AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso says he is standing by Gianluigi Donnarumma after the goalkeeper faced abuse from the club's fans on Wednesday night.
In the past few days, Donnarumma, 18, was reported to have written to the Serie A club demanding they rip up the contract he signed in the summer because he had been pressured into extending it.
Fans held up a banner prior to Milan's 3-0 win over Hellas Verona in the Coppa Italia on Wednesday, reading: "Psychological violence by giving you €6 million a season and signing your parasite brother? It's time to leave... our patience is over!" Donnarumma's name was also met with jeers when the teams were announced and the player was seen to be crying in the Milan dressing room.
Gattuso has leapt to the teenager's defence, though, and says he is backing him because the rumours are not true.
"I got to know Gigio over the past months, he has never skipped one training session," Gattuso told Milan TV. "In addition to his qualities on the pitch, he is a great person too. I will always back him. He's not how some people depict him. His teammates are backing him too, he's a very humble guy."
Donnarumma is crying in the locker room....😓 pic.twitter.com/no0gXiddCZ— AC Forza Milan/News (@ACForzaMilano) December 13, 2017
Milan sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli says that there is no truth behind the report -- written by Il Corriere della Sera on Monday and claiming that Donnarumma has acted on his own initiative to annul his contract.
"Gigio has never said he wants to leave, otherwise he would never have signed through to 2021," he told Milan TV. "There's someone who is trying to organise something deliberately, but we will look out for Milan's interests in every arena."
Mirabelli appeared to accuse Donnarumma's agent, Mino Raiola, of being a bad influence.
"What I can ask our fans is to whistle our opponents, not our players," he said. "It's true Gigio is a man, but he's very young. It's not entirely his fault. We'll always protect him, he's our asset. We know where the evil comes from, we hope to solve this issue over the next few months.
"We can speak directly with Gigio, but not entirely. I think that one day he will realise what's good and bad. There's a man who is becoming more a showman than anything else. We laugh about it, but he won't get away with it."
Mirabelli added Milan will not be forced into selling Donnarumma.
"We have said it many times, we don't need to sell anyone," he said. "Should a player want to leave, it is clear that we as a club will dictate the terms. It has to be OK with the club. We are backing Gigio because, I want to repeat this, we have no intention of selling him.
"We have a clear idea of what to do as a club and if we are not capable of protecting the image of our club it's correct that we step aside. We will always protect both Donnarumma and AC Milan. There's someone who is damaging our image and the one of who probably is the most representative player of our team."