Michel Antakly craves routine as an antidote to the hurly-burly of deal making. Every Saturday the senior managing director of Morgan Stanley’s M&A division plays tennis with his coach for two hours. Antakly devotes Sundays to his wife and two daughters at their family home in London, where he’s lived for virtually his entire 24-year career at Morgan Stanley.

During that time the soft-spoken banker, who holds French and Lebanese citizenship, has worked on many of Europe’s top M&A deals. But Antakly, 47, has never chased big management jobs or flashy titles. “I like being close to my clients, earning their trust and helping to guide them through the complex strategic and tactical issues surrounding M&A and corporate finance transactions,” he says. “I like the relationship-building aspect as much as the deal-making aspect.”

Morgan Stanley entrusts Antakly with some of its biggest clients. They include commodities trading giant Glencore International, which turned to him when it wanted to acquire miner and Swiss neighbor Xstrata. Antakly was involved in every step of the $45.8 billion merger, last year’s largest. In 2012, Morgan Stanley climbed to third in M&A deal volume in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, advising on 142 transactions worth a total of $262 billion, according to Dealogic. That was a 64 percent surge from the previous year’s $160 billion, which was good for fifth place.

Antakly’s relationship with Baar-based Glencore began in 2007, when John Mack, then Morgan Stanley’s chairman, introduced the trading firm’s deal-hungry CEO, Ivan Glasenberg, to his investment banking team. In 2009, Antakly headed the Morgan Stanley group that served as joint global coordinator of Glencore’s $2.2 billion convertible bond issue; this led to the same role in the company’s 2011 initial public offering. The $10 billion IPO gave Glencore the equity currency for striking a deal with Zug-based Xstrata, of which it was already the largest shareholder.

Life wasn’t always so stable for Antakly. Born in Beirut, he was sent to France to study after the Lebanese Civil War broke out in 1975, and he moved to Paris without his parents in 1981. In those tumultuous years he excelled at chess; at age 16 he beat France’s reigning champion, who was playing a dozen games simultaneously.