With the Rossoneri having signed several exciting youngsters and persuaded Gigi Donnarumma to stay, landing the BVB striker would send out a message
Vincenzo Montella was understandably enthused by the news that Gianluigi Donnarumma had signed a contract extension on Tuesday.
“It’s been a soap opera but the final outcome is the most important thing,” the AC Milan coach told reporters after his side’s pre-season win over Lugano. “Gigio is like a son.” And a prodigal one at that.
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Donnarumma had sparked fury among Milan fans by initially refusing to extend his previous deal with the club but Milan, being the good father, always insisted that he would be forgiven, welcomed back with open arms if he decided to change his mind.
Montella even joked that the only issue left to resolve is finding out why the teenager went to Ibiza with his girlfriend rather than take his final graduation exams, which had been postponed until after this summer’s European Under-21 Championship in Poland.
The coach’s good humour was wholly understandable.
Having already seen his squad strengthened by several exciting young talents, including Franck Kessie, Andre Silva, Andrea Conti, Ricardo Rodriguez and Hakan Calhanoglu, and Lucas Biglia set to arrive from Lazio in the coming days – Montella can now plan for the new season safe in the knowledge that the services of the most promising goalkeeper in the world have been secured for at least another season.
It has been a good summer for the side that finished sixth in Serie A last season. It could yet become a great one.
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When Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ran into Adriano Galliani before last year’s Champions League final in Milan, the Rossoneri SEO told the Borussia Dortmund ace, “I know that you cannot come back right now but if one day you choose to return, you will be welcomed back.”
The former Primavera starlet smiled, “With pleasure.”
At the time, though, the Gabon international was out of both Milan’s league – and their price range.
Furthermore, he had his heart set on a move to Real Madrid – and made no secret of that fact.
“It’s a promise I made to my grandfather,” he said after helping BVB earn a dramatic 2-2 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu by scoring one goal and creating another.
“Right now, I feel very good at Dortmund but in the future we’ll see…”
And there’s the rub: one never knows what the future holds. Things change, and at great speed in the fickle world of football.
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Since that night in the Spanish capital, Real have fallen for another jet-heeled striker, Kylian Mbappe, while Galliani and Silvio Berlusconi have made way for new, ambitious and affluent Chinese owners at San Siro, who have even sounded Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci out about moving to Milan.
As a result, the Rossoneri’s dream of re-signing a player who once graced their Primavera could actually become a reality. However, much will depend on what happens before the close of the Chinese transfer window on Friday.
Tianjin Quanjian had hoped to acquire Aubameyang, at the behest of their coach, Fabio Cannavaro, but that now looks unlikely due to stringent measures introduced by the government to dissuade CSL clubs from continuing to spend colossal amounts of money on overseas stars.
Essentially, under the new regulations, the proposed €80 million transfer would actually cost Tianjin double that in taxes, making the deal most unappealing.
The Rossoneri are, thus, prepared to play a waiting game, in the hope that BVB will ultimately be willing to accept a lower fee for a player that wants to leave Signal Iduna Park this summer, while at the same time offering Aubameyang the chance to become the highest-paid player in Serie A.
A return to San Siro was clearly not his preference but the top scorer in last season’s Bundesliga still has both friends and unfinished business at Milan.
When the 28-year-old faced Juventus with BVB in the Champions League last 16 in February 2015, he openly admitted that he was driven by the desire for revenge, determined to “show Milan what I can do”.
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He had been never been given the chance to do so. Milan had been persuaded into adding him to their youth academy in 2007 by Aubameyang’s father, Pierre-Francois, who was working for the Italian outfit as a scout at the time.
He made an instant impression, with Galliani admitting that the French-born forward was, alongside Matteo Darmian, the best young player at the club.
“We could see him becoming a complete striker,” the ex-Milan vice-president insisted. “He scored seven goals in five games in the Youth Champions League.
“But that AC Milan senior squad was very strong and we had amazing strikers like Kaka, [Alexandre] Pato, [Filippo] Inzaghi and [Alberto] Gilardino.”
As a result, Aubameyang departed for Saint-Etienne in 2011 after four separate loan spells and without a first-team appearance – let alone a goal – to his name.
He has since proven himself one of the most explosive and prolific attackers in Europe yet, bizarrely, is now in the unexpected position of being short on suitors, with Chelsea being touted as the only potential buyer from the Premier League.
He would represent a sensational signing for Milan, though, a world-class player entering his peak years who could fire an exciting young side back into the Champions League.
It would be a mutually beneficial move for both parties. Aubameyang, who would become the best earner in Italy, could restore the Rossoneri to their former glory, while at the same time becoming a legend at one of the game’s great clubs.
Six years ago, Aubameyang was lost, to Saint-Etienne. It would be no surprise if he found himself again, back at Milan.