Just last night I was going through some old magazines and I found an interesting article from December 2008 about Nedvěd and Ibrahimovic. Both are (were) represented by Mino Raiola, a man who is well known to all Juventini. I decided to translate his interview he gave for a Czech magazine Hattrick. Raiola explains how he had to change Zlatan, he talks about Nedvěd, how he discovered him, why he was at war with Moggi and much more. I hope you enjoy it, there are some very interesting parts you may not be familiar with and you know… for few minutes you forget all about Mercato.
This article was lovingly translated by Radek – You can follow him on Twitter
When did you first see Pavel Nedvěd?
“I saw him in the National team first. Back then I was pretty close with Zdeněk Zeman whom I brought Bryan Roy, a Dutch player who signed for his Foggia team . I was always teasing Zeman. ‘One day I’ll bring you your type of player – one who runs a lot, has great technique, is eager to learn and even you won’t be able to tire him.’ When I saw Nedvěd I thought to myself. That is him! And he is Czech!”
What was your first impression of him?
“He seemed very reserved. Diffident. When we were with Nehoda (he also represented Nedvěd) negotiating a contract with Lazio he really surprised me. He made it very clear that football means a lot more to him than money. Other clubs offered him a lot more money and I wanted him to have a big contract, but coach Zeman was against him having a huge contract in the beggining. I eventually had a fight with Zeman and we went nearly 6 months without speaking to each other. Nedvěd was always telling me calmly: ‘Mino, let it go, don’t get angry…'”
Did you expect big things from Nedvěd?
“Honestly? Yes. Coach Zeman was fired and after month and a half his successor called. Dino Zoff. ‘Where did you get that Nedvěd guy??? He is insane! He is out of this world! He does things I didn’t even expect. I was aftraid that he could take me as an enemy who replaced Zeman, that he would train at 80% but he trains twice as hard as the rest.’ Zoff was the first man from Lazio who came to us and wanted to improve Nedvěd’s contract – 8 months after its original signing. Then I definitely understood that there is big future ahead of him.”
Was there a key moment in his career in Italy?
“There were two. The first one was during his second season in Lazio when he called me – He wanted to leave because he felt he was the unnecessary foreigner. He also sometimes didn’t even make the bench. I was keep telling him: ‘Pavel, be calm, you are in the stands because the coach Eriksson doesn’t have any idea what you can do. Do what is your duty and soon you’ll be playing again. After few weeks he was a key player for Eriksson.”
What about the other?
“Coach Sacchi went to Atletico Madrid and he wanted to take Nedvěd with him. Pavel didn’t want to, though. I was telling him: ‘Look, it is your business, just don’t tell anyone about it, we will take care of it.’ We went to Atletico to discuss the situation. They presented themselves with huge bid for the club and for the player. However, Cragnotti (owner of Lazio) told us that he couldn’t accept it. ‘We will give Pavel what he asks for, money isn’t a problem,’ Cragnotti said. Why did he say that? Because earlier Eriksson told him: ‘If you ever want to win the Scudetto with Lazio you can sell any player you want but Nedvěd has to stay.’ He became the highest earner in Italy and later on he won the tittle with Lazio.”
How is working with Pavel?
“Easy, very easy. White is white for him and black is black. There was a lot of interests, commercial-wise. I came to him and said that: ‘Look, Pavel… I can get you a lot of money from one company if you attend 8 of their campaigns.’ He looked at me with his eyebrows raised and said: ‘Mino, you know me well…’ When some companies call me now and ask me about Nedvěd I already know that asking him is a waste of time. No money in the world are worth disrupting his stable family life. I had an offer from Japan for him… This amount of money wasn’t even offered to Zidane. But he didn’t want his kids to change school.”
Did you ever fight?
“Honestly, we had an argument twice – both were started by someone else, though. There was a moment when Kramarič (former coworker with Nehoda) wanted to meddle in our relationship. I didn’t like him, so I told Pavel so. I am that type of person that says everything that is on my mind. Pavel had different info about him so we had a little fight. Fortunately Kramarič proved by his actions that I was right about him.”
How would you characterize Nedvěd as a person?
“He is a great man in all aspects. I tell my kids that he can be a role model for them which means he is perfect. Nobody is perfect, of course, but Pavel has values that can be seen easily by others. When Zlatan was in Ajax and I told him about Nedvěd – how he is used to hard work – he just shook his head and began to question me what the hell was I trying to tell him. I was telling him: ‘You’re a great footballer but you have to work even harder. You can work even harder and you must work even harder. When he joined Juventus he immediately called me: ‘Mino, you talked about how hard Nedvěd trains and I didn’t believe you… but it’s even crazier than you said it was. Is he crazy or what?’ I just laughed and said that I had told him so. He understood it. When you see photos of Zlatan in Ajax colours and then in Juve colours you see two completely different guys.”
How did Nedvěd’s transfer to Juventus happen?
“Madonna mia…You could write a book about it. I was always against Moggi. I used to tell myself that the day comes when Juventus will want one of my players and then he will pay for it all. When we (Mino and Nehoda) were telling Pavel that he has to go somewhere else it didn’t matter where to. Real, Barcelona… ‘It’s over in Lazio, do you understand?’ I told him. However, he wanted to stay in Rome because of his family. Calcio is important to Pavel. Very important, but family means more to him. They liked it there. Nehoda and his wife played a big part in his transfer to Juventus. We insisted with Nehoda that it is a necessary step he has to take in his career. Nehoda’s wife patiently explained it to Pavel’s wife, she told her that it is the right step in his career. She made her calm and gave her the courage needed for the change.”
What happened next?
We went to see president Cragnotti and gave him a little warning. ‘If you want to sell Pavel, you have to tell him in the eyes.’ However, Cragnotti was deeply in love with Nedvěd, he was his precious player. He told Pavel he couldn’t give him the salary we agreed on even though he’d deserved it. He told him: ‘If you accept lower salary I will make it up to you when the club is in a better situation.’ Pavel agreed with that and was happy. I wasn’t because I knew it wasn’t the right decision for his career. Not because of money, even with that salary he would be still the highest earner in Italy, but because of football reasons.”
When was the twist then?
We were preparing a contract with Lazio’s management and Nedvěd’s wife bought Pavel a golden pen to sign it. I remember it like it was yesterday. We went to training center at Formello when a photographer from GdS was waiting for us in the office, a photographer of the club, spokesperson of the club and son of the president Cragnotti – who, unlike his father, didn’t like Pavel and wanted to make big money from him. We greeted everyone, all smiles and jokes but young Cragnotti didn’t smile. he just threw a pen in front of him and barked: ‘sign it.’ Pavel took his own golden pen, signed it and without saying a word he left. ‘What an ungrateful fucker,’ Pavel whispered to me when we were alone. ‘Come on Mino, get me out of Lazio’- I told him it wouldn’t be be easy but I would do my best. I knew that the contract with Juve and Lazio over Nedved’s transfer was already signed so all it had to do was to deal with Juve and Lazio was out of the game.”
It wasn’t all that easy, though, was it?
We flew to Turin with a private jet on the qt. Nobody was supposed to know but Juventus told the papers and all of Lazio were mad at us. At Juventus they thought they outplayed us because under these conditions Pavel couldn’t come back to Lazio. Juve’s attitude was ‘You will do what I say and you will sign what I give you.’ I wanted Pavel to earn more than Zidane in Madrid. Pavel looked at the blank contract with no numbers in the salary section and in front of Juventus directors signed it with words: ‘Mino, I am now going home and in the morning you tell me if I am playing for Juventus or Lazio. You are my agent’ and left. Juventus directors then said: ‘Alright, we will give you the X.'”
Good negotiation tactics…
But then I told them: ‘I changed my mind, I don’t want X, I want Y.’ ‘You are crazy!’ they responded. And the war began. There was a lot of arguing and yelling. Then my mother called that my dad had a stroke and is in the hosptial in very serious conditions. I had had enough of this at that point and told them: ‘Listen, now I’m going back to the hotel and tomorrow I’m flying to my hometown to see my dad who isn’t doing very well. Arrange it accordingly.’ They agreed on everything.”
Why were you against Moggi?
“I was against him from the first time we met. Moggi thinks he has to have everything under control and everyone will listen to him. I didn’t want that, I wanted to built my own identity, to do things my own way. When we made the Nedvěd’s transfer to Juve official I didn’t speak to him in 6 months. Nedvěd played badly, nobody recognized him. Like he was someone else. Hopeless Moggi called me and was asking me what’s going on. I knew what was going on. In Lazio he was used to doing extra work after each training but in Juventus there was a certain coach, Ventrone, who was preparing the team physically. Former marine Ventrone who thinks like this: ‘If Zeman tortures his players in the gym at 101%, I will torture them at 150%.’ The thing was that Pavel didn’t tell himself he has enough, he kept doing extra work after each training. That’s why I told him: ‘Now you’re going to do what I tell you. Don’t let him train under Ventrone. Let him prepare the way he needs to.’ Moggi went mad. How do I imagine that could work?! Eventually, he back tracked and did what I said. Nedvěd exploded and thanks to his professionalism and determination earned the respect and trust of Juventus FC.”
What it’s like to negotiate with Moggi?
“It’s very easy, you just have to know what you’re doing. The situation was always clear between us. I was defending the rights of my players, he was defending the rights of Juventus. For example negotiations about Nedvěd’s transfer were pretty tough but when he gave you his word, he always delivered. This is the way it went in Juve. It was perfect. What can’t be said about how was Moggi dealing with players…
What do you mean…?
“Everyone thinks that Zlatan wanted to leave Juventus because he didn’t want to play in Serie B. That is not the truth. We went into a “war” with Juve in January, 6 months before Calciopoli. We were in a “war” mainly with Moggi because he promised us a better contract but then he backed out. He said to me: ‘Bring me more money that we got for Zidane and I will let Zlatan go.’ That’s why we began to negotiate with Inter back in January. They had prepared an €85m offer.
There has been a lot of talks about Nedvěd and about a possible transfer to United or Chelsea. Was there ever a real interest?
“Yes, he had those offers. Real, Manchester, Chelsea and Japan. In 2007 even from Inter. I would have taken the offer from Inter because I would have thought that it was time to open a new chapter in a new club after winning Ballon D’Or, I like adventure, I like changes but Nedvěd doesn’t. I quickly understood that Juventus is where he retires.”
Do you regret any transfer that didn’t happen?
“We already talked about the interest from Atletico. Pavel was strongly against it and so was Nehoda even though there were a lot of money on the table. Atletico got relegated the next year and Lazio won the Scudetto. To win it as a Juventus player is important but very few players won it in the Lazio colours. So no, I don’t regret anything.”
Why is Pavel so attached to Juventus?
“Because Juventus showed him a great respect and mainly under Moggi it was an ideal team for him. At Juventus you had to work really hard and whoever came from other team had to quietly adapt. There was a ‘first Juventus then the player‘ attitude. The club is bigger than its biggest star. Meanwhile in Inter it was many years that the biggest star puts a shadow over the club. Juventus is known for its serious work and Nedvěd was always fond of this philosophy.”
It had to be really awkward then that in the summer (summer 2008) there were endless debates about his new contract…
It was really awkward, I agree. I would’ve already sent the Juventus directors to hell. We have to consider, though, that new people came to Juventus and it takes time to understand how it goes in football. Today they know that they behaved unprofessionaly. It has to be said that even Pavel is at fault. He wanted to help his friend Alessio Secco who was still learning in his function. I was trying to explain to him that he can have friends outside of football but this is business. By protecting his friend he gets in my way of doing my job. He was led by the nose and then he had to hold me back because he knew that if I interfere it’s gonna get ugly.”
The offer from Inter was more interesting for you or Pavel?
“I don’t take it this way. If the offer isn’t interesting for the player it isn’t interesting for me. It was interesting from economic point of view and that Juventus would understand that we have choices. Juventus kept postponing his contract renewal. I would’ve taken the offer because as I said I thought it would be right to open a new cycle. Nedvěd would have changed Inter just like Zlatan who also came from Juventus where they have a ‘you can’t lose, no excuses’ attitude. Inter was different in this point of view. They were more of ‘a draw? It happens…’.
It can be said that Nedvěd didn’t want to be seen as a traitor to Juve fans, right?
“Juventus’ fans didn’t understand that Zlatan was being considerate because he could have easily left for free. He had a clause in his contract that said if the team is relegated due to reasons that are not in the regulations of Italian football he can terminate his contract. And this is exactly what I wanted to do in his case.”
Where did you discover Zlatan?
“Actually, it wasn’t like that. Zlatan found me. When he first came to Ajax he wasn’t exactly an easy player to train. He wasn’t the type of person who could be friends with everyone. I was, at that time, an agent of Maxwell with whom Zlatan became friends with. A lot of agents were pursuing him, they were buying him a lot of presents but he refused them saying he doesn’t need them. One time he asked Maxwell if I could meet him. I said yes but only if he calls me first. It happened and we met. At our first meeting he arrived in a Porsche, he was wearing a black leather jacket from Gucci, and had a golden Rolex on his wrist. I looked at him and said: ‘You think you are a big footballer, don’t you?’ He said: ‘Yes, I am Zlatan, the son of God.’ and then I said: ‘Zlatan, believe me, for me you are nothing. You are scoring very few goals in Ajax and with your style of play you could find a job in a circus.’ He looked at me and said: ‘If I were scoring lots of goals, my mom could be my agent, I wouldn’t need anybody.’ He always has an answer, he is very different from Nedvěd in that. Zlatan has to have the last word. I then told him he was right and I couldn’t represent him. I said to him: ‘Zlatan, if you want me to be your agent, sell your Porsche and start driving Fiat. Put your Rolex in a safe and buy some normal watch. But mainly, start training how I tell you!’ Then, I talked about Nedvěd, again. The next day he really came properly dressed, he handed me his keys from the Porsche and wanted me to sell his car. He understood quickly. When I spoke to a doctor from Ajax in the next few days he couldn’t believe how much Zlatan changed, he was so surprised he wanted to train more and more. Credit to Nedvěd for that because I kept referring to him. And my theory about hard work wasn’t just a theory thanks to him because there was a real result from it – Ballon D’Or.”
Nedvěd and Zlatan are very complicated, aren’t they?
“Pavel is not complicated at all. Zlatan used to be because of a very simple reason. There are two kinds of fear. You can be very quiet like Pavel. I don’t know if that’s due to the fact he comes from Czechoslovakia but I have to convince him all the time that he is a footballer with a capital F. He won the league with Lazio, he won the league with Juventus, he won the Ballon D’Or but to this day he still thinks he’s not a big player. Zlatan’s fear is opposite. He talks too much. He doesn’t have a problem to say he is the best footballer on the planet even though deep down he feels small. Zlatan is a pitbull. Either he dominates you, doesn’t respect you and you jump around him how he wants or you show him you are on the same level, independent just like him and he listens to you.”
Source: Hattrick Magazine (12/2008)
I hope you enjoyed the interview, have a great day! – @Radek1897