AC Milan keeping the door open for Gianluigi Donnarumma
After a whirlwind few weeks that saw four new signings arrive at AC Milan, Gianluigi Donnarumma's contract decision last week brought matters to a grinding halt. The Rossoneri were ready to build around the 18-year-old and to make him the face of the club, but all that changed when CEO Marco Fassone made the announcement that Donnarumma had chosen not to renew.
What followed couldn't have been predicted. Donnarumma faced a fierce backlash from supporters, while influential figures, both past and present, expressed their feelings as the youngster has dominated the headlines. From Enrico Albertosi accusing Donnarumma of betrayal to fellow Milan legend Arrigo Sacchi slamming him for what he perceived as a lack of gratitude, there were also calls from Milan ultras for him to be benched next season.
In contrast, others have come out in support of the youngster. They argue that, essentially, he's now an adult and is capable of making the best decision for his career, one that should be accepted, even if agent Mino Raiola is to blame for influencing him.
Unfortunately though, others have overstepped the line. Namely a Milan fan group who showered Donnarumma with fake money while he was on under-21 international duty on Sunday as the situation began to turn nasty.
As shocked and disappointed as anyone else last week, seeing that was a little too much and it certainly soured the situation further. Donnarumma was also subjected to an unrelenting amount of abuse on social media.
While that has been the ugly side of the situation, Fassone, in particular, has kept his cool throughout and has continued with his no-nonsense and transparent approach with supporters.
From working behind the scenes awaiting the announcement of the takeover of the club, to the work he has done since he took office, both Fassone and sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli deserve a great deal of credit.
Even after Raiola told his side of the story, Fassone responded swiftly and effectively and ultimately it's Milan who have come out of the situation in a positive light. Raiola was confrontational and made wild accusations of threatening behaviour from Milan, but he also contradicted himself on several crucial points. In truth, he seems to be a little rattled.
This isn't about getting one up on the other party at this stage though. It's about making the most sensible decision for Milan and that means keeping Donnarumma as the first-choice goalkeeper next season and beyond.
Again, this is where Fassone has been faultless. In every discussion he's had with the media about Donnarumma, he's been clear on key factors. The Milan CEO has reiterated his belief that the club did everything they could to convince the teenager to commit. Further, that Donnarumma is a player and man that they value and wish to keep, and perhaps most importantly, he has never shut the door on a possible change of heart.
From his press conference last week to his latest interview with Milan TV, Fassone has always maintained the position that Milan are ready to talk if Donnarumma wishes to sit back down at the table. His approach has led us to the point we're at now.
There are suggestions that Donnarumma is swaying towards the idea of reconsidering his decision. While that isn't an admission of fault or an official line to suggest that a renewal will definitely be signed, the mood has certainly changed and there is a growing feeling that an agreement could still be reached.
Whether it's the reaction to his decision that has made him think twice, or further talks with his family and representatives that have made him question his stance, what looked to be an impossible scenario has now become possible.
Donnarumma's brother-in-law revealed this week that the Milan ace has never said he wanted to leave Milan, nor has he asked about other clubs interested in him. In his opinion, this was purely about timing and perhaps Milan pressed too soon.
If the youngster was to speak up, apologise to the supporters and commit his future, along with the optimistic bonus of getting rid of Raiola, then this situation can still easily be rescued.
If he does change his mind, then Fassone deserves plenty of plaudits for dealing with it perfectly. Even if the renewal is with a view of putting Milan in a stronger position to receive Donnarumma's truth worth rather than a bid for a player with 12 months remaining on his contract, getting that contract signed has to be seen as the ideal result.
Sumeet Paul covers AC Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @SP_Calcio.