Friday, June 16, 2017

Losing Donnarumma


All of Milan fandom was shocked yesterday by the announcement that Donnarumma would not be renewing his contract with Milan. The response on social media was immediate, with everyone making assumptions as to why he made that choice. But the fact is, he hasn’t told the world yet why he made that choice. So even if the wound is fresh, I wanted to look at some of the possible reasons he chose not to renew. It could be any or all of these factors. I chose to list them in the order that I think is most likely that they affected his decision based on credible reports and quotes from those involved.

False signs? Or did he have a change of heart?

Release Clause
It was well known that Mino Raiola was seeking a release clause or clauses in Donnarumma’s contract. It was the biggest reason that they did not accept the club’s offer immediately. How much was actually negotiated between that offer and yesterday’s announcement is unclear. However, it is also unclear as to whether Milan were willing to insert any release clauses. And if they did not, this is the most likely reason the offer was rejected.

Let me reiterate what I’ve said before: what Raiola was asking for was not wrong. It was not shady. It was very fair, particularly given the fact that Yonghong Li has an 18 month time bomb ticking in the form of the Elliott Fund loan, and thus does not actually outright own a majority of the club. To sign a five year contract as a young player with a group of people who have never done their new jobs before and have questionable backgrounds is a massive risk. If it were me, I would have absolutely granted the clauses. Especially since they are simply an option, not mandatory.


Mirabelli Screws Up
A little reported fact until after Milan’s press conference yesterday: Mirabelli called Donnarumma’s father earlier this week in an apparent attempt to intervene between player and agent, and Raiola lost it. This interference is also very likely to have influenced Donnarumma’s decision. It was very unprofessional, and if there were any questions about the new management, this was one test that was a big fail. Who would want to work for a club whose sporting director was so unprofessional? And not just the phone call, all of the pressure and how the club fed the media, etc. This contract renewal was supposed to be the true test of whether or not Fassone & Mirabelli were up for the challenge. And they failed.

This failure leaves a bitter taste in our mouths, too, and it's more than just for the player

Pressure From the Club For A Decision
One of my favorite reads was the people who claim that Donnarumma intentionally sent Raiola alone to do his dirty work. Really, people? First of all, this was Milan’s timeline. They gave him an ultimatum of June 16th to answer their offer. Knowing full well that he was with the senior national team up through this past weekend and left very shortly thereafter to join the U21 squad in Poland for the U21 Euros. How do we know that he wouldn’t have come if he had not been given an ultimatum that conflicted with his NT duties?

And how do we know that it wasn’t this pressure from the club that influenced his decision? Particularly since their rush was largely their fault. You see, had Yonghong Li actually bought the club a year ago, as he was supposed to, we would have already had last summer’s mercato and also January to reinforce. There would have been a year to know what the intentions of the club were, and Donnarumma’s renewal or not would have taken place in February, on his 18th birthday. But they didn’t. So now they were in a rush to make up for lost time. Was that pressure too much?


Closing of the Sale of the Club
Who knows what would have happened if the sale had gone through last June? August? October? December? February? Would Gigio have renewed? Everything points to yes. Just think about the sound bytes and how they changed after every deadline that wasn’t met. For me, if anyone wants to take the blame for this, this new management have to kick themselves for not pulling it off any sooner. Even if Berlusconi had remained, it is likely that Donnarumma would have renewed, especially with Galliani’s relationship with Raiola. I cannot look at this experience without pointing a finger at the epic fail that was the closing of the sale of the club.

From a boy saving a penalty vs. Real Madrid to a man who is walking away, possibly to that club?

New Management/Stability
Yonghong Li has sketchy business ties and background. He ended up taking out a €300m loan from a hedge fund just to close the deal. And that was after paying small amounts in installments, some from an offshore account. As if that wasn’t shady enough, Fassone & Mirabelli have never actually worked their respective jobs before. So who in their right mind would blindly trust that management? Why would anyone sign a contract with a club who was just as likely to be in bankruptcy within the time of that contract as it was to be in the Champions League? It’s a huge gamble. Add to that their missteps in these negotiations, and I cannot blame Donnarumma for a second if this was a factor for him.


Family
Donnarumma’s mom is a Napoli fan. As are other members of his family. I’m sure that Napoli fans would consider this territorial discrimination, but they are very easily offended and don’t forgive. After the announcement, his brother-in-law even posted that “Milan are a club of clowns” on social media. His family’s influence, whether it was motivated by loyalty to another club, money or greed, search for more guaranteed glory, or anything else, has got to be very powerful. After all, in an interview that was published just this week, he said he was looking for a house in Milano for he and his family. Whatever good things anyone ever thought about Gigio, who knows what motives and influence his family had over him? Additionally, the man who discovered him came out with an interesting story about how this is not Gigio & his family’s first time to say no to a contract at the last minute. The fact that he snubbed Inter like that actually made me like him even more, despite his decision. However we cannot underestimate the power of family.

How much influence did his family have in his decision?

Media
With nothing better to do, the media inflated this renewal to levels rarely seen in football. Every opinion was reported, every word or gesture Donnarumma made scrutinized, every sound byte from Raiola over-analyzed. This was important to Milan fans and the new management, so it made for a lot of clicks for the media. Who cares that 90% of what they reported was not even remotely true? It sold papers, that’s all that mattered to those people. And so they whipped everyone into a frenzy. Which increased the people hounding the player, his agent, and family. Maybe it was all just too much for the kid? Certainly it was too much for the fans.


Fan Behavior
People are angry that Donnarumma said no. I get that. But nothing can justify the abuse he has received on social media. And not even just now that he gave an answer. I wrote about it before, how fans were being entitled and just horrible to him both on social media and even hounding him in real life. And that was even before he made a decision. After what we saw with fans pushing De Sciglio out, this has become a disgusting pattern of behaviors. Between the club’s negligent urgency and the media needing to get paid, they incited a war against an 18 year old that was very unnecessary. Hate is wrong. To abuse someone is wrong. And also very cowardly if it’s done on social media. Well done, Milan fans. You have yourselves to blame, at least in part.

Ironically, he might be one of the least culpable in this disaster

Mino Raiola
I cannot believe that I am defending this man. Especially after having written about him back in February. But even with this selected compilation of his quotes, I have to say that he was made an instant villain in this deal based on past behaviors, and I’m not exactly sure he should have been. While he has said some ridiculous Mino-style things along the way, he was right to want to protect his client from the unknown of Milan’s new management. He was right to ask for the release clause(s.) He was right to wait until the end of the season to see what the club would do. He was right to let his client have some time to make a decision, particularly since he was still playing for Italy at two different levels and needed to focus. It pains me to say it, but overall, I think Mino Raiola was right on this one. At the very least, he is less to blame than the club itself, media, Gigio’s family, and the fans.


Money
So many people saying this is about money. That is a giant assumption to make. Particularly since Raiola’s statements along the way have been all about the club’s stability and wanting release clauses. The people who say he should have taken the €4.5m offer because it was so much money are naïve and ill-informed. I really don’t think it was about the money, at least not for Donnarumma. Especially considering that Fassone said in the press conference that the offer they made him was “even more important than had been reported.” Things went south very quickly when the other above factors occurred, so it is very unlikely that this impacted his decision much if at all.


Other
Fill in the blanks. There are so many possibilities that Donnarumma made this decision. But the fact is that we don’t know. And until we do, if we ever do, it is irresponsible to spread lies and hate or even make assumptions. Not that responsibility or even human decency has ever guided people on social media. And again, hurt and anger are to be expected in this situation. But it is a fine line between expressing yourself and abusing an 18 year old, and too many have crossed it.

From hero to heartbreaker, but let's not as fans become the lowest common denominator in all of this


After the initial shock and the reactions which varied from “The club is bigger than any player” to things I cannot repeat here, a lot of fans are hoping he does in fact leave the club this summer for a hefty transfer sum that can be reinvested. Fans rate him from a transfer fee of €100m to some sort of infinite amount. But here, they are wrong again. According to CIES Football Observatory, his transfer value is only €39m. That would only buy one or two decent players on today’s market. So this deal is actually a lose-lose for Milan. Not only are we losing a great player who was prematurely labeled as a bandiera and future captain, we won’t get a fraction of what he was worth to us in our hearts.

This news was a body blow in a year that was going so very well for Milan. I absolutely understand that fans are hurt and angry. I am, too. It changes everything we thought we knew about him. But no one knows yet why he turned down the contract extension, or what the future holds for him or for us. Venting at a time like this is fair. But abusing a player or threatening him or even pointing the blame falsely at others and spreading lies is just wrong. And it does nothing to help the situation. In fact, it makes things much, much worse. It looks like we are losing Donnarumma, and that is a horrible shame. But let’s not also lose ourselves in the process.


This post inspired by the music of AC/DC

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