Jersey numbers can mean more to a player than simple digits, which originally used to reflect one’s position on the field. Nowadays, most numbers hold a meaning or two for the person donning it on his back, and at Milan, it is no different. Today, Rossella Marrai-Ricco breaks down the beautiful meanings behind some of the Rossoneri jersey numbers.
Times are changing at Milanello, and with it, comes a change of jersey numbers. No longer, do the numbers one through to 11 outline a coach’s preferred starting XI. Instead, a player now has the freedom to select his preferred figures, and a lot of the time; they carry a completely different meaning from a playing position.
Nowadays, the digits at the back often carry a symbolism of some sort, and for this year’s squad, Vincenzo Montella has a number of sentimental players at his disposal.
Andrea Conti – 12
Traditionally reserved for the back-up choice goalkeeper, Andrea Conti hasn’t officially revealed why he chose the number 12 jersey but there has been one notable suggestion – AC Milan legend Marco Van Basten. The Dutchman was known for his suave moves on the field, and after donning the No.12 during the 1988 Euro final against the USSR, where he scored a goal, it seems that the Rossonero legend may hold a special place in Conti’s heart. Conti tries to be equally fluid when it comes to pushing forward with the ball, and perhaps, Van Basten has inspired him somewhat.
Alessio Romagnoli – 13
Since Thiago Silva’s departure for PSG back in 2012, Milan have struggled to have a solid and tactically astute centre-back at their disposal. Alessio Romagnoli’s arrival to Milan, however, has changed that, and whilst still young, he has often displayed characteristics of a traditional Italian defender. Upon his arrival to the club, Romagnoli abandoned the No.46 in order to inherit the famous jersey previously worn by Alessandro Nesta. With a hunger to become as successful as his fellow Laziale, Romagnoli opted to carry the weight of the No.13, and so far he is yet to let down Nesta’s legacy.
Leonardo Bonucci – 19
Highly attached to the number 19, Bonucci even has his own hashtag, #LB19, to give him a distinct trademark. Upon arriving at Casa Milan, the jersey had already been given to Franck Kessie, who also holds an attachment to the figure. Bonucci’s affinity to the integers stems from a number of factors, with him namely having gone through good times and bad times with it on his back. He believes that those times and the number have helped him develop into the man and player he is today. In addition, the number one signifies the sun – the universe’s most powerful source – while the number nine is a tribute to his wife, Martina's, birthday.
Lucas Biglia – 21
For 10 years this jersey was one of the most admired Rossoneri kits in the country, with the name Andrea Pirlo printed across the back. It is because of the way “Trilly” commanded the midfield, created play, and orchestrated movement that Lucas Biglia chose to don the same jersey. Regardless of the way things ended between Adriano Galliani, Milan and Pirlo, the Argentine’s comments on Pirlo certainly helped him win over admirers.
Patrick Cutrone – 63
Even in this day and age, it’s rare to see jerseys surpass the number 35, but in Milan’s case there are few players who have gone for some bold figures. Patrick Cutrone, who donned the No.9 for the Primavera side, opted to sport the No.63 on his back due to his father – who was also a football player. Furthermore, the addition of the two digits accumulates to his previous jersey number.
Ricardo Rodriguez – 68
Throughout his career, the Swiss defender has grown very attached to the number 3 – a figure reflective of his position on the field. However, due to that specific jersey being reserved for the Maldini family, Rodriguez’s second option was 13 – a jersey already owned by Romagnoli. This then left the full-back in a bit of peculiar position, but he didn’t need much time to make his decision – the number 68. His choice was made to honour his late mother, who was born in 1968. Few things get more sentimental than that!
Franck Kessie – 79
Unselfishly, Kessie opted to handover the No.19 to Bonucci, but he could be forgiven for his powerful attachment to the number. Not only did the number 19 reflect the day of his birth; but also, it was the day he arrived in Italy, and the day his father sadly passed away. Like Bonucci, the number had seen him through good times and bad, and he opted to release that figure after a conversation with his mother. The Ivoirian chose to have the No.79 on his back, because, from far, it looks like the No.19 on the field.
Elsewhere on the field, the Donnarumma brothers can be found sporting 90 (Antonio) and 99 (Gianluigi) on their backs, and that is because they chose to sport the year of their births on their back. Coincidentally, Manuel Locatelli scored his first ever Serie A goal for Milan in the 73rd minute – the number he wears on his back.
The sentimentality behind these jerseys is just one of the many reasons why we call it: “The Beautiful Game.”
When Milan won the 2007 UEFA Champions League in Athens, they were one of the oldest teams to swing aloft the famous “Big-Eared” trophy, recording an average age of 31. Ten years on, though, and the Rossoneri have finally embraced the winds of change. Featuring as the youngest team in Serie A last term, Vincenzo Montella not only put his trust in youth, but several academy products, and this year he has unleashed yet another exciting prodigy in the shape of Patrick Cutrone – a striker who lives to put the ball into the back of the net. Rossella Marrai-Ricco takes a look at his pre-season form…
It should be Andre Silva creating the headlines; instead, it’s a Primavera graduate who is yet to play 90 minutes of a top-flight fixture in Europe. Don’t know him? Well, you soon will!
The Portuguese’s arrival to Milanello was met with much enthusiasm. Courted by most of Europe’s top clubs, the 21-year-old was swooped up by Marco Fassone and Massmiliano Mirabelli as the Rossoneri’s fourth arrival of the summer. It was an unexpected move that surprised all, but one, which left the club’s fans, overjoyed.
Silva had scored 22 goals in 44 appearances across all competitions for Porto – the combined total Carlos Bacca and Gianluca Lapadula notched up for the Rossoneri last term – while he has also bagged eight goals for his country in just 13 outings.
In the last two years, Andre Silva has proven himself a dynamic and pacey striker with a natural eye for goal, leaving little room to question why he has been dubbed Cristiano Ronaldo’s heir to the Selecção. Yet, his arrival has been somewhat overshadowed by an equally incredible and younger prospect, Cutrone...
With the Portuguese star having reported to pre-season camp later than most due to his country’s participation in the FIFA Confederations Cup, and with Bacca’s future still up in the air, Cutrone saw an opportunity to impress Vincenzo Montella, and he grabbed it with both hands.
Selected in Milan’s starting XI in the Diavoli’s first pre-season friendly ahead of the 2017/18 Serie A campaign, Cutrone wasted no time in putting his name on the scoresheet. With only 98 seconds on the clock, Cutrone latched onto a defence-splitting through-ball to casually slice the ball into the back of the net from eight yards out.
His goal was the start of a four-goal onslaught by Montella’s men, but what was crucial to note is how he played a major role in creating the goalscoring opportunity. As the Rossoneri pushed forward, the teenager combined well with Andrea Bertolacci and Franck Kessie to pull off fluid and swift moving triangular play, before then poking the ball over the line.
It was his first goal of the “campaign”, and he hasn’t stopped there. Against Dortmund, Cutrone showed equal hunger in front of goal, and he came agonizingly close to pulling one back for Milan…
Despite missing the one-on-one opportunity inside the box, Cutrone put out promising displays in China that caught the attention of onlookers. He showed relentless desire to win and chase down balls, drifted deeper into the midfield to carry the ball further up the park, combined well with Kessie once again, and showed aerial strength in challenges.
The latter element of his game proved crucial when he netted in the opening goal against Bayern Munich in the International Champions Cup, before then going to add a second strike to his name with toe-poking effort from a cross off the left flank. Once again, the teen was the one who had initiated the play on his goal, by passing the ball from the edge of the D to M’baye Niang, who then played it wide to Giacomo Bonaventura. The midfielder chased down the ball before crossing it into the box for Cutrone to poke home, making it three goals in three friendly matches for Milan.
Speaking after the game, he said: “It's a day I'll never forget, on the first goal I didn't even think I'd scored, while the second was a great team move.”
While it may be early days still, Cutrone has displayed classic goal poaching qualities worthy of Pippo Inzaghi’s approval, while he has proven himself equally dynamic, packed with pace, physically strong, hungry for goals, and can hold the ball up well. All necessary qualities to become a top striker, but he is no stranger to scoring…
Under the guidance of Stefano Nava, the centre-forward discovered some of his best form, and in 22 appearances with the Primavera side last term, he found the back of the net on 19 occasions, bagging three assists in the process. Those figures followed a campaign with the Primavera B side, where he scored 22 goals in 31 outings to make the most prolific goal-scorer to come out Rossoneri academy.
If that isn’t an impressive enough return, Cutrone has also bagged a remarkable 33 goals for the six various youth national teams for Italy, turning out for his country a total of 57 times.
“We all played a great game [against Bayern Munich], from the first minute to the last. Compared to Borussia [Dortmund] something changed,” he added after the 4-0 win over the Bavarians. “It's a win which increases our confidence ahead of Craiova, and now we have to think only about that game because it's crucial for our season.”
So promising Cutrone’s form has been, he is likely to start for the San Siro outfit against the Romanian club in the first leg of the Europa League clash later this week, and it has even been reported that Bacca is likely to make way in order for him to remain at Milanello.
Donning the number 63 on his back to honour his father, Cutrone is so passionate about the game that he often requires alone time to reflect on the odd occasion things don’t go his way in front of goal. And while he may have a mature head on his shoulders, the striker is still young, has to learn to compete against other quality strikers at Milan, and has plenty to prove – a challenge he won’t shy away from.
It was just the other day when mayhem ensued outside of Milan’s headquarters of Casa Milan. A couple of hundred fans patiently stood waiting for the arrival of the most unexpected deal of the transfer window to be finalised… Yes, that would be Leonardo Bonucci! The expected heir to Gianluigi Buffon’s armband was crossing the great divide, exchanging his white stripes for red, and, what rubbed salt into the deep wounds was the promise that he would be named club captain. An unusual precedent for a player who had yet to step foot at Milanello, but one, which Rossella Marrai-Ricco feels, is crucial.
Echoes of a remixed version of “Sarà Perché Ti Amo” reverberated across the piazza, and when the Audi transporting Bonucci arrived at Also Rossi, fans let out the biggest screams of joy that had not been heard since 2007’s success in the UEFA Champions League final.
Not since the return of Kaka in 2013 had a player been that warmly welcomed by the Milanisti faithful, and the wide-eyed smile spread across the 30-year-old’s face said it all… Bonucci’s arrival immediately made him part of something much bigger than just a simple switch between rivals.
It was a new beginning for him, but in the same token, it was the start of a new and exciting chapter in the Rossoneri history books. And he was likely to be the author of it…
Even before the towering defender had been rumoured with a Juventus exit, Milan had already undergone a transfer market campaign worthy of Adriano Galliani in his prime, courtesy of the unrelenting work ethic from Massimiliano Mirabelli and Marco Fassone.
A total of eight players had already been snapped up, and it included some of Europe’s most impressive defenders last season, along with Cristiano Ronaldo’s heir, Andre Silva, the continent’s leading set-piece taker Hakan Calhanoglu, and Africa’s exciting prodigy Franck Kessie.
Their arrivals to Milanello was the start of a change in mentality amongst the fans, but when Bonucci greeted the mass of people at Casa Milan’s doors, and uttered the words: “Ci vediamo dopo” (We will see later), did the full crux of the paradigm shift take place.
The jubilant mood felt across the fashion capital had little to do with snatching away one of the best defenders in the world from their rivals. Instead, Bonucci’s signing provides Milan with a unique psychological boost that hasn’t been present since Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s transfer seven years ago.
It has created an element of belief that Milan can now compete with Europe’s heavyweights for the signature’s of in-demand players, and Fassone’s pursuit of a big-name striker is further proof of that. Moreover, the psychological impact Bonucci will bring to the changing room will ultimately spark a different mentality amongst his new colleagues…
For years Milan have awarded the armband to the player with the most Rossoneri appearances to his name, seeing it often switch between Ignazio Abate and Riccardo Montolivo depending on availability.
Sadly, the veteran midfielder hasn’t been able to fill the boots of Paolo Maldini and Massimo Ambrosini, and his quiet persona saw him become the equivalent of a soft voice in the boisterous Curva Sud. It is because of this, that Bonucci is likely to inherit the armband famously sported by Maldini and Franco Baresi, and there is little doubt that he will live up to their daunting legacy.
Rarely one to ever feel unnerved by responsibility, the Italian international spent the past seven years at Vinovo developing into one of the world’s most progressive defenders, and being molded into one of the game’s toughest hard-men.
Under the guidance of Antonio Conte and the incredible partnership alongside Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Gianluigi Buffon, the Viterbo-born player learned the values of leadership, and, above all, the hunger to succeed.
During his time with The Old Lady, Bonucci went on to swing aloft an impressive 15 trophies, and despite winning all there is to attain in Italy, he has never once showed any sign of complacency. For him, it’s about “fighting with more hunger than ever,” as he declared in his latest Instagram post, and he is likely to carry that same mentality to Milanello.
Known for having his own personal mentor and motivator, Bonucci is well aware of what is needed to compete and succeed at the top. He consciously ensures that he is constantly placed in a stimulating environment and is surrounded by encouraging people who are guaranteed to fuel his unwavering passion and desire.
All these elements are required traits for a Milan captain, and with the Rossoneri having lacked that strong personality in the locker-room for several years, it comes as no surprise that Vincenzo Montella is tempted to hand him the ‘fascia’.
The ominous banner from two years ago, which read: “Game over. Insert coin and save AC Milan.” Seems like a long and distant memory now… And after a long and patient wait, the fans can now prepare to see a real leader head out of the San Siro tunnel, and he is likely to get an arousing welcome by the Curva Sud.
AC Milan are currently in the midst of a historical and stunning transfer campaign that will go down as the most expensive transfer window conducted by an Italian club, and with 10 new faces set to don the famous red and black strip, Vincenzo Montella must surely feel that Christmas has arrived early at Milanello this year. However, the money spent doesn’t guarantee success, Rossella Marrai-Ricco takes a look at why Montella is currently facing the toughest test of his career.
Things are happening at Milan. It seems an odd thing to say, but for several years the Rossoneri have passed through transfer markets signing free agents, taking weeks to secure a deal, and then signing up players largely considered “not Milan quality”.
Times have changed. Silvio Berlusconi’s 31-year spell as owner of the sleeping giants was brought to an end in April, and new owner Yonghong Li has taken over. His takeover has seen him welcome the arrival of Marco Fassone and Massimiliano Mirabelli, and with them, a blank check. Or so it seems.
No longer shackled by the financial constraints of Berlusconi’s inability to invest fresh money into the club he turned into greatness in the late 80s and 90s, the management duo have started to rebuild a competitive squad from scratch.
Well aware that the Rossoneri’s season would commence a month earlier than normal, due to Europa League commitments, Fassone and Mirabelli got to work fast…
Mateo Musacchio was the first to arrive before the Serie A season had even ended, Franck Kessie soon followed, along with Ricardo Rodriguez. Then a scoop out of nowhere for Portugal’s most promising talent, Andre Silva, was secured for a bargain fee of €35 million.
It didn’t end there though... Fabio Borini was snapped up on loan from Sunderland, and while he isn’t considered as glamorous a signing as the other new arrivals, he has a relationship with Montella and will provide necessary depth and versatility to the squad.
Every European club was then left in envy when the continent’s most lethal set-piece taker, Hakan Calhangolu, appeared at Malpensa airport ready to pen in a contract with the Diavoli. His arrival at Casa Milan saw him greeted by a mass group of fans, along with Andrea Conti, who missed his vacation in order to become the seventh signing of the new Milan era.
A brotherly affair soon followed, with Gianluigi Donnarumma deciding to go back on his original decision and pen in a new and improved contract with the team he grew up supporting. Upon pleading for the fans’ forgiveness, his older sibling Antonio was also re-signed to become the club’s third choice stopper. Queue quadruple handshake, and a ‘schiaffo’ from Mirabelli.
Many thought that was the end of Mirabelli’s magic, and with pre-season having officially begun, few were expecting the unthinkable to happen. Enter Leonardo Bonucci.
It took just 48 hours from when the first ‘rumour’ of him being linked to Milan turned into chaotic and joyous scenes at Casa Milan. There, he was greeted by a couple of hundred fans, was given a tour of the Milan Museum, before eventually putting pen-to-paper in a deal which cost Milan a mere €42 million in transfer fees – a steal for one of the world’s best centre-backs.
Rossoneri management hasn’t stopped there though, as Lucas Biglia is just hours away from completing his move to the red and black side of the city, and there are still reports that one of Andrea Belotti, Nikola Kalinic, Renato Sanches or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could join too.
On paper, the transfer window has been nothing short of impressive. Largely surreal for the loyal Milanista, but much needed for a club in desperate need of competing in Europe and for domestic glory again.
Last year, Montella managed to get his squad to punch above their weight… Securing their first piece of silverware back in December against Juventus was no pure fluke; he found a way to instil cohesion, unity, and a hunger amongst his players. Above all, was able to avoid any of the off-field problems with the takeover from filtering through into the squad.
The former Fiorentina tactician created a safe environment for his youngsters to develop and mature in, while he also liked to balance his squad out with experienced personnel across each department on the field.
What is most notable, though, is that most of his players had already worked alongside each other for at least one season, whereas, this year, he affectively has a brand new starting XI at his disposal.
This is where the tricky part comes in…
Out of the new arrivals, only Conti and Kessie have previously worked alongside each other at club level – at last season’s surprise package Atalanta. The Italian full-back did, however, spend the summer playing alongside his new teammates Donnarumma, Manuel Locatelli and Davide Calabria at the U21 Euros, and he is expected to form part of a completely new backline at Milan.
Last term, Montella stuck to his favoured 4-3-3 system, but with the arrival of Bonucci, Conti and Rodriguez, he now has the tactical flexibility to shift and change formations easily.
Conti and Rodriguez undoubtedly boast incredible skills going forward, and possess the pace to overlap and drop back when needed, making them available to play in the wing-back or full-back roles. Meanwhile, Bonucci will add some much-needed experience and know-how to the backline, and it is because of his proficiency and previous success that he is likely to compliment well alongside Alessio Romagnoli, and potentially Musacchio.
The much-improved depth and versatility to Milan’s defensive department will surely see the 43-year-old willingly alternate between a back four and a back three when needed. Montella is no stranger to adjusting his formation to a back three, having done so at Fiorentina.
The midfield dynamic will be an interesting one. Considering Milan spent over €50 million to refurbish that department, Montella will need to juggle the demands of each player carefully.
Kessie is raring to go, while Locatelli and Montolivo will want to compete for their place in the squad. Calhanoglu will feel he is deserving of a starting berth, despite spending the last four months of the 2016/7 campaign suspended. The same will apply for Lucas Biglia, as he will expect to be the conductor in the middle of the park, following another solid campaign with Lazio, while Suso was one of Milan’s best players last term. Although, that doesn’t mean he is guaranteed a starting spot either…
Gianluca Lapadula’s exit means Carlos Bacca and Patrick Cutrone will likely act as back-ups to Andre Silva up front. Some would say, all these options is a good headache to have.
The influx of players, different nationalities, personalities and languages will, however, mean that it will take some time for the squad of players to adapt to their surrounds, adjust to their new teammates and formations, and fully understand Montella’s coaching philosophy.
Last year, the Napoli-born coach led Milan to fifth place on the Serie A table and to their first trophy in six years. It was a good outcome considering the players he had at his disposal, and with latest investments having already generated massive hype, there is already talk of the Rossoneri being title contenders.
This year, the pressure to succeed almost immediately will be expected from both the media and fans – something last year’s squad didn’t have to worry about. Not to mention, the Rossoneri will also be participating in the Europa League, adding an extra competition that wasn't there before. This is what makes it Montella’s biggest test so far.
He will have to find a way to stave off the pressure, fina a way to equally utilize his squad between competitions, and man-manage his players in the same quiet and professional manner he conducted himself with last term. He, his players and club management must accept that it will take time for his squad to become a ‘well-oiled’ machine, but there is a delicate line… If it takes too much time, then he will start to feel the heat, and questions will be asked.
After 12 months of being able to go about things rather quietly, and with no severe weight of expectations on his shoulders, Montella will now be tested in a new manner. It will be interesting to see how he fares.
Mino Raiola may have pulled off some of the biggest deals in European football, but not even he can use those signing-on fees to hide behind his continuous contradictions. Rossella Marrai-Ricco unravels Raiola’s latest comments on the Gigio-saga.
Famously known as Europe’s super agent, Raiola has once again been dominating headlines after his client Gianluigi Donnarumma opted to not renew his contract with Milan. The teen’s decision was confirmed last Thursday evening, and since then, it has resulted in many having accused Gigio’s representative of persuading the 18-year-old to choose a different path – a path, which would ultimately land Raiola more money…
Unsurprisingly, the negative press has been a bitter pill to swallow for Raiola, leaving him in a position where he needed to act fast. What to do? Host a press conference, of course!
With only a handful of carefully selected media houses present – SportItalia withdrew on a matter of principle, claiming the media cannot be used only when he needs – the agent sat down to reveal his account of the negotiations. And true to his bombastic persona, the 49-year-old didn’t hold back.
Speaking to Sky Sport Italia, Raiola declared: “The situation had become too violent and hostile, so there was no way out. We took a decision that we didn’t want to take. It was nothing to do with money. We were threatened. Donnarumma’s family was threatened, both with not playing anymore and threatened with death. You can’t keep a player by threatening him.”
He then mirrored similar sentiments to Gazzetta dello Sport, where he claimed that Donnarumma was perturbed by the ultimatum reportedly given to him by Milan’s sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli. This was to be the first of several contradictions on the night.
“What really struck him was that remark by Mirabelli -- 'If you don't sign, you're going to stay in the stands,'” he declared. “Let's see what happens now, but it stinks of mobbing around here. It's best to die on your feet than live on your knees.”
Just three weeks prior, however, Raiola swiftly rubbished reports claiming such an incident occurred, declaring that he believed that it was a third party’s intention to strain the relationship between club, player and agent.
“Nobody said Gigio doesn't want to renew with Milan," Raiola told Radio Deejay. “I don't think Milan's directors said any such thing [about banishing him to the stands]. I think people are just trying to create a war between Milan and me.”
So was their an ultimatum/ “threat’” or not? Milan should know better that it isn't in their interest to make their star player feel uncomfortable.
It now seems that Vincenzo Montella will have the final say on whether or not Donnarumma will play next season, should he not get sold in the summer. Still, that hasn’t stopped Marco Fassone and Mirabelli from having already sprung into action in finding a new stopper for the club. Both Norbeto Neto and Mattia Perin’s agents were at Casa Milan on Monday afternoon.
Fassone made it very clear that he needed to have a back-up plan in case negotiations went awry, but according to Raiola, the two parties hadn’t even commenced discussions, before going on to claim – in the same sentence – he tried to negotiate a release clause.
"We never started negotiating,” he told GDS. “They tried to provoke us with a €200 million release clause but I answered with €10 million, which could be €5 million if Milan didn't qualify for the Champions League."
A reported €25 million in salaries across five years was the final figure in Milan’s concluding offer, and when it became known that Donnarumma would not sign, it became a question of whether or not the goalkeeper was chasing money.
In Thursday’s press conference, Fassone claimed that Donnarumma’s decision wasn’t based purely on finances, with Raiola echoing the same sentiments.
“Gigio has always known his place, and he never had any economic demands,” continued Raiola to the famous pink paper, before going on to question how Milan spend their funds.
“And then if you have a top player in your club like Gigio, why do you go and offer double or triple for Morata or Aubameyang? It makes no sense. Gigio is only 18-year-old? What does it even mean? Real Madrid are buying a 16-year-old Brazilian for €45m [Vinícius Júnior from Flamengo]… do you know what he’s doing? Quality is not of age.”
If money wasn't such a big deal, why question Milan's intentions on the market or bring up comparisons to other teenagers?
Undoubtedly, the biggest talking point of all was how Raiola claimed that Milan threatened their own player. A staggering claim which could ultimately have legal ramifications, and one, which surprises many, as he is the first agent to make such a bold statement.
“I don’t think we did anything wrong, we were consistent,” Fassone revealed told Sky Sport Italia. “We always laughed at the same things with Raiola. We made an important offer and showed our affection for [Donnarumma] on several occasions.
“If Gigio has been threatened, like Raiola said, I’ll get to the bottom of it and tell Raiola and the player that we’ll do everything to stick by Gigio.
“Mirabelli? No-one’s ever accused him of having a threatening attitude, Raiola was the first. Massimiliano does everything for the good of Milan and I reject Raiola’s claim that there are two Milans.”
Of course, what occurs behind the scenes is largely kept quiet, but if there were any form of threat from Milan, surely even his prized journalists would have broken the news if and when it happened? Also, it’s no secret that Raiola was never happy about Mirabelli replacing Adriano Galliani…
Fassone and Mirabelli modified their offers to suit the demands of the client, but, at the same time, remained firm and in control of the situation. By not caving into Raiola’s demands, trying to maintain as transparent to the best of their ability, and by remaining professional throughout the negotiations, Milan management ultimately outshone Paul Pogba’s representative in many aspects.
Raiola has undoubtedly contradicted himself a fair few times, and it’s likely that many more discrepancies will appear the more he talks to media. But with both him and the Rossoneri CEO having already provided their own accounts on the matter, the only thing that really interests the public now is Donnarumma’s opinion on the saga.
Gianluigi Donnarumma’s decision to not renew his contract with Milan may have shocked the football world, but there is still plenty to be positive about in the Rossoneri camp. Rossella Marrai-Ricco takes a look at why the fans can remain excited for the coming season.
It’s been a transfer market unlike recent years… While former CEO Adriano Galliani would still be wining and dining agents at Giannino Restaurant, hoping to woo potential clients with Italy’s fine cuisine and a good glass of vino, Milan’s new management of Marco Fassone and Massimiliano Mirabelli have been tacking the bull by the horns.
The former Inter duo has, undoubtedly, been two of the hardest working men over the course of the off-season, and it’s only the start... Below, are five reasons why there is plenty to look forward to regardless of what happens with Donnarumma.
Management Held Their Own
Since Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux ‘s takeover occurred in April, Fassone and Mirabelli have only conducted themselves in an utmost professional manner. When entering into negotiations with Mino Raiola over Donnarumma’s new contract, Milan willingly offered an improved deal, which met the initial demands, but, at the same time, they also required something in return – a response...
“Gigio” and Raiola did their best to delay the process, but Milan held their own and demanded an answer by 14 June - they were not going to be held hostage by a teenager and his advisor. When Gigio’s choice was eventually communicated via his agent, Fassone and Mirabelli hosted a press conference as quickly as 17 minutes after the meeting’s conclusion.
From the get-go, the communications department has instilled a new dynamic and transparent approach, and it has taken the club’s professionalism to a whole new level. The fans and the media have warmly received their quick and open response to matters, and it was evident in the manner in which they didn’t shy away from announcing Donnarumma’s future.
Four Star Signings
Two weeks still remain before the transfer window officially opens, but Milan have already started to build a competitive squad for next season.
Knowing full well that the Rossoneri’s season begins a month before most clubs – Europa League qualifiers will be played on 27 July – the scouting department has been bending over backwards to sign exciting talents.
Long-term target Mateo Musacchio was the first to undergo a medical at Milan – a week before the Serie A season had even ended – and his arrival was only the beginning of what is to be considered one of the greatest transfer windows in a long time.
Ivory Coast’s most promising youngster Frank Kessie was then snapped up on a two-year loan from Atalanta, while Ricardo Rodriguez and Andre Silva were bought from Wolfsburg and Porto respectively. The latter’s transfer fee of €35 million saw him become Milan’s second highest acquisition – his fellow countryman Manuel Rui Costa has held the record for 16 years.
What has been most impressive, though, is how management fended off stiff competition for Kessie and Silva’s signatures, while they also managed to complete a deal Galliani couldn’t do in Musacchio.
More Deals To Come
The arrival of the quartet will fill in much needed positions at Milan, but what is most important to note, is that Fassone and Mirabelli are not done yet – this is only just the beginning!
Donnarumma has, somewhat, forced management to relook at their priorities in the transfer market, with a goalkeeper now needed, but that won’t stop them from pursuing their initial targets.
Andrea Conti is desperate to make the switch to Milanello from Atalanta, and while he represents Italy in Poland for the U21 European Championship, his agent is working hard to find an agreement between Milan and Antonio Percassi over a transfer fee.
In addition, talks between Lazio and Torino for Lucas Biglia and Andrea Belotti respectively continue to take place.
Donnarumma’s Exit Not The End Of The World
Now, the questions that remain are – Will Donnarumma be sold or will he see out the end of his contract? If he stays, will he be benched or should he still be allowed to play?
Regardless of what happens, Milan will be fine without Donnarumma. Fans are truly entitled to feel hurt and disappointed in his decision, but his exit won’t affect the squad as massively as many fear.
Fassone and Mirabelli have been working hard to build an exceptionally strong outfield team, and, they will ensure that whoever comes in to replace him, will be of the quality needed to do so. If the outfield team is strong and consistent, one shouldn’t have to fear over who goes in goal.
Moreover, Alessandro Plizzari (17) is said to be as equally talented and technically gifted as his opposite number, and he could very well be the man to takeover should no one be bought during the transfer window.
There’s A Vision In Place
Lastly, management has not yet failed the club and there is a clear vision in place, which has left fans, rightfully, excited about the future.
There is a project in place both on and off the field, and the club has been working tirelessly to ensure that their vision comes to fruition.
Donnarumma may have been scouted to be a potential “bandiera” of the club, but if his choice is to go somewhere else, then Milan will continue with the good work they have been doing. His ruling is just a minor glitch to a much bigger plan that is in place at one of Europe’s most historic clubs.
Players may leave, but Milan will stay forever
Gianluigi Donnarumma may stand at a towering height of 6ft5, but in the eyes of a Milanista, he is, now, not much taller than a hobbit. Having decided to not renew his contract with Milan, the 18-year-old has instilled a sense of fury amongst the red and black half of Milan, which vastly echoes a similar rage he felt when Juventus were awarded a last minute penalty against him back in March.
His words back then were: "Sempre loro!" or "Always them!" implying that the Bianconeri are given far too many decisive decisions by the referee. However, in a swift turn of events, the words that most can be heard uttering are: "Sempre Raiola" (Always Raiola).
Indeed, Europe’s "super agent", Mino Raiola, often seems to be in the front line of the continent’s biggest and most controversial transfers…
No one will truly know what was communicated between player and agent over the course of these past few months and, in particular, the last few days, but was is certain, is Donnarumma did make the final decision. A decision, which saw him favour an agent over club, immediate success and wealth over a project, and the "betrayal" of a jersey for a badge that will never give him the same protected, family environment as Milanello.
Wherever Donnarumma goes now, he will be treated like a man, and not like a teenager with only a season and a half under his belt. A lot will be expected of him, and if he does make mistakes, he won’t be given the same leeway as what he would have been granted at Milan. His decision has immediately seen him thrust from teen to adulthood, whether he is prepared for it or not.
At 18, Gigio is, of course, free to make his own choices, and decide how and, most importantly, where he wants to take his career to the next level. However, his silence over the matter is what has left most fans disappointed.
Between the poles, Donnarumma produced mature displays beyond his years, and carried himself as a consummate professional throughout the campaign. It was when the crunch talks started to begin, that he started to mislead the public, before eventually failing to release a statement of his own.
In an interview with GQ Italia, the goalkeeper provided fans with a ray of hope by, once again, declaring his loyalty to the club: "Everyone knows that my wish is to stay at Milan. I’m looking for a house in the city to live with my family.
"I’m calm, all the parties involved know the decision I’ve made. I’m very much tied to these colours."
Three days later, Donnarumma has since untied himself from the club he grew up supporting after Milan CEO Marco Fassone announced that their multiple attempts to suit his and Raiola’s demands proved futile.
"Raiola informed us that Donnarumma has made a definitive decision not to renew the contract with Milan. It is a definitive decision, made by the player," Fassone announced at a press conference at Casa Milan on Thursday evening.
"Naturally, the decision leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, but now we have to go forward."
With the decision final, the Castellamare di Stabia-born goalkeeper is yet to provide the media and fans with a reason as to why he chose not to put pen to paper. However, according to Giocondo Martorelli – one of the men who scouted him – his past behaviours when it came to penning in deals have been questionable.
"I might come off as unpleasant to some, but I was one of the very few people who saw this coming,” Giocondo Martorelli told TMW Radio.
"I know everything about Donnarumma – his family, relatives, every corner of his home. There are things that really surprise me, namely that big newspapers and television stations pretended not to know what was behind him and always has been.
"Donnarumma’s history is complex and this is the final result of behaviour that hasn’t been fair from the start. I wouldn’t say I discovered him, as I was just fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. He was 10 years old and even a blind man would’ve been able to tell Donnarumma was a talent.
"I saw this kid in Naples and immediately called Piero Ausilio at Inter. For three-and-a-half years, up until 2013, he was being groomed by Inter and had several trial runs there.
"It all went fine until the moment he was set to sign the written contract with the club. That afternoon, we all reached an agreement – him, his father and mother – after four intense years.
"The next morning, they agreed terms with Milan, without warning or fair play. There were some precedents that made me think Donnarumma could get into this situation with Milan.
"I’ll just repeat: his family in 2013 signed for Inter. They returned to Naples, the next morning took a plane and signed for Milan. The contract they had signed less than 24 hours earlier was worthless..."
It seems that there is much more to Donnarumma’s situation than meets the eye, but for die-hard Milanista, the answer was simple: it was a matter of the heart.
Milan founder Herbert Kilpin once said: "Our colours will be red like the flames, and black like our opponents’ fear." However, over the course of the past 15 hours, the symbolism of the colours have changed somewhat: red for the raging disappointment in his decision, and black for hole left behind in his rebellion against becoming a club icon.
Gianluigi Donnarumma… if there was ever a nickname to describe him, it should be "Mister Cool" for his relaxed presence on the field, but is there something or, rather, someone rattling his cage when it comes to his contract renewal? Rossella Marrai-Ricco assesses the situation…
Ever since he burst onto the scene at the age of 16 with Milan, where he gracefully pushed Diego Lopez out of his starting berth, Donnarumma has been consistent in his displays. Performing miraculous saves with each passing match day, all while remaining refreshingly calm and composed, "Gigio" has not only been compared to his namesake Gianluigi Buffon, but he has also built himself up to be Milan’s savior, a leader, and, unintentionally, a ‘bandiera’ of the club.
Despite being born south of Italy in a town neighbouring Napoli, Castellammare di Stabia, the teenager, along with his older brother Antonio grew up supporting Milan. It was, therefore, a dream come true, when at the age of 14, he was scouted by Milan’s personal and was brought to Vismara (the club’s youth sector).
It was under the watchful eye of his Rossoneri coaches, were he further developed into the confident and towering stopper he is today…
Since being handed his Serie A debut by then Milan coach Sinisa Mihajlovic against Sassuolo, both he and the club have not looked back... So much so, he now finds himself facing some intimidating demands from Milan’s group of fans.
Forgivably, one can understand the desperation that every Milanista holds inside them. It’s been nearly a year since reports of a new contract deal started circulating amongst the media, but his agent Mino Raiola refused to entertain the thought until he knew Milan’s takeover had been signed and sealed.
Despite Silvio Berlusconi having sold off his shares back in April to Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux, Raiola is yet to sit down with Milan CEO Marco Fassone and Sporting Director Massimiliano Mirabelli to properly discuss a new deal. Leaving things justifiably tense in the Milan camp.
Reports have suggested that Rossoneri’s new management have offered the 18-year-old a staggering €2.5 million a season deal, but Raiola will only be content when his client receives over 30 times more (€5 million) than what he is currently earning.
This is where the conundrum comes in to play…
There’s no doubting Raiola’s shrewd experience in the industry is heavily influencing Donnarumma…
Which player doesn’t want to earn millions, drive in fancy cars, play for the best teams in the world, and win trophies? Exactly! And, Raiola can give that to Donnarumma, on a silver platter too, by persuading him to move elsewhere – to a bigger and better club than what Milan are right now.
On the other hand, the goalkeeper is still very young, and only recently finished his first full campaign in the top-flight. If he wanted to move, he still has plenty of time to do so later on in the future. Why now?
Perhaps the most heart-breaking part for Milanisti around the globe is that, for Gigio, it should be a simple answer. If he loves the club, he should sign.
If only politics in football was as simple as the game itself…
After Milan’s SuperCoppa success over Juventus in December, Donnarumma confirmed his affinity for the club by kissing the Milan badge and beating his hand to his chest all whilst pointing to the fans. It has somewhat become his weekly tribute to the Curva Sud, where his admirers can also be found returning the same gesture to him passion and meaning.
Still, despite his displays of affection, little over 12 months remain on his contract, and Donnarumma has yet to address neither the fans nor the media about his status at the club, indicating he is perhaps seriously considering his options.
While an increase to his €160 000 salary should certainly be granted to him, should any 18-year-old, no matter how good he is, be earning a staggering income of €5 million each month? Not even Buffon earns that much despite having established himself as not only a Juventus legend, but also a European football legend, while only Daniele de Rossi at Roma earns more than that sum of money…
Many would argue that throwing money in his path is the best solution in keeping Donnarumma at Milanello, but if that is the only reason he will remain at the club, surely it is better off cashing him in for a sum between €40 to €70 million before losing him as a free agent?
Then there’s the question of the bandiera… Milan have gone so long without having a proper iconic leader and figure in the squad, one couldn’t blame the fans for believing that Donnarumma may be the next Diavolo to wave the red and black flag again.
It begs the question, though: is he ready to take on that responsibility? And does Milan, and the fans, want someone in charge who had to think twice about how many millions he could cash in on before staying? Paolo Maldini didn’t…
No longer, is Milan sitting in a state of uncertainty. In fact, if anything, they have proven to be one of the more ambitions team this transfer window, having already secured the signature of Mateo Musacchio, extended Vincenzo Montella’s contract at the club, and are on the verge of signing Frank Kessie from Atalanta. Therefore, Raiola’s trump card excuse is no longer valid.
Sending Donnarumma abroad, particularly to England where the pound is good and the desire to splash millions is even greater, will always be in Raiola’s best interest. However, the final decision will always rest with the player.
Firstly, Donnarumma needs to completely remove Raiola from his decision-making process. He then needs to decide if he wants to be a part of the new project at Milan, which could very well return to making history and be dominant once more, or move elsewhere for a quick fix solution of money, status, and silverware.
Gigio, the ball is in your box… Be cool!
New Milan CEO Marco Fassone left many convinced after his unveiling at Casa Milan earlier today, but after talking the talk, can he walk the walk? The pressure is on him to execute his plan.
Just 24 hours before Milan’s big clash against rivals Inter in the Derby della Madonnina, a new page was turned in the Rossoneri history books, and it marked the start of a new and exciting era for the club.
Following two years of disillusionment about the possible selling of the club, a deal was finally concluded on April 13, and it welcomed the arrival of Yonghong Li in place of long-standing president Silvio Berlusconi.
It was a relationship that had gone on for nearly 31 trophy-laden years, but it was a move that many would deem necessary in order for the Rossoneri to restore itself to its former glory… And one man at the heart of Milan’s new project is Marco Fassone.
The former Inter director has officially replaced Adriano Galliani as CEO, and so far he left many impressed in the way he handled the first official press conference under the club’s new owners.
Portraying an approachable and transparent nature at his unveiling, Fassone laid out a clear plan of his and Yonghong Li’s ambitions for the sleeping giants.
Speaking at Casa Milan on Friday morning, Fassone said: "I wanted to thank Mr. Li and Mr. Han, who have faith in me and who have endured various temptations. I'll try to give my all and will be completely dedicated.”
"In addition to President Berlusconi, I must thank Barbara and Adriano Galliani. The last thought goes to you and Milan fans. We chose to stay behind the scenes, making life complicated for you, because you had to follow this huge change with little information. From this moment on the relationship between you and us will be different.”
Addressing the fans was gesture that many would have deemed unnecessary, but in doing so, he has already bridged the gap of the distance that was created between the club and the fans after months of uncertainty.
It didn’t stop there though, as Fassone tackled each question, which was at the back of every fan’s mind, with composure, knowledge, and assurance, and in doing so, he calmly drew out a plan for the club…
Naturally and unsurprisingly, the biggest topic on everyone’s lips was the status of Gianluigi Donnarumma. With the 18-year-old’s contract set to expire in June 2018, fans have anxiously been waiting for news that talks over an extension are on the cards. Much to their relief, Fassone made it clear that securing the teen’s future was of the main concerns for the new management.
"I can confirm that there is the will to solve this quickly as a club, and make Gigio a future figurehead,” revealed the 53-year-old. “There are contracts and discussions to be had and we will certainly make this a priority."
He then went on to admit that he wouldn’t only stop at Donnarumma, but will look at improving deals for the likes of Suso, who has been heavily linked with a return to Barcelona.
That news will surely bode well for Vincenzo Montella, who has played an impressive role in managing the players and, of course, creating a united environment within the club.
The former Fiorentina tactician has found his future in a precarious position, with rumuors of Roberto Mancini set to take over in June, but Fassone wasted no time in putting the speculation to bed.
Addressing one of the journalists, he said: “I’ll gladly answer this question; Montella has all our respect and our appreciation. In June last year we liked him. Our total and full support and support is in Montella. The key step will be putting us at a table with the Coach and discussing our ideas together in order to operate on the market.”
Some reports in Italy have claimed that new sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli will have about €150 million to spend during the transfer market, and while there is yet to be any official confirmation of the figure, Fassone is well aware of what is needed in order to build a competitive team again.
“We will have a significant budget, the goal is to build a very competitive and ambitious Milan over the coming years. Of course, I will have the economic means to try to create a team to achieve these goals in the short term.
"I can assure that there are no economic problems. Financially we have innovative ideas for the club. Then there's my job. If we want to bring AC Milan to compete with giants of world football, we will have to double our revenue and perhaps more.”
One of Milan’s biggest contributors to their financial losses has been their failure to qualify for any European competition in three years, in particular the UEFA Champions League. A possible €50 million can be earned just by qualifying for the tournament, and with the new management promising to rebuild the team, anything less than a return to the prestigious competition by next year will be deemed unacceptable.
"We are Milan, we don’t have a chance to take things step by step and see what happens," Fassone added. "The idea is to return to the Champions League as soon as possible. Our absence from the competition is too long, UEFA have given us a hand with the fact that next season the top four will go in the Champions League. The goal is to participate in the 2018-19 season.”
Another long-term plan to make revenue is to develop a stadium owned by the club, and after plans for a 48 000-seater ground fell through, the former Napoli man didn’t rule out the possibility of kick starting that proposal once more.
“Milan can grow thanks also to a stadium. Experience tells us that all clubs - such as Juventus, Bayern and Arsenal - have doubled their turnover in a year. All this should make us compete with the big names. We'll talk with City of Milan and Inter.”
So far, Fassone has provided the fans, the media, and even the team with what they wanted to hear, but the biggest question that remains is whether or not he can execute his plans properly.
A structure and a vision certainly seems to be in place, but to truly win over the hearts of the Rossoneri faithful, Fassone and company will have to slowly start ticking off all those items on his to-do list…. Starting with Donnarumma.