Just 48 hours after completing the most high-profile transfer of the January window, one of the world's most notorious agents brokered the deal for the Socceroos' new coach. Fairfax Media can reveal that Mino Raiola, the agent at the centre of the trade of Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan between Arsenal and Manchester United, negotiated the deal for Football Federation Australia to appoint his client, Bert van Marwijk, as the new coach of Australia.
With the trade between Sanchez and his client Mkhitaryan still dominating the press in the UK, Raiola spent two days in London and the Netherlands with FFA chief executive David Gallop and head of national teams Luke Casserly to finalise a short-term deal for van Marwijk to lead Australia through to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The Mkhitaryan deal landed Raiola another lucrative agent fee on top of the minimum $40 million he earned for Paul Pogba's transfer from Juventus to Manchester United a year earlier and the several deals involving his other clients Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mario Balotelli and Romelu Lukaku.
Perhaps it was that reward that put the hard-ball agent - whom Sir Alex Ferguson famously labelled a "shit bag" - in a generous mood when he met the FFA. It's understood Raiola negotiated the reported minimum $1.25 million contract for van Marwijk for free and did not request an agent fee from the FFA.
"Mino, all he wanted to do was everything he could to make it happen. He's a very intelligent guy, very pleasant and I couldn't speak more highly of him," Casserly said. "He's got an enormous reputation in world football but I can happily say, in this case, he was just really happy to help facilitate an agreement."
The meeting with Raiola was the finale of a lengthy process to find the replacement for Ange Postecoglou that involved a panel of former Socceroos stars. Casserly's preference was for a long-term plan, but the former national team stalwarts advised that success at the World Cup was paramount and addressing the short-term situation of the Socceroos had to be the immediate priority.
"Any long-term plan with the national team, the end goal is to perform at your peak in the World Cup and allow people to put their best foot forward at the World Cup. That struck home, those wards from [Mark] Schwarzer, [Mark] Bresciano and [Stan] Lazaridis. We owe it to the players, the staff and fans to give the team every chance to succeed at the World Cup. That shifted my thinking early in the piece on where we might end up," Casserly said.
With limited preparation for the tournament, experience, past results and form in short time-frames were the priority over style and philosophy but, even still, van Marwijk ticked every box for the FFA.
"A proven record at World Cup level, a pedigree of success. Had a proven track record of being able to have an immediate impact on performance. Clear strategies, strong communication, able to speak English and philosophically align with us. The big one with Bert van Marwijk, having just played us recently in World Cup qualifier ... from the very first conversation, it was clear he had a lot of detailed knowledge of [The Socceroos] ... a big one was the knowledge of our team."
It's understood Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold is set to be formally interviewed in the coming months to replace van Marwijk as the long-term Socceroos coach.
Mino Raiola's top clients
Paul Pogba, Manchester United and France.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Manchester United and Sweden.
Romelu Lukaku, Manchester United and Belgium.
Marco Verratti, PSG and Italy.
Mario Balotelli, Nice and Italy.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Arsenal and Armenia.
Gianluigi Donnarumma, AC Milan and Italy.
Blaise Matuidi, Juventus and France.
Sergio Romero, Manchester United and Argentina.
Giacomo Bonaventura, AC Milan and Italy.
M'baye Niang, Torino and Senegal.