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.