Gianluigi Donnarumma Needs To Leave AC Milan

Gianluigi Donnarumma Needs To Leave AC Milan  -
MILAN, ITALY – MAY 19: Gianluigi Donnarumma of AC Milan greets the fans at the end of the Serie A match between AC Milan and Frosinone Calcio at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 19, 2019 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Gianluigi Donnarumma needs to leave AC Milan.  The 20-year-old Italian just completed his fourth straight season as the club’s first choice goalkeeper and has already made 12 national team appearances for Italy. Despite having great personal success, Donnarumma’s time at Milan has been chaotic, to say the least.  Wild contract negotiations, multiple ways of playing and mismanagement have left Milan and Donnarumma in a very difficult position.

Gianluigi Donnarumma Should Leave AC Milan

How We Got Here

It’s almost impossible to quantify how wild the hype was when a 16-year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma made his professional debut for Milan. They had gotten off to a poor start to the 2015/16 season, and incumbent goalkeeper Diego Lopez was not winning any fans with his play.  So in stepped Donnarumma to be the saviour.

He was given the start at home against Sassuolo in an attempt to stop a run of three straight defeats.  He didn’t have much to do, but a 2-1 home win was the moment that started a career. After the game, Diego Lopez, the man he had replaced, called him the future of Milan and Italian football and he hasn’t relinquished his starting spot since.

However, Donnarumma’s time as the starter has not been the bumpless ride Milan fans had dreamed off.  Milan’s mismanagement on and off the field is well documented, and it has caught up every one of their players.  Sadly Donnarumma too has been caught up in that storm as well.

Off The Field

Let’s rewind to the end of the 2016/17 season.  Donnarumma had just finished his second full season as the Milan starting keeper and had earned his first call-up to the Italian side. As the summer began, Donnarumma was entering the final year of his contract with Milan, and his agent Mino Raiola needed a new deal.

Raiola decided to tell Milan that Donnarumma would not be extending his contract. Reporting at the time suggested that Raiola was after a lower release clause than Milan’s management at the time wanted to give him. The general manager at the time, Marco Fassone, said: “In the past few days, sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli made a very big offer to the player, who evaluated it and today he informed us that he did not intend to renew.” 

“We were confident that Gigio would be the goalkeeper of this new Milan; a pillar upon which we would build, but now we have to re-evaluate everything.  This decision, taken by the player and his agent, is disappointing, but we have to move on; Milan move on.”

It’s hard to read that quote and not think he would be gone that summer.  It becomes even stranger when you realise Donnarumma, Mirabelli and Raiola agreed to a new contract on July 11th, less than a month later.  The new deal has kept Donnarumma in Milan so far and runs until 2021. Considering Milan have had three different people as their sporting director since that contract was signed, it’s no wonder why Donnarumma needs to leave.

On The Field

Don’t worry, Milan have done as bad of a job with Donnarumma on the field as they have off.  Only 20-years-old, the youngster has already played for four different managers at Milan. Four different managers with four different playing styles is hardly a way to find continuity and grow as a player.

He was called up for the first time by Flippo Inzaghi and he made his debut for Sinisa Milhajlovic.  Since then he started the entire Vincenzo Montella era at the San Siro before spending the last 18 months with Gennaro Gattuso leading the way.  Each of these managers plays their own unique style of football, but let’s focus on the Gattuso era at Milan.

Gattuso made the decision that he wanted a team that could play out from the back.  Sadly for all, he made that decision without considering whether his then 19-year-old keeper was ready for that kind of responsibility.  Donnarumma’s rise was because of his ability to be a shot-stopping keeper. He has been, frankly, a bad keeper with the ball at his feet.

He completed 77% of his passes in his first year and 80% in Gattuso’s second season. Those numbers don’t seem much worse than top passing keepers like Marc Andre Ter Stegen or Ederson who each had 83% pass completion in the league.  

Watching Milan this season, two things were clear about Donnarumma: he was not asked to do the same amount of passing as the top keepers.  When he was, it was beyond clear that he was in over his head. Those defenders also have great trust in their keepers to get out of whatever situation they are put in. You can tell watching Milan that those defenders don’t trust Donnarumma to play them out of trouble.

The Financial Issue

Now we come to the present day, where Milan are set to appoint new coach Marco Giampaolo from Sampdoria.  However, it does not seem that the new manager will get the chance to work with Donnarumma. It has been well documented how mismanaged Milan has been over the last few years, and it seems to be coming to a head.

Milan has reportedly asked UEFA to ‘only’ throw them out of this upcoming Europa League season.  The reason? Their lack of compliance with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules. Their incredible summer of 2017 where Milan signed ten players for around €200 million after you add in loans with future buying clauses.  

That summer they spent roughly €140 million more than they made in sales.  It was such an audacious spending spree that it couldn’t help but grab the eyes of UEFA’s FFP officials.  In the time since, they have continued to spend without any real concern for those rules, and because of that even they should expect the hammer sometime this summer.

The best way to appease them is to start selling, and a 20-year-old world class talent at a position like a goalkeeper is the easiest sell.  After everything the pair have been Donnarumma needs to leave Milan to take the next step in his career.

Donnarumma Signs For…

The logical next question is where will Donnarumma sign. Links have already been made with Paris Saint-Germain if Calciomercato are to be believed.  The answer is simpler than it could appear and it starts with an ex-Milan sporting director.  Up until two or three weeks ago, Milan’s sporting director was legendary Brazilian player Leonardo.  However after Milan failed to reach the Champions League, Leonardo was sacked by the Milan board.

It did not take him long to get another job as he has already been named sporting director at Paris St. Germain.  He already held that position at PSG from 2011/2013, and now looks set to return to his role. He was instrumental in bringing stars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Marco Veratti, Marquinhos among others from Italy his first time around.

PSG are hoping that bringing him back will help stabilize a club that hasn’t taken the steps forward that they want.  Signing a 20-year-old goalkeeper with so much potential is a great way to return to a former club.