Donnarumma signs AC Milan renewal as transfer saga finally concludes
On June 15, Gianluigi Donnarumma shocked AC Milan supporters by turning down a contract extension from the club. Questions followed as to whether he would be sold this summer or if he would see out the remaining 12 months of his deal, but the Rossoneri remained calm and waited to see how the situation would unfold.
CEO Marco Fassone and sporting director Massimo Mirabelli insisted that they would leave the door open. However, they always had specific timeframes in mind, as Fassone had promised to have two-thirds of the squad in place ready for manager Vincenzo Montella by the time preseason preparations started this week.
Fast forward almost a month, and the 18-year-old has now performed a U-turn and signed a new contract, keeping him at the club until 2021. Having faced such a fierce backlash last month though, it's questionable whether this deal repairs the damage done to his relationship with supporters.
Donnarumma was targeted in Poland at the European Under-21 Championship with fake money being thrown at him on the pitch from a local Milan supporters group. He also faced a relentless tirade of abuse from fans on social media. The shot-stopper undoubtedly made the situation worse throughout with his continued silence, and it all contributed to a breakdown with a large section of the Milan faithful.
Further, there was certainly a sense that he had shown a lack of loyalty and desire to commit himself to the club initially. As speculation rumbled on though, it became apparent that perhaps his intention was to always stay but various factors contributed to the situation.
From the club's perspective, this is the ideal end result. In the event that he perhaps still moves on, Donnarumma signing an extension essentially puts Milan in a stronger position moving forward. The Italian giants can demand a price tag closer to his real valuation, as opposed to what they may have had to settle for this summer, if they chose to sell with just a year left on his deal.
In an ideal world though, Donnarumma will have signed this new contract with the intention of committing himself to Milan, and in turn proving that this is ultimately where he wanted to be all along.
Whether his agent, Mino Raiola, sees it the same way is up for debate. The presence of a reported release clause would suggest that there is still an element of wanting a backup option.
Nevertheless, this is what Milan wanted from the start. Donnarumma has always been a key figure in their plans and an was seen as somebody who could be the public face of the club and one day become a legend. Coupled with the signings added to the squad this summer, it's hoped that they can combine to be a success.
From the current Italian core on the squad -- Donnarumma, Alessio Romagnoli, Manuel Locatelli and Giacomo Bonaventura -- coupled with the new arrivals, this is undoubtedly a great and balanced team.
Donnarumma's renewal is another bonus in a great summer for the club, and if can he get back to the level he has displayed over the last two seasons, then things will be quickly forgotten. Expectations are sky-high after this transfer window, and with players like Donnarumma in the starting lineup there's a better chance of meeting the club's lofty targets.
While Donnarumma's situation didn't distract the Milan hierarchy from their plans to strengthen the squad this summer, it has been a frustrating story that needed to be concluded. The saga dragged on for far too long, and it just added to the tension and frustration.
Whether it was Fassone's impeccable handling of the matter or Montella meeting Donnarumma's family last month, Milan have been faultless from start to finish by all accounts. Now, it is hoped that all parties can put the last month or so behind them and move forward together to help get the club back to where it should be.
A strong start to the new season on an individual level coupled with some strategic shows of affection will surely turn this around entirely for Donnarumma. In truth, it's both a huge relief and a real boost to see him put pen-to-paper, and he will now play a key role in the campaign ahead with no distractions.
Sumeet Paul covers AC Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @SP_Calcio.