Gianluigi Donnarumma's decision not to sign Milan contract another example of football's money-driven age

James Piercy 16/06/2017
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Golden boy: Gianluigi Donnarumma is already one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

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.

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Cristiano Ronaldo.

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Provided by AFP

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