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AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini has confirmed that goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma will leave the club as a free agent at the end of June.
The 22-year-old Donnarumma has been widely viewed as the best young keeper in world football ever since he broke into the Milan side as a teenager. However Maldini, now a technical director at the club, confirmed that the Italy No 1 would not be signing a new contract and will depart this summer.
Maldini also defended the academy graduate during a livestream on the club's official Twitch channel on Wednesday.
AC Milan director Paolo Maldini confirms Gianluigi Donnarumma is leaving as a free agent. pic.twitter.com/ntfKo2sl4Y- ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 26, 2021
The announcement that Donnarumma, who's played over 200 games for AC Milan, will be available without a transfer fee is likely to spark a battle across Europe for the keeper's services.
Manchester United and Chelsea are among the Premier League clubs linked to Donnarumma, while Milan's Serie A rivals Juventus are also reportedly interested. But while the player and his agent, Mino Raiola, have been accused of greed by some Milan fans, Maldini was supportive.
"People sometimes don't realise what it means to be a professional, he did not lack respect," said Maldini, per talkSPORT.
"I think we should thank all the players who contributed to this incredible season. Gigio was a leader and often the captain.
"People sometimes don't realise what it means to be a professional, it means you must be ready to change club.
"It's difficult to accept, I realise, but it's also increasingly difficult to see an [entire] career in one team. We must respect those who gave so much to Milan and remember Donnarumma did not lack respect for us.
"It can happen that at times you have to take different paths. I can only wish him the best."
Hottest free agent in a long time IMO. Man can go anywhere https://t.co/VUP1DhH8yZ- Logan O'Leary (@LoganTOleary) May 26, 2021
Fair enough for Milan. No points keeping a player bigger than the club. Ungrateful child. https://t.co/Dc1rron7Y0- ☻ ارشد (@AcadWahid) May 26, 2021
He's asking for a salary very few teams can afford. Milan already replaced him with a quality GK. Great business by Milan for not getting too emotional and pay a salary they can't afford- dipatach (@dipatach) May 26, 2021
He is a gold digger. Milan is bigger than any player.- ABDULMANAFF (@MANAFFROSSI) May 26, 2021
Left-back Maldini did spend his entire, legendary career at AC Milan, racking up over 900 appearances and winning Serie A seven times and the Champions League on five occasions.
The Rossoneri will return to Europe's top club competition for the first time in seven years after they finished second in the Serie A standings last season.
But apparently that is not going to be enough to keep Donnarumma at the club, with the player's contract coming to an end on 30 June.
All imagery: PA Images
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