AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini admitted that transfer target Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has exceeded all expectations the club had of him when he came through the youth ranks at San Siro.
Borussia Dortmund striker Aubameyang wanted to rejoin Milan before the transfer window closed, according to Rossoneri director Massimiliano Mirabelli, and Maldini revealed the Gabon international "loves Milan".
But the Bundesliga outfit refused all approaches for the 29-year-old and Maldini indicated that Aubameyang's stock may have risen beyond the point at which a return to his first professional club is possible.
After signing professional terms with Milan in 2008, Aubameyang spent time on loan at Dijon, Lille, Monaco and Saint-Etienne, before joining the latter in 2011 and then moving to Dortmund in 2013.
In an interview with Bild, Maldini said: "Auba has reached a level I would never have expected and Milan did not expect it.
"At that time it was hard for young players, the team was just too strong. It was the right decision to leave.
"I am very happy for him and have met him recently and said he surprised me. He loves Milan, but he is also quite expensive now."
When asked about the biggest story of the transfer window, Maldini said Neymar's €222 million move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain was about more than the Brazilian's goalscoring talents.
"The market has changed," said the former Italy captain. "Neymar is worth it.
"You don't buy him only for what he does on the pitch. He is a brand.
"Paris wanted to show everyone they could get him, Cristiano Ronaldo or [Lionel] Messi."