Despite having a rumoured £183 million release clause, Cristiano Ronaldo seems to still be doing his best to steal the spotlight this summer, seizing the opportunity to jump on the transfer wagon following his multi-million tax case. But who would have expected the biggest uproar of the summer to come from an 18 year-old who has only been playing first team football for 2 seasons? Despite mega release clauses, global superstars and world-record transfer fees being touted for the summer of 2017, it is the contract refusal of Italy’s newest diamond, Gianluigi Donnarumma which has caught the eyes of most across Europe.
“Chosen” by Italy’s greatest in Gigi Buffon to be the next Italian number 1, the teenage sensation Donnarumma has been blasted into Europe’s footballing mainstream after turning down a reported £80,000 a week by his boyhood club and current employers, AC Milan. After establishing himself as their absolute number 1 in the last year, the news shocked Italian football to its core.
And all because it begs the bigger question as to why? Why would a young man so fresh on to senior football, achieving his dream in playing for the club of his heart, choose to turn down an astronomical contract for a teenager?
The biggest argument could be that European giants have turned the head of the teenage superstar. Real Madrid’s Florentino Perez has talked up Donnarumma’s ability: “Everyone says he is a great player… Surely we are watching him”. As has Juventus’ director, Giuseppe Marotta: “It is clear Juve have the right to examine every opportunity”. The 18 year old Donnarumma cannot be criticized for considering his options.
However it is how the teenager may have come to know of bigger interest. Rumours of the influence from Donnarumma’s super agent Mino Raiola, have caused the biggest stir among Milan fans. Gino Gazzetta, the leader of Milan’s ultra fan group claimed recently, “He has lots of growing to do, he kissed our badge then said he wishes to leave. The advice he is receiving is from an unsavoury man, whose only interest is his back pocket.” Raiola, who pocketed close to £15 million in Paul Pogba’s transfer to Manchester United, is known for his transfer regularity, constructing many a deal for journeymen Mario Balotelli and Zlatan Ibrahivomic, for example. Despite this, Raiola claimed the issues with the 7 time European champions wore more than wages. Raiola defiantly claimed: “”It is not about money, we needed time to assess AC Milan’s project. Gigi sees his future elsewhere”.
But what about Milan’s project? The Rossoneri, coming off the back of another season without Champions League qualification but an improved finish of 6th in Serie A, had just made 4 highly promising signings, bringing in Ricardo Rodriguez, Matteo Musacchio, Franck Kessie and Andre Silva. The financially well-backed Milan seemed to be preparing for a real go at the Scudetto. All early fingers pointed to the sleeping giant of Milan returning to the elite for 2017/2018. All of this relied on Donnarumma being a key part of Milan’s squad for the considerable future; not now.
So where did it all go wrong for Buffon’s heir apparent? Not 12 months ago, Donnarumma claimed “Since I have always been a Milan fan, I would say it would be a dream to wear the captain’s armband.” Whether Milan were ready to challenge the likes of Juventus and Napoli at the top remained to be seen, but at just 18, Donnarumma was playing every week, improving himself and Milan undoubtedly. Milan’s transfer activity pointed to the Champions League and a much more competitive season, which really was all that seemed to be missing for the boyhood fan of Milan; a competitive Milan. An improved contract was on the table too for the Italian under-21 international, whose value was clearly presented in the contract renewal offer, which would have appeased the money spinning agent. But maybe the interest of the Champions League finalists Madrid and Juventus, amongst others (PSG, Manchester City and Manchester United), was enough to persuade AC’s golden boy that the grass would be indeed greener on another side. The whole situation is a strange and unique one, mainly due to Donnarumma’s age. A lot has come very quickly for the goalkeeper, and once his contract concludes around this time in 2018, expect a whole lot more to come at the new Gigi.
(Featured Image credit: foxsports.com.au)