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.
On Monday, Alessio Romagnoli committed his future to Milan, and while it would normally be a cause for celebration, some fans have been hesitant to celebrate it. Rossella Marrai-Ricco looks at why it’s unlikely that he will end up like Thiago Silva.
Last year, AC Milan and its fans enjoyed an entertaining summer. It was filled with the introduction of fresh new faces at Milanello follow a cool €250 million spent in transfers. The new owners, it seemed, were shooting for the stars. With big aspirations, comes the need for big pockets.
Since day one, though, Younghong Li and his consortium have been the constant topic of speculation, with the media often trying to find a way to put out the Diavolo’s flame. And it hasn’t stopped…
Just over a year since their infamous takeover, very little has changed. In fact, the rumours have grown increasingly worse after Milan’s bid to end the Financial Fair Play investigation was rejected by UEFA, leaving many fans and Italian football worried about their potential fate.
Such headlines have followed: “AC Milan face possible eviction from Europa League.” “Mass exodus awaits Milan in order to balance the books.”
Such headlines are concerning, of course… Milan do very well stand a chance of being evicted from the Europa League should they not find a way to pay €30m to UEFA by the end of June. While few hardly forget the reason why Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were both sold to PSG back in 2012. To this day, their transfers still leave a bitter taste in any Milanista’s mouth.
It’s because of the Brazilian and the Swede’s sudden farewell from Milanello that, perhaps, Alessio Romagnoli’s contract extension has left a certain percentage of the club’s supporters adopting a rather hesitant approach to celebrating.
Since his arrival to San Siro outfit back in 2015, the 23-year-old has shown glimpses of the incredible potential Thiago Silva had displayed when he first joined the Rossoneri at the age of 24. Having come in as a replacement to the outgoing Alessandro Nesta, Silva was largely considered to be the captain in waiting.
So much so, that in July 2012, he penned in contract extension until 2017 with the club. An official statement read: "Thiago Silva himself embodies the class and style of Milan, the charisma of a club that loves the game but also the result and behaviour. And so his stay with the Rossoneri, decided by president Berlusconi, preserves the Milan identity.” Twelve days later, he signed for PSG.
Similarly, to Thiago Silva, Romagnoli had also been tipped to become the heir to the great Nesta. Beyond their shared position on the field, there have been several interesting parallels between them. Like his counterpart, the Milan defender also grew up a Lazio fan. They both stand at equal heights of 6 ft 2, read the game well, are capable of making elegant tackles and are very confident on the ball. It’s because of this that the youngster chose to sport the former Lazio skipper’s iconic No.13 upon his arrival to Milan – something that pulled on the heartstrings of the supporters.
Despite the sluggish start to the Serie A season, where he had to overcome injury and adjust to his new defensive partner Leonardo Bonucci, Romagnoli proved why he’s one of the most promising centre-backs in Europe. With a pass accuracy of 91.4% last term and averaging 5.3 clearances per game – this, according to Whoscored.com – the former Roma man has seen himself become one of the most talked about transfer targets in Europe.
Chelsea, Juventus and Liverpool have all been linked with a possible swoop for his signature. And with the club’s Europa League status in a precarious position, the rumours started to come thick and fast. A bidding war was ready to be made. But before anyone could start, in true Marco Fassone and Massiliano Mirabelli fashion, they “passiamo alle cose formali” (We move onto formal matters), and surprised everyone with a contract renewal.
In an unexpected Facebook Live video broadcast, Milan sent fans into frenzy with a “special” announcement. The teaser? Live footage of someone walking through the Mondo Milan museum at Casa Milan, before following Fassone, Mirabelli and Romagnoli from behind to the trophy room where the big announcement was made.
The deal? A new and improved contract that would tie him down to the club until 2022.
“I hope to continue here for many years to win a lot and to bring AC Milan where they deserve,” he told Milan TV, before taking to his own Instagram to declare his intention with the jersey.
"Another important step in my career, thank you AC Milan for the trust. I will honour this agreement and this jersey every day,” he wrote.
It was a quick and genius way to put to rest some of the media reports, but it wasn’t anything they hadn’t done before. In fact, it was the second time in two years that Milan had acted swiftly upon protecting their assets in Romagnoli.
In August 2016, Milan took to social media to declare that they would not sell the former Sampdoria defender, despite receiving a “significant” bid for his services, and Monday’s declaration of extending his contract is once again proof in the belief and the vision they have in him.
Naturally, Romagnoli’s extension left many fans with mixed emotions. Seeing him commit to the club when their European status is that of a precarious one fills the room with buoyant optimism, but the fact that Thiago Silva’s contract extension was dealt with in a similar light has given the fans flashbacks of that disappointing day.
Still, there is a different feeling about Alessio’s deal in comparison to that of Silva’s. Regardless of what happens with the club owners, Milan’s new management has to be commended for instilling a transparent and communicative front when it came to important issues. Respect was given to the fans, and in turn, they garnered admiration from the supporters.
If Milan absolutely needed to sell players to ease the financial situation, things would have been communicated by now. In fact, the only thing Milan management has done is show they are determined to bring the club back to the top again and by doing so, locking down Romagnoli’s services would be one of the requirements. They’ve now done that. In fact, their ability to act quick on it rather than wait until the transfer window starts heating up, shows they are also trying to put the fans at ease too.
The defender’s extension is certainly a step in the right direction for the club and moves them one step closer in achieving their vision.
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.