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.