Don't Mess with Maldini

While there have been no official announcements from the club or from Gigio Donnarumma, Maldini spoke on the Milan Twitch channel yesterday and confirmed that the goalkeeper was leaving, thanking him for everything. It is not official as of this writing, but the media has chronicled the medicals and contract signing of Mike Maignan. This ends a saga that was inflamed by Mirabelli four years ago, and has become an unnecessary stressor to fans and the club. But most impressively, Maldini showed that he is every bit the technical director that he was player and captain. And Mino Raiola learned that you don't mess with Maldini.

Behind the smile is pure genius

I think most Milan fans would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for the negotiations for Donnarumma's contract extension. But rather than scream, threaten, and fight publicly in the media like Mirabelli, Maldini announced early on that these talks would be held privately. He is every bit as elegant off the pitch as he was on it. 

Even when the Curva Sud recently came to Milanello on game day and made Donnarumma cry, Maldini chose to freeze all contract negotiations until the end of the season. The idea was that the players could focus on the football and getting through the season without distractions. Not that the media paid any attention to that, they continued to use the unresolved contracts as daily and hourly clickbait. 

Worth his weight in gold, only Milan doesn't have enough gold

Meanwhile, it was reported all year long that Raiola was asking for €10-12 million per year for Gigio, a ridiculously unsustainable wage even prior to COVID-19, and ridiculously insensitive afterward. But where the club really balked was when Raiola reportedly asked for €15-20 million in commission. For us to extend the contract of a player who grew up in our youth system. That should be illegal, it was so absurd.

Mirabelli would have caved, all the while screaming in the media and causing fans to throw dollar bills and send death threats to the young keeper. He is why Milan were saddled with his €6 million in wages, plus another million for his brother as a third keeper. That is literally how we got here in the first place. 

Maldini learned from his mistakes very quickly

Maldini is always the perfect gentleman, but he was an incredible defender, and his style of leadership as technical director is exactly the same. While Raiola was trying to hold the club ransom, thinking Gigio Donnarumma was irreplaceable, Maldini was carefully scouting a plan B keeper. While Gigio told the Ultras that he wanted to stay, reports also came out yesterday that he said he would "do whatever Raiola told him to." 

That is where it all went wrong. Raiola was foolishly planning on how to spend his commission while Maldini was quietly negotiating with Mike Maignan. The French goalkeeper is a plausible replacement who would work for a fraction of the price and sign for fees less than Raiola was supposedly asking for us to keep our own player. Maldini is incredibly intelligent, and put the club before anyone or anything else. 

Maldini did everything to support Gigio, but would not pay a ransom

While Donnarumma was asking for at least €10 million per year, a raise from his €6 million per year salary, Maignan reportedly signed to play for €2.5 million per year plus bonuses. Maldini's bold and wise move saved the club €3.5-7.5 or more in wages. Maignan's transfer fee was reportedly €15 million, around the same that Raiola was attempting to commit extortion for. But instead of senselessly handing Raiola more money, Maldini invested in Maignan, paying Lille a fair price for their player. 

Maldini waited all year. For what Raiola was asking, it's incredible that he showed so much patience. But Gigio Donnarumma was a Milan youth product, and I think all parties wanted him to stay. Unfortunately, when time was running out on Gigio's contract, and Maignan was going to receive a lot of offers because his team had won the French league, Maldini acted swiftly, quietly, and brilliantly.

Whether it was abuse or money or both, loyalty clearly had a price

Many of us are having a difficult time dealing with Donnarumma leaving. With no fans in the stadium, we have become accustomed to his booming voice directing his teammates from the back, while calmly keeping Milan in the game. We were constantly astounded by his phenomenal skills, incredible reflexes, and even penalty saves. We watched him grow up, having started for Milan when he was only 16 years old and at only 22 wearing the captain's armband. I know I for one wanted him to be a bandiera and stay at the club forever. It is really sad to see such a beloved player move on under any circumstances, least of all due to this unnecessary chess game. But the choice was his, and so was his choice of agents. 

Maldini pointed out that very few players play their entire career at one club, that there is a time to change shirts, and that Gigio was a professional. Which he was. Some reports say that he was possibly told of the club's decision last week, and that he still played completely professionally on Sunday, while perhaps having said his goodbyes to his teammates after the important win. If that is true, I really commend him. Suffering the abuse of Milan fans all of these years was bad enough. We won't know until he tells his side of the story whether he left because of fan abuse, money, or both. This breakup is just sad. 

He thought this was a Mickey Mouse game of chess, but he got schooled

However, Maldini called Raiola's bluff. Donnarumma doesn't even have a new club yet. Reports are that Raiola has offered him to Barcelona, but with his wage demands and particularly the reported commissions, Gigio is going to be a hard sell, particularly in this post-COVID environment. Most people assume he will go to Juventus, another club that will spend foolishly. If he does, then he hasn't even begun to see the hatred of Milan fans, he will not be popular with us. Ironically, both of those clubs are still clinging to the Super League project, and risk sanctions from UEFA, including possible bans from the Champions League.

So "super agent" Raiola did not get his paycheck, Donnarumma did not get to stay at the club he grew up worshipping, and after six years of craziness at Milan and finally qualifying for Champions League, Donnarumma may miss out on Champions League, as well. Milan signed a slightly older yet comparable keeper, who had 21 clean sheets in France this past season, and he is costing us a fraction of the wages. That is an incredible piece of business by Maldini. So much so, I think Galliani probably wet himself when he heard about it.

It was kind of like that, but as a director instead of a defender

The incredibly experienced Raiola got destroyed by a Technical Director who is "inexperienced." What Maldini did with this move is an actual masterclass. He has thrown down the gauntlet for all of football to see. He played fairly, respectfully, and honestly. But he also showed that he is more than just a famous ex-footballer. He is shrewd, and committed to reducing costs in the technical sector without sacrificing the quality of football. He was known as a brilliant player and Milan captain. Now, he has added sporting genius to his titles. It's sad that Donnarumma is leaving, but now people will know: don't mess with Maldini.

This post inspired by the music of Måneskin's "Zitti e Buoni"

Don't Mess with Maldini Don't Mess with Maldini Reviewed by Elaine on 11:30 PM Rating: 5
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