On the same day Gianluigi Donnarumma declared he has no intention of extending his contract at AC Milan beyond 2018, news earlier broke that Manchester City were close to signing one of Barcelona’s best prospects at La Masia in 16-year-old centre-back Eric Garcia.
Garcia (below) has reportedly been offered a three-year contract at City, earning around a €1 million (Dh4.1m), a financial incentive Barcelona cannot match until the player turns 18.
A teenager who Barcelona have carefully nurtured from the age of nine and who was being groomed as Gerard Pique’s long-term replacement now may never make a single first-team appearance for the Blaugrana. All that time, money, patience and planning rendered pointless.
Further reinforcement, once again, that when you strip back the emotional attachments of supporters, football is a business where cold, hard cash is king.
And so we come onto Donnarumma, who made his debut for Milan at the same age Garcia is and has quickly developed into one of the best goalkeepers in the world – at the age of 18.
Milan fans are, understandably, furious he should turn his back on the club just 72 appearances into his career in order to enjoy a more lucrative financial package at Real Madrid. The idea of Donnarumma joining the ranks of Rossoneri icons such as Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi or Gianni Rivera who spent all, if not a substantial period, of their careers at the club have been destroyed.
Mino Raiola’s influence as agent and advisor cannot be ignore, the Dutch-Italian apparently symbolising the very essence of what is wrong with modern football as loyalty and development of his client’s career is sacrificed for financial gain.
It’s a view that holds credibility to a degree when spoken by fans but, unfortunately, from Milan’s own perspective it’s affirmation of the world they exist in and, despite the platform Milan have provided Donnarumma, is it any great surprise when you peel back the emotion?
As Giocondo Martorelli, the scout who first discovered Donnarumma, revealed yesterday, the player was snatched by Milan from under the noses of Inter when he was 14 for €250,000 (Dh1m).
Martorelli told TMW Radio: “I might come off as unpleasant to some, but I was one of the very few people who saw this coming.
“I saw this kid in Naples and immediately called Piero Ausilio at Inter. For three-and-a-half years, up until 2013, he was being groomed by Inter and had several trial runs there.
“It all went fine until the moment he was set to sign the written contract with the club. That afternoon, we all reached an agreement – him, his father and mother – after four intense years.
“The next morning, they agreed terms with Milan, without warning or fair play. There were some precedents that made me think Donnarumma could get into this situation with Milan.”
What Milan did to turn the 14-year-old Donnarumma’s head is unclear but that were able to break any relationship he had established with Inter says a lot about him, those behind him (Raiola wasn’t on the scene at this stage) and the business he exists in.
We want to believe players have deep emotional bonds with their club, and maybe this once was the case – before wages accelerated, before footballers became used such a huge commercial vehicle, before television rights became billion dollar bargaining tools – but that romanticised past is becoming increasingly more distant than we think. As money floods it, any semblance of loyalty is eroded and clubs, increasingly so, are nothing more than employers controlled purely and simple by market forces.
In Donnarumma’s defence, why wouldn’t you want to play for the two-time European champions alongside individuals he would have idolised growing up, and probably still does to this day.
And who’s to say the new project at the San Siro under the ownership of Li Yonghong is a foolproof path to a return to the glory days? He could well harbour some doubt over the sustainability of this new wave of investment, or has at least been fed as much.
Whereas it would take something catastrophic for Madrid to be kicked off the summit of world football during his life as a professional.
The market dictates whoever pays the most, gets the best. It’s a simple equation but cuts through any loyalty that might have existed at the core of the game – at Garcia’s level and at Donnarumma’s.
Those are the terms we all have to agree on.
Cristiano Ronaldo, battling accusations of tax evasion and speculation over his club future, is concentrating only on the Confederations Cup, his Portugal teammate Andre Silva said Friday.
“He takes this tournament very seriously and is focussed. He is motivated, just like me,” said the 21-year-old Silva at a news conference in Kazan ahead of Portugal’s opening Confederations Cup match against Mexico on Sunday.
“He is concentrating on playing for the national team and he wants to give the motivation to have a good tournament.”
Ronaldo insisted Wednesday he had a “clear conscience” after Spanish prosecutors accused the Real Madrid star of evading 14.7 million euros in tax through offshore companies.
“Conscience clear, always,” Ronaldo told reporters at Lisbon airport as he and his Portuguese teammates prepared to fly out to Russia.
Real Madrid also gave their backing to Ronaldo, releasing a statement saying the club had “full confidence in our player Cristiano Ronaldo, who we understand has acted in accordance with the legality regarding compliance with his tax obligations”.
At just 18 years of age, Kylian Mbappe is the hottest property in football and the French sensation admits that he has been surprised by how quickly his star has risen.
“I always had lots of imagination when I was little, so I am not going to say that I hadn’t imagined it,” Mbappe told AFP in an interview when asked if he expected to have won a league title and become a full international at such a young age.
“I imagined succeeding early, but I didn’t really think things would happen so quickly.
“Of course I always believed. The players who have succeeded in their careers are the ones who believed in themselves.”
Billed as the new Thierry Henry, Mbappe made his top-flight debut for Monaco in December 2015 when still aged just 16, but it is in the last six months that he has gone from a player of great promise to one of the biggest stars in Europe.
He scored 15 goals to help Monaco win a first French title since 2000 and won his first cap for France in March.
He is now being linked to mega-money moves to one of the continent’s biggest sides this close season, with Real Madrid leading the chase alongside the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and both Manchester clubs.
On Tuesday he earned his fourth cap for Les Bleus, starring in a 3-2 friendly victory over England in front of almost 80,000 fans at the Stade de France
The following day he was speaking at the Edouard Rist clinic in Paris in his role as an ambassador for an association called “Lead Climbers” which backs sporting initiatives for hospitalised children.
Mbappe has taken on a lot of responsibility for one so young but he thrives on his new status, as his assured nature before the glare of the cameras attests.
But such self-confidence should not be mistaken for arrogance, he says.
“No, it is a strength. But having belief in yourself is not enough — you also need to work hard and always respect the people around you.
“I think when you show respect to people, they respect you back. But it is important to be yourself.
“That is part of my personality. I have always been a chilled out kid who doesn’t get carried away,” added Mbappe, who hails from the often deprived northern suburbs of the French capital.
“My entourage has always helped make life easy for me and I never had any real difficulties growing up.”
Mbappe was unlucky not to score his first international goal against England, hitting the bar in the second half before setting up the winner for his fellow young starlet Ousmane Dembele.
At times he had the Stade de France crowd gasping with his skill. He is already an idol for aspiring young footballers but he accepts being in the public eye and acting as a role model is a key part of his job.
“That is the business we are in. Everyone would love to be in our shoes,” he said.
“I don’t mind that people expect a lot from me. When I was a child I had idols and footballers are idols.
“You place them on such a pedestal that they can’t do anything wrong. That is a challenge but it is also interesting, because it allows us to keep learning while also making sure we continue to serve as a good example to these young kids.”
Provided by AFP