Anointed “predestinato” at a very early age, Gianluigi Donnarumma’s flair for the dramatic save had rescued a below average Milan side plenty here in his formative years, heroics worthy of the brightest lights aﬀorded to a footballer, as well as a handsome pay increase reflective of the phenom he had become overnight as a bright-eyedteenager.
At the time of his contract renewal saga in 2017, Donnarumma had already established himself as one of the best young goalkeepers in world football, for his freakishly large frame, reflexes and command of his area were all uncharacteristic of someone his age.
Initially, previous directors Massimiliano Mirabelli and Marco Fassone had waved the proverbial white flag on finding a suitable agreement with Donnarumma and his agent Mino Raiola, going as far as releasing a public statement that the Italian shot-stopper would not be signing an extension.
After fake dollar bills rained down on young Gigio and Milan Club Poland packed up their “Dollarumma” banner while he served international duty with Italy’s U21s, all parties eventually sat back down at the negotiation table and reached a deal that would make Donnarumma one of the game’s highest paid keepers.
Though most Milan fans were delighted to retain the once in a generation youngster, others expressed displeasure with how he and Raiola handled proceedings. Some were ready to part with the Castellammare di Stabia-born talent entirely in favor of a cheaper option with less distractions attached to his agent, namely academy product Alessandro Plizzari who former president Silvio Berlusconi held in high regard.
Despite this, Donnarumma would only continue to deliver, embracing the pressure that comes with a lofty pay raise and being christened Gianluigi Buﬀon’s heir to the National Team throne.
But, it was never a matter of Gigio’s talent, rather, could Milan construct a winning project thatwould oﬀer him the opportunity to play in the UEFA Champions League and compete for silverware.
Over the past year, the Red And Black have experienced a moment of success unknown to the club since the early 2010s, one with the now 21-year old Donnarumma at the very heart of it.
Stefano Pioli, along with Zlatan Ibrahimović, has been largely influential to the many youngsters Paolo Maldini and company have ushered through the doors of Milanello. Amassing north of 200 appearances, Donnarumma’s collected the experience of a veteran, and as a result, has undertaken a leadership role on the basis of him being one of the longest tenured members in the squad.
Gigio has become a shot caller as the last line of defence. Barking orders, organizing his defenders and holding his teammates accountable, he is becoming a more complete goalkeeper who, with his imposing presence, improved distribution and intangibles, must be respected as truly elite.
Look to his most recent performance last weekend away to Bologna as evidence, a match Milan seemed to be in firm control of only to barely hang on to win 2-1.
Donnarumma’s clutch saves in the face of late adversity proved yet again how decisive he can be, adding validity to countryman Stefano Sorrentino’s firm appraisal of the Milan star as “the best goalkeeper in the world.”
While Milan do sit ahead of rivals Inter atop the Serie A table, and remain laser-focused on the upcoming months, the elephant in the room cannot be ignored: Donnarumma’s contract renewal.
Donnarumma’s current deal sees him earn €6 million per season net, but Raiola is reportedly requesting in excess of €10 million for his client, a sum that would put him in the same category as David De Gea (Manchester United), Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid) and Manuel Neuer (BayernMunich).
Surely Milan could decline Raiola’s lucrative demands, let Donnarumma walk for free and survey the goalkeeper market in the summer for a more aﬀordable alternative. However, Milan have to examine this much diﬀerently.
Donnarumma is not only a supreme talent with a handful of years under his belt. He has become a face for the club, a leader and the caliber of goalkeeper you can potentially build a project around, perhaps like Juventus had done with Buﬀon or Bayern currently with Neuer.
An improved financial position and neater wage bill can accommodate a highly-paid star like Donnarumma who is has yet to reach the apex of his full potential.
Then there is the undeniable strength of the project which best addresses a previous concern of Raiola. Even if he wishes to shop his client to the likes of Paris Saint-Germain or Premier League’s elite, the will of the player works to the benefit of the Milan.
Whether or not he commits to the club for the foreseeable future could ultimately rest on a long-awaited return to the ChampionsLeague.