It should be a celebratory moment for goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma as he returns to Milan this week, having played a key role in Italy’s Euro 2020 win in the summer.
Yet Donnarumma is unlikely to get a positive reception at San Siro after leaving AC Milan in acrimonious circumstances in the summer to join Paris Saint-Germain. Ahead of Wednesday’s Nations League semi-final against Spain, there has been a banner put up saying he will “never be welcome” in Milan again, and Donnarumma is set to face boos from his own fans at the match.
The 22-year-old has tried to win over supporters by saying he will always be an AC Milan fan and he is excited to return.
Ballon d'Or 'leak' dismissed but Lewandowski now favourite for top prize
"Milan and AC Milan are an important part of my life," he said on Monday. "I'm excited, I hope there is nothing (negative from fans). I will always be a Milan fan. I have always given Milan everything, right up to the end. If something like this happens, I would also be sorry because it is a very important match, a Nations League semi-final, so I hope the fans can help us."
Eurosport Italy’s Carlofilippo Vardelli analyses the relationship between Donnarumma and Milan fans, whether it is repairable, and what Donnarumma needs to do to get supporters back on side…
Why are Milan fans so angry?
Because after kissing the Milan shirt on several occasions, he accepted the offer to move to PSG in the summer. The fans did not accept this step back from the Italian goalkeeper. From their point of view, ‘Gigio’ had to renew his contract and stay in Milan, where he had played as a youngster and made his debut as a 16-year-old.
Is it the majority of fans or just the ultras?
I would say the majority of the fans. The ultras are always very aggressive, but even the most rational Milan fans are particularly angry with the Italian goalkeeper.
- Exclusive: Martinez says Lukaku has reached another level
- Nations League finals: Who are the key players?
Is he going to be booed at San Siro?
Surely. Some fans bought the ticket just to boo him! There is great tension around this match. Paradoxically, it almost seems that Donnarumma is more important than the national team for certain ‘fans’. It is quite a surreal situation.
How has Donnarumma dealt with the adversity so far?
Donnarumma has always shown character and personality. At Milan the fans were all with him, they forgave mistakes and loved him. His return to Italy will be particularly difficult from an emotional point of view.
Can Donnarumma earn the fans' forgiveness?
Time heals everything.
Did Donnarumma not win over fans at Euro 2020?
Yes, but during the European Championship he was still a Milan player. At the end of the competition he signed with PSG. Then, to tell the truth, the national team cannot be a concrete example of cheering. The national team is loved by everyone. During the summer, Donnarumma was part of a group that made us dream. What happened on the pitch, thank goodness, prevailed over the transfer market.
Has Mike Maignan's good form not helped Milan fans forget?
Surely it will, as Maignan is doing very well. He is now in the hearts of the Rossoneri fans.
Opinion: Mendy’s Ballon d’Or snub is baffling beyond belief
'It's a real shame' - Koulibaly says Mendy deserved Ballon d’Or nomination