Marco Fassone has given his answers to Raiola’s accusations, insisted that every time he’d spoken to Donnarumma the player told him he wanted to stay, and said that if a club wants to sign Gigio this summer, they’ll have to pay his true value (‘we do not need €20 million’).
Super-agent Mino Raiola went on every channel that will accept him yesterday (Sunday) in order to explain his side of the story in the Gianluigi Donnarumma case (read his full statements here).
And so, Milan CEO Marco Fassone did a press round as well, answering to the many accusations laid out by Raiola. Fassone has made it clear that they are ready to sit around the table again to discuss Donnarumma (and also won’t rule out working with Mino in the future), but also insisted that in his eyes, there is little doubt that Raiola is the one standing behind Donnarumma’s refusal, and is the one that made the decision.
“It seems fairly simple,” Fassone told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “A player and his agent made their technical and economic evaluation, thinking that they will turn in the future to a club of more elite pedigree with greater financial availability. Raiola wants to exploit the path of the player economically and intends to move him in order to maximize revenue, for both himself and the client.
“I said several times that Donnarumma assured us he wanted to stay? That’s true. From the first day after we settled in, we started talking to both him and Raiola. And while Raiola always tended to slow things down [he didn’t understand Milan’s ‘hurry’], the player told us he wanted Milan. And he was telling us that looking fixed in our eyes, he was absolutely sincere. In the end, the agent prevailed and I’m convinced that in his heart, Gigio is not convinced of the decision he has taken.
“If I’m saying that everything is reduced to Raiola? Of course, the decision is his. He used his influence, and he’s very influential over Gigio. Think about it for a moment: an 18-year-old and an important agent with a big personality. He could it end? Of course, when I looked the boy in the eyes, I had a good deal of hope that it was all fine. But instead…
“If it’s not expected for the player to take a position? No… it’s normal that he put himself in the hands of his agent. Rather, given Raiola’s grievances about how we ‘pressured’ Gigio, I expected that Raiola would understand our need to go into the pre-season retreat serene, and to do everything possible to find an optimal solution. Raiola is talking about mobbing? This word makes me smile.
“If Raiola is referring to making some phone calls to Gigio and his family members then the answer is simple: it seems to me quite normal to try until the end for such an important player. It’s normal to make him feel loved. Mino uses pretentious arguments. If there’s a war with Raiola since he attacked Mirabelli? Well, if he attacks Mirabelli then he attacks Milan. So, the declaration of war is his.
“The truth is that Raiola goes against Mirabelli because he wants to tear a hole inside Milan. But it’s a big mistake: Massimiliano and I have been working together for years and we have a great relationship. So, his game does not work, it fails. Why is there conflict between them? Because Mirabelli does not compromise, he’s an honest professional, he’s competent and loyal.
“We threatened Donnarumma that he won’t play? I don’t get it [the accusations of Raiola]. I can only say that in the meeting in Monte Carlo, where Gigio was present, maybe the tones were a little shaky. But I also have to say that on that occasion, we made them a very important economic proposal, which had surprised them positively. That is why I was optimistic that the ‘yes’ would prevail. I told Gigio: ‘Think about it, if you renew your contract you’ll see 10k fans around [at Casa Milan]’.
“Raiola says that Milan were in a hurry? Evidently, we have different temporal concepts. For Raiola two months are ‘too much of a hurry’? The first meeting was on April 14, then there were others, we had all the time to get to know each other. And I have to clarify a concept: if I can’t figure out what can happen with an expiring player, I have to insure myself in case the player then doesn’t renew. Look at what happened with De Sciglio: given the uncertainty regarding his future, Rodriguez arrived.
“If I feel betrayed by Gigio? We all love him and we tried to transmit this feeling in every way. I’ll you more: Milan is still ready to accept him with option arms today, even the most annoyed fans would. I’m saying that I don’t rule out a rapprochement? I say that if we received a phone call which we were asked to sit and talk about it, we would do so without any problems. On our part, we are ready to talk about it again. Of course, Raiola has been very clear but I don’t rule out that the parties will come back and revise. Obviously, when he comes back to the team, we’ll also talk to the player.
“The percentages for a hypothetical rapprochement? Raiola needs to give those, not Milan. If I would behave differently if I could go back? No, I would do everything in the same way because I believe that transparency and speaking with clarify are important qualities, as are the ethics in work.
“If on Raiola’s side there were no ethics? On the other side, there was no willingness to listen to our offer. And any in case, notwithstanding the legitimacy of what Raiola decided to do, there are ethics in business too, especially when dealing with a club that with much courage, grew a great player.
“What would be ethical then? A renewal with a buy-out clause that would be good for everyone. Instead, he put the other negotiator into a corner, especially when this negotiator is in a position of weakness due to a contract. If I’ll keep doing business with Raiola? There is no, and there will never be such preclusion. It’s not a personal matter. In the future, we’ll be able to make deals with him.
“And the same goes for those who are currently in the squad and represented by Mino [Ignazio Abate and Giacomo Bonaventura]. I’ve heard that they may be affected by all this but for us what counts is only that the players are functional to the tactical project.
“The fans have been by our side in this entire affair? It’s beautiful. I didn’t think it would happen in the face of what is essentially a failure. In this way, they testify that they are in agreement with the project we are pursuing with great clarity and ambition. The fans have given us confident in a complicated environment and in much less time than we thought.
“Heavy threats have been made about Donnarumma [from fans]? We regret it and it’s something that gives us displeasure. Gigio does not deserve it. If we feel that there could really be a safety issue, we would act immediately. If he stays it would be in a difficult environment? Yes, yes. If he remains for him it’s a complicated season. But whistles is one thing, and threats is another.
“Not to mention that he would never see the pitch? And who says that? It’s true we’re looking for another potentially strong goalkeeper, so that the coach won’t risk playing someone whose head is somewhere else. But the team hierarchies are set by Montella, if we did those we would be doing his work. There is nothing saying that we can’t see Gigio playing, this equation must be dismantled.
“Who are the losers from this whole story? Milan, certainly, lose a strong goalkeeper and also lose from an economic point of view. But the story has cemented the relationship between the club and the fans, which is basic: Not all bad things that occur come about to harm you.”
Fassone also gave a long interview to today’s edition of il Corriere della Sera:
“If Milan did enough to protect Donnarumma from the death threats he received? We are pained at these extremes that football seems to generate. We are also disappointed if his decision, or that of his agent, provoked such reactions. As a club, I really don’t know what more we could’ve done to give Gigio and his family the desire and pleasure to remain. We tried to transmit that to him every time we spoke. If he were to reconsider, not only would he be welcomed back with open arms by Milan the club, but in the end, I think also by the Milan fans. Moods can change so quickly.
“The threat to send Donnarumma to the stands? There were no threats. Our position is clear: Donnarumma, for the ownership, is not for sale, and he will be at Milan next season. Montella will decide on a weekly basis. As far as I am concerned, he can play every game. However, we cannot run any risks, so we need to seek out another goalkeeper. We can’t rely on someone who is coming to the end of his contract, who is perhaps thinking of Real Madrid, especially in such a delicate role. I have to be sure we’ve got a focused shot-stopper who is in ideal physical and psychological condition.
“If San Siro changed against him it would be a difficult situation to handle? It could remove his serenity, for example. From what Raiola says, the boy is very restless now. His choice was legitimate? Nobody ever doubted he had the right to make this decision. It’s perfectly within the rules. But it’s one thing to be legitimate, another to work within the ethics of business.
“The bitterness here has to do with the unpleasant way the situation was handled. It could’ve been done without damaging the club, but by leaving like this, they have cost Milan €100m. If Donnarumma is worth this much at the age of 18, it’s also because the club invested in him, had courage to launch him into the first team. All he had to do was say he didn’t want to remain and we’d have renewed with a reasonable release clause. Then if the most important club in the world had turned up, even this summer, they could pay Milan that sum. This way what Real Madrid doesn’t pay me will end up in the pockets of his agent. I at least would’ve reinvested that sum into Italian calcio.
“If Gigio ever said he wanted to leave? Never. Every time we spoke, face to face or on the phone, Gigio assured us he wanted to stay. It was that way until two days before the last meeting with Raiola. The agent, on the other hand, always said he was not prepared to negotiate on our timescale.
“So, there were two different versions. If we really couldn’t wait more? No, because Gigio’s contract is expiring n and I needed time to act on the market. Pre-season training starts on July 3, so two weeks is the absolute minimum. If he’d told me in mid-August that he didn’t want to renew, what would I have done? It’s part of the normal planning of a good director. Besides, they had two months to think.
“Raiola blames Mirabelli? There is no Mirabelli or Fassone, just a single club, Milan. Every move, every proposal, every phone call was agreed. Nobody should try to cause friction between us.”
In addition to the interviews with the newspapers, Fassone spoke to the TV stations. “Raiola said it was Milan who lost Donnarumma? I heard the words of Mino and he gave his explanation and said his version,” the Rossoneri director said in an interview to Mediaset Premium on Monday.
“I don’t think we lost the player, there were two months in which Milan tried in every way to convince the player and his agent to stay with us. We didn’t convince him, the player and his agent took another decision and these are the facts. His fate is only to be determined from July 1st, 2018.
“He’s of Milan and he stays of Milan. I hope he doesn’t go to Juventus [when his contract expires], in addition to the [financial] damage, there would also be mockery. Raiola said our timelines were wrong and there was a lack of discretion? I think this justification is a very particular one. Before the ‘closing’ we always said that for us Donnarumma was an important priority and we wanted to build the new Milan based on an extraordinary player like him, and since the first week after we settled-in [after the takeover] we held talks with the player and the agent who represents him.
“Two months is a long and important time and I think that asking a player to tell us if he wants to stay or not before the season starts is necessary for the club, because if he doesn’t stay then we need to sign a goalkeeper who is calm in the head and is not expiring. Anyone who works on the market knows that these are times that are more congruent to make a decision in.
“Donnarumma is a player with an expiring contract and we all know that in 2018 he’s free to sign for another team for free. He’s a special player for his contract but also because it’s Donnarumma, a player of Milan who we counted on for the future. Too little time seems like an excuse.
“Raiola referred to the climate that was created around the player in the last two weeks where Milanisti have ‘married’ the club’s thesis and philosophy, turning against the player. I learned from Raiola’s words that the player received important threats that we strongly condemn.”
To Sky: “I don’t think that Milan made a mistake in anything in managing the deal for the renewal of Donnarumma. We have always been clear and consistent from the beginning and we’ve been telling Raiola the same things since the first week after we settled in, and I repeated them again last week.
“We talked many times to Donnarumma and many times to Raiola, we presented them an important offer that then over the days became even more important, and made testimonies of love towards the player. But in the end, came this decision, and I don’t feel that I’ve done wrong in this affair.
“Gigio is very sad about how things went? I’ve got these sentiments from Raiola’s words too. But for me, it’s not a novelty because every time I talked to Donnarumma I always saw in his eyes the look of a boy who is in love with Milan and who wanted to stay a Rossoneri. I’m sure that the final decision was a solely business choice taken by Raiola, who is very good at maximizing the profits from the transfers of his players, and Gigio suffers from it. Within me, inside my heart, there is still the suspicion that Gigio had hoped for a different finale. Maybe life will hold us some surprises.
“Communication channels with Donnarumma are still open. I heard yesterday from Raiola, but not from Donnarumma in these days since he’s busy with the U21 NT, and we have to leave him free to focus on that; but when he returns, he will do all the preparation with us, so the occasions to speak again will be multiple. The possibility of a rapprochement is small but never say never…
“In the case of non-renewal, I don’t think it’s a nightmare, some things happen in football. It’s a great sorrow and there is bitterness because he was the right person for us to rebuild Milan around. If this option is confirmed, we will miss a big goalkeeper, but we did find compactness with the fans which I didn’t think we would. This will be important for the future to face the next season in the best way.
“Accusations against Mirabelli? It’s the first time I hear something like that about him. I’ve been working by his side for years and no agent or any player had ever called Mirabelli aggressive and his attitude minatory; Raiola did it for the first time. I’ve known him for so many years and I know that he’s a high quality, transparent, honest, loyal man who does not compromise, and does everything he does in the interest of the club for which he works, and I’m in complete agreement with him.
“Raiola’s is trying to divide Milan, to present to the press a two-speed Milan: one that is good and the other that is bad. I reject the sender: Milan is unique, we are united, we have the support of the ownership and we go along together. And above all, I don’t think it’s the tone or the rising voice that can change somebody’s mind and then determine the outcome of this negotiation.
“Mattia Perin [Milan are believed to be close to signing the Genoa man]? He can be a suitable profile for us, especially if he has solved, and I hope he did, all the physical problems that he had to deal with in the last months. In any case, at this time, there is a very long list of goalkeepers in Mirabelli’s notebook, and we still haven’t managed to reduce our choices to two or at most three profiles. We are still in an early stage, because a few days ago buying a goalkeeper was not a priority.”
“The non-renewal? I was expecting it a bit, it was not a lightning strike in the clear sky,” Fassone admitted earlier today in a MilanTV interview. “In these two months, Raiola said they needed time before deciding but Gigio, every time I talked to him, he told me he wanted to stay at Milan.
“The economic damage caused to Milan? Gigio’s choice is legitimate, here he became one of the most important goalkeepers in the world and it’s because Milan focused on him. So, such a choice must be made without putting Milan in a corner. If he renewed, we could’ve set a buy-out clause and then when a club arrives and puts these numbers on a platter, he can leave.
“The environment? Everyone has seen the love of the fans for Gigio. I’ve seen only a few games in the stands this year but the affection of the fans to Donnarumma was obvious, he was the hero of the fans. To say that he doesn’t stay due to the hostile environment is wrong. Now people have changed their minds, and Gigio, in his decision, didn’t take certain things in account. I see the great sorrow of the fans, death threats are beyond football and I condemn this thing. The club will protect the player.
“From the start, I told Raiola that we don’t want to start the season with players whose contracts are expiring. The season begins on July 3rd, Raiola had two months, so he had all the time… evidently, there was no will. The future of Gigio? We don’t need someone to bring us €20m for Donnarumma, because he is worth much more. Gigio will stay here and leave next year for free – if someone wants him they need to come to us and make an offer that matches the value of the player.
“A new goalkeeper [they met today with Perin and Neto’s agents]? Mirabelli is working to find an excellent goalkeeper, he will soon show me his analysis. Then it’s up to Montella to decide who to play. Mirabelli? Raiola’s goal was to say that there are two Milan’s. I reject the sender’s attempt because there is full harmony between us. Mirabelli and I are Milan, there are not two Milan’s.
“People are comparing the Donnarumma case with the Conti case? Two completely different cases. We spoke about him with Percassi since when we negotiated for Kessié. Atalanta knows our interest very well. A few days I ago I also met the player’s agent. We work with transparency. I’ve not spoken to one team asking for Donnarumma, only the agent. It’s clear how different the situations are.
“A rapprochement? Raiola has left a small opening. We would be happy to reconvene and think about it. And I’m sure that even the tension with the fans would disappear. But I don’t want to create illusions. We want Donnarumma, he for now has said that he doesn’t want to renew.
“We’re in contact with Raiola, only time will tell.” Fassone is keeping all the doors open, and it’s clear Milan are moving forward. Sale or no sale, Donnarumma will face a much harder reality next year.