The saga has concluded. Gianluigi Donnarumma has chosen not to renew his contract with AC Milan, a message delivered rather impersonally through his agent, the infamous Mino Raiola. The former darling of the tifosi has performed the final act of treachery. Or, has he?
Milanisti on Twitter and offline as well have loudly condemned Donnarumma’s decision to leave Milan. The moment he kissed the badge on his shirt after the game against Juventus, is constantly referred to as the point when Donnarumma showed his affection and commitment towards the club. Additionally, he has made comments in the past of possibly spending the rest of his career at Milan and becoming a bandeira. There was the talk of him taking over the captaincy in the near future as well.
All of this has essentially gone up in smoke after one of the most controversial contract dramas in recent history. Marco Fassone and Massimo Mirabelli offered the young goalkeeper an outstanding offer of €25 million in net over 5 years, which would cost the club almost double in gross figures. The sums involved, are effectively more than the amount Gianluigi Buffon draws at Juventus. The salary offered to Donnarumma would also make him the highest paid young goalkeeper in the world. Bearing these facts in mind, one does have to wonder, why did this exceptionally talented footballer turn his back on the club that gave him the platform to shine less than two years ago?
Much has been said about the ‘morality’ of his decision. Name-calling has become commonplace and fans are tearing into the protégé, questioning the integrity of his ethics. Quite frankly, it appears to be over-the-top.
Donnarumma made a decision to leave the club, as a promising project was beginning to take shape. The quality of the decision is open for judgement at an intellectual level, rather than a moral one. He is a professional, after all, and when presented with an offer, chose to turn it down. It is that simple. This appears to be a poor decision, as Donnarumma would have been iconic in the YongHong Li era of AC Milan, poised to become a symbol of an illustrious football club. Such a platform is unlikely to be served to him elsewhere.
However, calling him a ‘traitor’ and inculpating him on some misguided sense of righteousness is unnecessary. Sinisa Mihajlovic’s decision to hand Donnarumma his debut in Serie A against Sassuolo on 25 October 2015 was not on the basis of a ‘favour’, but because of the depleting form of Diego Lopez, Milan’s first choice goalkeeper at the time. Mihajlovic’s picked the best option at his disposal and made a professional decision, not a personal one. Donnarumma proceeded to displace Lopez and became Milan’s starting goalkeeper on merit. As such, Donnarumma owes Milan his best as long as he is on the pitch, and that he has delivered on every single time. He does not owe Milan the next five years of his life. He has every right to walk away and pursue his career elsewhere.
He has opted to provide the management with a concrete response well ahead of the transfer window so that the transfer can be planned for with adequate time in hand. Milan can also recover a sum, (paltry in comparison to his value, yes) before the start of the new season.
Given his exploits and enormous potential, it is easy to forget that Donnarumma is an eighteen-year-old. His actions and words need to be taken into context. That said, the maddening rage being expressed by Milan fans is understandable. Over the last two years, Donnarumma was the one shining light in largely forgettable campaigns. Several fans may have even considered him as Milan’s answer to Juventus’ Buffon. The reality of the situation has shocked the community. Fair, but perhaps it is time to take a step back, breathe, and believe that the current management is sufficiently equipped to secure the services of a quality goalkeeper before the start of the new season. There isn’t a paucity of options either.