To err is human; to forgive, divine. It seems unlikely Alexander Pope had Milan in mind when he penned those words, but they remain appropriate for the situation the Rossoneri have found themselves in of late. Can they find it in their hearts to make peace with Gianluigi Donnarumma - a player who has presented them with the transfer torment of the summer so far? And, indeed, should they even consider doing so?
The problems all start, really, with kissing the badge. If I was a footballer’s agent, I would always advise them against doing so. Fans interpret it as an indication of love for a team as profound as their own, while clubs tend to see it as a signal that a contract extension should be a mere formality. Neither conclusion, unfortunately, is necessarily correct.
Both supporters and officials often suffer from a form of myopia which makes it difficult for them to see the bigger picture. They find it hard to fathom why any player could even consider leaving the club they love or work for - or possibly both. However, there are a myriad of reasons why someone might consider moving on from even the most successful and generous side.
And what has Donnarumma’s crime really been? In truth, we might never truly know, because we are caught in a crossfire of spin from club and agent which makes it hard to be sure what has actually unfolded so far. Without being privy to every conversation, we can only make conjecture based on the evidence before our eyes. The player could have signed a new deal with Milan, he declined to do so and it prompted one hell of a backlash. So much so that he is now set to sit back down with the club to talk about his future. It is not a promise that he will remain, but that scenario is much more likely than it once appeared.
It suits Milan’s agenda, of course, to portray him as a traitor and point the finger at his agent, Mino Raiola - an easy target if ever there was one. It plays well with supporters to act as if you have done everything in your power to accommodate a player who threw it back in your face. The fake dollars hurled at young Gigio ‘Dollarumma’ during the Under-21 European Championship confirmed some supporters had bought that hook, line and sinker.
What also hurts, of course, is for the Rossoneri to be shown up as perhaps not quite as big a club as they imagine themselves to be. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s it would have been unthinkable that anyone might want to quit Milanello for anywhere else. Nowadays, while still a big name, they are not quite the giant they once were.
Those times can return, for sure, and that was part of the Donnarumma storyline. He was supposed to stay and become a legend and form the backbone of the team for decades to come. Except he did not welcome it with the open arms some expected, an attitude which has provoked social media ire for days on end.
But the club itself will have to make a more pragmatic choice. Suppose their big goalkeeper has now simply realised that he overplayed his hand a little and that a lucrative, long-term contract with the Rossoneri might make as much sense for him as it does for his employers. Should Milan forgive his initial hesitation and resistance?
It sets my mind flashing back nearly 30 years to the transfer deal which has stung me most in the history of the Italian game. Roberto Baggio was painted as a mercenary when he moved to Juventus from Fiorentina, but the story was much more subtle than those crude brushstrokes represented. I have little doubt the Donnarumma situation is just as complex. And, believe me, I would give anything for a world where the Divin Codino had stayed in purple for the vast majority of his playing days.
So maybe the Rossoneri should find it in themselves to swallow a little damaged pride and welcome their talented teenager with open arms, assuming he is now willing to remain. It might not work out, of course, because there are no guarantees in football, but his little flirt with leaving need not destroy their entire marriage.
Common sense would say that for both footballing and financial potential you should try to keep hold of one of your most valuable commodities, regardless of how you think they have behaved. Because, believe me, if you don’t, it can be the source of days, weeks, months and even years of regret.
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