an offer superior to that of Barcelona. That would then cause the Catalan side to either raise their offer or find that the Dutchman is now out of their price range.
There will be plenty of interest in De Ligt, too, particularly as Ajax have gone on this wonderful journey in the Champions League with the spotlight having been turned onto their star names. The likes of Bayern Munich and Juventus, as well as the major clubs in the Premier League, will all be interested in his services. Atletico Madrid, however, will not be able to afford De Ligt, as much as they would love to have him.
The previous history between Raiola and the Barcelona board will not make many Blaugrana supporters feel optimistic. The club even had to release an official statement against the agent.
“[Johan] Cruyff and [Pep] Guardiola should go to a mental hospital together,” Raiola said in 2015.
That quote came after Zlatan Ibrahimovic, one of Raiola’s biggest clients, famously came out in opposition of Guardiola after his time with Barcelona.
“Guardiola is a philosopher, he thinks he invented football,” said Ibrahimovic.
By that time, Raiola continued to receive a commission of more than one million euros per year, which was signed as part of the deal which saw Ibrahimovic join Barcelona from Inter. The Catalans then announced in a statement that they would block the outstanding payments to the agent.
Later, Raiola aligned himself with Joan Laporta, Barcelona’s president between 2003 and 2010, as he sought re-election in 2015, and even went so far as to state that Paul Pogba, another of his clients, would play at the Blaugrana if Laporta won. Instead the current president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, was victorious.
The agent also publicly criticised Barcelona’s former director of institutional relations and a member of Bartomeu’s board, Albert Soler, after he was pictured taking a trip to Turin amidst the rumours of Pogba joining the Blaugrana, despite Laporta losing in the election.
“I don’t know Albert Soler,” said Raiola. “The trip to Turin seemed political to me; to take a photograph. It was a very strange trip. It’s nonsense. Paul and I were out of Turin.”