Italy

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AC Milan’s masterplan: Spend their way back to relevance

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ROME (AP) It’s the type of freewheeling spending spree that has been the domain of Middle East sheikhs and Russian oligarchs in recent years.

Only this time it’s the new Chinese owners of AC Milan who have been dominating football’s transfer market.

The signing of prized Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci from six-time defending Serie A champion Juventus on Friday boosted Milan’s offseason spending to 211 million euros (nearly $250 million) – easily the most in Europe.

Other recent signings by the Rossoneri have included forward Andre Silva from FC Porto; midfielders Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti (Atalanta), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lucas Biglia (Lazio), and defender Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal).

With teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma having agreed to extend his contract until 2021 and another big forward signing expected, Milan could be in position to challenge for its first Serie A title since 2011.

It’s the type of outlay made by the likes of Roman Abramovich when he took over Chelsea in 2003, Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City in 2008 and the Qatari investors in Paris Saint-Germain in 2011.

The overhaul reminds former Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi of when Silvio Berlusconi took control of the club three decades ago and quickly acquired the likes of Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, Carlo Ancelotti and Frank Rijkaard.

The important thing, Sacchi said in an editorial in the Gazzetta dello Sport on Saturday, will be for the new owners to give Milan coach Vincenzo Montella the time to mold a proper squad.

“Berlusconi and (former Milan vice president Adriano) Galliani were extraordinary and determined with me, showing confidence and respect for me even though we were far from the top by Christmas,” Sacchi wrote.

“Montella’s job won’t be easy,” Sacchi added. “He’s going to have to create the right chemistry and find a system of playing that makes all of these players thrive.”

Milan went on to win two European Cups under Sacchi and ushered in a period of dominance by Italian clubs.

With seven European and Champions League titles in all, Milan sits second only to Real Madrid’s 12.

But after three years without any appearances at all in Europe, Milan is looking to regain its place among football’s elite.

The Chinese-led consortium that purchased Milan from Berlusconi for $800 million in April has infused the club with cash.

By the time Serie A starts in mid-August, Milan’s starting 11 could consist of nine new players.

While Bonucci is considered Italy’s top defender – which is saying something in a nation that prides itself on its defending – the last piece of Milan’s transfer puzzle could be the one that alters the balance of power in Serie A.

If Bonucci, as he has intimated, is able to convince former Juventus teammate and current Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata to join him at Milan, the Rossoneri might just have enough firepower to end Juve’s stranglehold on the “scudetto” (title).

The other forwards Milan is considering signing include: Andrea Belotti, who scored 26 goals for Torino last season; Nikola Kalinic, the scrappy Fiorentina striker; or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the still-improving Borussia Dortmund marksman who ended his youth career with Milan.

Whoever Milan chooses, he will pair in attack with the 21-year-old Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo’s wingman with Portugal, whose transfer cost 38 million euros ($42.5 million).

Bonucci’s transfer fee topped the 40 million euro ($45 million) mark, and the center back was signed to a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros ($11 million) per season, including bonuses – making him the highest-paid player in Italy.

In an unusual move, Milan will also make Bonucci the club’s captain before he even plays a match for the team.

“The truth is they’ve gone beyond expectations,” former Milan stalwart Demetrio Albertini said of the new owners. “But if amount of money invested were the only measure that counted, Paris Saint-Germain should have won at least a couple Champions League titles by now.”

Transfer Rumor Wrap: Barcelona resigns Deulofeu, Milan spending spree continues

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Gerard Deulofeu is heading home.

Barcelona announced it had re-signed the 23-year-old Spanish winger early Friday, two weeks after exercising his buy-back clause after he was sold to Everton in 2015. According to the BBC, the buy-back clause is worth $13.75 million.

The Catalonian club signed Deulofeu to a two-year contract and Deulofeu is already taking part in preseason training with the club.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Since leaving Barcelona in 2013, Deulofeu has played for Everton, Sevilla and AC Milan, where he finished last season, making 16 starts and scoring four times. Overall with Everton Deulofeu made 62 Premier League appearances with five goals and 11 assists. But he found himself out of coach Ronald Koeman‘s plans heading into this season, opening the door for a return to Barcelona.

For Barcelona, Deulofeu likely wasn’t their first choice to sign this summer but bringing in a homegrown winger who can impact the game off the bench is never a bad idea, especially at a cut-rate price.

Here’s a look at more transfer news from around the Premier League and Europe

(more…)

Teenage Milan ‘keeper Donnarumma renews contract until 2021

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MILAN (AP) AC Milan’s teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma has agreed to extend his contract with the Serie A club until 2021.

The talented 18-year-old turned down a new deal last month and would have been a free agent at the end of next season.

But on Tuesday, Milan announced it had reached an agreement with Donnarumma, saying he would sign a new four-year contract the following morning.

[ MORE: The 5,442-mile away day ]

Key to the deal is the signing of Donnarumma’s older brother Antonio, also a goalkeeper.

The new contract will reportedly see the younger Donnarumma earn six million euros a season ($7 million) and contains a release clause worth approximately 70 million euros.

Donnarumma has been ever present for Milan since October 2015, when he became the youngest goalkeeper to start a Serie A match, at the age of 16 years, 8 months, 6 days.

He has already made four international appearances and is seen as the heir to veteran Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Donnarumma had fake money thrown at him during his country’s Under-21 European Championship opener against Denmark last month by fans seemingly upset by his decision not to renew his contract, while a banner emblazoned with “Dollarumma” was also displayed.

WATCH: Spain’s Saul smashes a shot past Italy’s Donnarumma

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Since returning from a loan at Rayo Vallecano, Saul Niguez has been a somewhat under the radar star at Atletico Madrid.

Coming off his best season with Atleti, the 22-year-old Saul is making an even bigger name for himself at the U-21 EURO this summer.

Spain’s Saul scored a hat trick past Gianluigi Donnarumma and Italy on Tuesday, and the second goal was laced with venom.

Getting onto the ball from 30-plus yards out, Saul smashed his shot with enough power that the ball barely had occasion to rotate.

Saul is under contract at the Vicente Calderon through 2022, and has three caps for Spain’s senior team, too. He was rated Atleti’s third-best performer by WhoScored this season.

Donnarumma showered with fake money on Italy U-21 duty (video)

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Teenage wonder Gianluigi Donnarumma is not going to sign a new deal at AC Milan, and Italian fans are not happy with his act.

The 18-year-old, managed by super agent Mino Raiola, reportedly turned down a five-year deal which would’ve netted him $5 million-plus after taxes.

[ MORE: Confederations Cup recaps ]

There were rumors of an even bigger deal from Real Madrid, and many Italian fans want to know how much is enough for Gianluigi Buffon’s heir apparent between the Azzurri’s sticks.

On duty for Italy’s U-21s against Denmark, Italian fans showered Donnarumma in fake money. The disturbance caused a delay in the action as workers scooped up the faux bills.

It’s still just the second-best use of a “greed money shower” in recent history.