“See? I’m always smiling,” said Gianluigi Donnarumma as he was hurriedly ushered through the mixed zone in Krakow after Italy’s 2-0 win against Denmark in the European Under-21 Championship on Sunday night. Despite the brief delay in the first half as stewards scrambled to clear the fake dollar bills accumulated in his goalmouth, it will clearly take more than a few irate supporters to affect the Azzurri’s new golden boy.
Hours earlier Mino Raiola had been holding court in the kitchen of his apartment in Monte Carlo as he sought to explain the decision to snub Milan’s offer of a new contract worth £80,000 a week at the club Donnarumma joined as a 14-year-old. He holds Milan’s new Chinese owners and sporting director, Massimiliano Mirabelli, chiefly to blame.
“The situation had become too hostile, so there was no way out,” claimed the agent, who has made a habit in recent years of making some of Europe’s biggest clubs to dance to his tune. “We took a decision that we didn’t want to take. It was nothing to do with money. We were threatened. You can’t keep a player by threatening him.
“He was ready to sign a new contract, there were no doubts in his mind,” Raiola said. “They forced us to abandon the negotiations because of the environment created around him. I take the responsibility. They forced us. It was Milan that lost Donnarumma. He said to me: ‘Honestly Mino, I don’t feel it is right to carry on negotiations.’”
Raiola had promised an open press conference, but in the end only three companies – Sky Sport Italia, Mediaset Premium and Rai Sport – were given access to the meeting, with the agent placing a strict midnight embargo on his words.. That meant the supporters who placed their “Dollarumma” banner behind his goal in Krakow were unaware of Raiola’s accusations that Milan are to blame for the situation.
Milan have denied Raiola’s claims. “There were no threats,” said the CEO, Marco Fassone. “Our position is clear: Donnarumma is not for sale, and [the coach] Vincenzo Montella will decide on a weekly basis. As far as I am concerned, he can play every game. However, we cannot run any risks, so we need to seek out another goalkeeper.
“For example, if San Siro were to protest during a game, that could take something away from his concentration. From what Raiola says, the lad seems very restless.”
As far back as December last year, as Li Yonghong prepared to complete his protracted takeover of the seven-times European champions from Silvio Berlusconi, there was a hint of what was to come. Questioned over the prospect of Donnarumma committing his future to the club he joined for £200,000 from Napoli only four years previously, Milan’s chief executive at the time, the long-serving Adriano Galliani, had admitted his doubts.
“Raiola wants to know what the ambitions and future of Milan are, and who the owners are,” said Galliani. “One is entitled to ask and he wants to see in the light of a beautiful day who the owners are. We wait for the closing.”
Four months later, and using a totally different holding company to complete the final instalment of his €500m purchase, Li was finally announced as Milan’s new owner. Yet after it emerged that the Chinese businessman had taken out a €300m loan from notorious US-based ‘vulture fund’ Elliot Management to complete the deal, there were doubts over whether he was the right person to usher in a new dawn at a club that has failed to recapture the glory days of the 1990s in recent years.
Even a raft of signings since the end of the season, including the left-back Ricardo Rodríguez from Wolfsburg and Portugal striker André Silva from Porto for €38m appear to have failed to convince Raiola that Li is the real deal. Most revealingly, his admission that Milan have not enquired as to the availability of Zlatan Ibrahimovic after Manchester United confirmed the veteran striker will not be at Old Trafford not season certainly spoke volumes about their relationship. “With Galliani, he’d already be here,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport.
The pawn in the middle of all this is, lest we forget, still only 18.
Donnarumma – whose deal at Milan expires next summer – delayed his final school exams to link up with Luigi Di Biagio’s Italy squad in Poland this month and while Raiola has claimed he has not discussed the prospect of his client joining Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain or Juventus this summer, it seems inevitable that his future lies elsewhere – even if Milan seem prepared to make him languish in the reserves for a season.
“He didn’t get agitated, he remained calm in a difficult situation and seemed like a 30-year-old,” reflected Di Biagio after the Denmark match. “He was ready to put up with something that goes beyond football.”
As the anointed heir of Gianluigi Buffon, having already won four senior caps, that is something Donnarumma may just have to get used to.