Don't blame Raiola for Donnarumma leaving Milan for PSG: Super-agent got Italy star exactly what he wanted

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Gianluigi Donnarumma will not be able to get the squad number he wants at Paris Saint-Germain. Mino Raiola, though, has already secured the one that really counts.

Indeed, the news that Donnarumma will be unable to wear his preferred No.99 jersey at Parc des Princes means nothing in the grand scheme of things.

What matters is that PSG have agreed to pay Donnarumma the €12 million (£10.3/$14.6m) yearly salary that self-styled 'super-agent' Raiola was seeking all along, making it quite the week for the 53-year-old.

Indeed, it began with him revealing revealed that his "lawyers have already taken action" against the makers of Report, the RAI 3 investigative programme aired on Monday night, which features Raiola as a protagonist.

"It is shameful that State television, using public money, should create false news,” Raiola told the Corriere dello Sport.

"RAI ought to guarantee serious journalism. Instead, they sent a journalist to Malta who said a lot of false things and was unable to find the right address of my office.

"This error is unforgivable because it casts a shadow over my reputation."

Raiola, of course, has never previously shown much concern for how he is perceived within the football industry. He appears to have no issue with his reputation; if anything, he revels in it.

Dutch journalist Thijs Slegers famously once described Raiola as "a mafioso" to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who pointed out in his autobiography, "The guy wasn't actually a mafioso. [Raiola] just looked and acted like one... He was completely fearless and prepared to pull any number of tricks."

Which was exactly what the then-Ajax attacker was looking for in an agent. "I didn't want another nice guy," Ibrahimovic wrote. "I wanted to be transferred and to get a good contract."

And Raiola has always delivered in that regard, which is why the much-travelled Ibrahimovic remains just one of several high-profile footballers on his client list.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic Mino Raiola GFX

Whatever one thinks about him, Raiola usually forms long and lasting bonds with his players. And his relationship with Donnarumma appears to be no different.

In Italy, there has been a predictable attempt to portray Raiola as the bad guy in the goalkeeper's decision to leave AC Milan and join PSG on a free transfer, the work of an avaricious agent who has led another young client astray.

After all, the 22-year-old Donnarumma was a Rossoneri fan as a child and had been their first-choice shot-stopper since the age of 16. Before the season began, coach Stefano Pioli had even admitted that he could not "imagine Milan without Donnarumma".

However, one-club men are now a thing of the past in football. 

Milan's technical director, Paolo Maldini, spent the entirety of his glorious playing career at San Siro, but when confirming that Donnarumma would not be extending his contract with the club, the defensive icon stated, "It is increasingly difficult to start a career in one place and finish it there.

"We must thank those who gave so much for Milan and Gigio did that, without ever disrespecting the club. Our paths divide here and I can only wish him the best."

Many Milan fans have been less magnanimous after admitting defeat in their efforts to persuade 'Super Gigio' to remain a Rossonero.

Before the monumental top-four showdown with Juventus at the tail end of the season, a group of ultras had even turned up at Milanello and pleaded with Donnarumma to stay at San Siro.

The Italy international reassured them that reports of a move to Juve were false, explaining that he had yet to make a decision on his future and tearfully insisting that he wished to remain a Rossonero.

At the stage, the hope was that if Milan secured a return to the Champions League for the first time since 2014, Donnarumma would sign a renewal. But this was never about football, it was all about finance. Contract extensions are just a numbers game these days and if they do not add up, a player joins another club. 

In Donnarumma's case, he was on €6m (£5.1m/$7.3m) a season at San Siro. Raiola wanted double that for his client, as well as a reported €20m (£17m/$24m) commission.

Gianluigi Donnarumma Paolo Maldini AC Milan GFX

Milan were never going to agree to such figures. Since taking charge of the club, after former owners Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux defaulted on loan repayments, Elliott Management have been running the club as prudently as possible.

The fallen giants jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the proposed European Super League, as it would have instantaneously catapulted them back to the summit of the game. However, thanks to Maldini's shrewd signings and Pioli's clever coaching, Milan have been slowly but surely working their way back to the top anyway, as underlined by this season's third-place finish in Serie A.

Donnarumma played a pivotal role, of course. He was named the league's best goalkeeper for the 2020-21 campaign, but there was always a chance that it would be his last at the Giuseppe Meazza. Truth be told, it is probably a surprise he stayed this long. 

From the moment he made his Serie A debut, Donnarumma has been the subject of almost-annual transfer talk and many Milan fans have long since grown weary of Raiola's antics.

During one of many previous contractual disputes, he conducted a bizarre press conference in his kitchen in Monte Carlo and accused Milan of bullying his client, as well as creating a hostile atmosphere that resulted in Donnarumma receiving death threats.

Those claims were never substantiated, but both Donnarumma and his family have, at various times, been subjected to vitriolic abuse. He has been nicknamed 'Dollarumma', had fake bank notes thrown at him and even reduced to tears by a banner at San Siro.

However, throughout all of the controversy, Donnarumma's relationship with Raiola has, crucially, never wavered.

Before Italy's clash with Germany in Poland, the Rossoneri fans in attendance unfurled a banner which read, "If you have Milan in your heart, leave your agent." And there was talk at the time that Donnarumma was considering following that advice.

However, he eventually responded to the rumours by tweeting: "#Donnarumma #Raiola Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow!" And that unbreakable bond really is the crux of the issue here.

Gianluigi Donnarumma Mino Raiola AC Milan banner GFX

The press have played a part in propagating the idea that Raiola is controlling Donnarumma. A Gazzetta dello Sport editorial on his Milan exit opened with the caustic line, "Ciao, Gigio, go wherever Mino takes you."

But the fact of the matter is that Raiola works for Donnarumma – and not the other way around. It is Donnarumma who is calling the shots here. If he were unhappy with the job Raiola was doing, he would fire him.

As Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis told the Gazzetta: "I don't know the boundaries of the relationship between Gigio and Raiola but, ultimately, of course, the decision is always the player's... He did what he thought was best for him."

And Milan have done what is best for them, by refusing to give in to Raiola's exorbitant demands. They made Donnarumma a very fair offer of a 25 per cent pay rise (€8m a year) and it was rejected. It really is as simple as that.

Funnily enough, Ibrahimovic has expressed his incredulity at his former team-mate's departure, arguing, "He could have been Milan's goalkeeper for 20 years. He could have become 'Mr. Milan', like Maldini. What value could be given to Maldini? It's immeasurable.

He added during an interview with Gazzetta: "What is 'earning too much'? Everything has its price. It depends on how much you need the player. The value is determined by the market."

And Ibra is right, of course: the market is always decisive. But it has changed. Because of the economic crisis caused by Covid-19, many elite clubs are no longer in a position to pay ridiculous salaries, making Donnarumma's exit inevitable, particularly as Milan already had an excellent replacement lined up, in Lille's Mike Maignan.

Of course, there is no way of portraying the loss of a generational talent like Donnarumma in a favourable light. We are talking about Gigi Buffon's heir, Italy's No.1 at Euro 2020.

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But this was Donnarumma's decision at the end of the day. Just as it was Donnarumma's decision to both hire and stick with Raiola through incessant criticism.

He has always acted professionally and was perfectly entitled to leave Milan for nothing. But he may never shake the 'Dollarumma' nickname in Italy. 

He may not care. Just like Ibra all those years ago, Donnarumma got transferred and got a good contract. And he has Raiola to thank for that.