Gennaro Gattuso
Gennaro Gattuso Reuters

Gennaro Gattuso, the boss of the Italian football club AC Milan showed his support to 18-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma after fans unfurled a banner to criticise the youngster.

The fans unfurled a massive banner before Milan's 3-0 Coppa Italia win over Hellas Verona on Wednesday which read: "Psychological violence by giving you €6m ($7 million) a season and signing your parasite brother? It's time to leave -- our patients with you is over!"

"He's an 18-year-old kid, of course, he was shaken. I can only thank him for what he's doing," the 39-year-old was quoted as saying by Sky Sports.

"For his age, he's the best goalkeeper in the world right now. You can tell from his face he's not happy, but I have known a great athlete and great kid. He will have my protection, for all the protection I can give.

"If the club says it doesn't need to sell anyone, nor wants to, then why should we even talk about this," Gattuso added.

The former Italian midfielder also said he respects the club fans but they need to understand whether Donnarumma wants to stay with AC Milan or leave.

"I respect the fans, but he sulked at me for four days because I left him at home for the first time in seven months. He never skipped a training session, let alone a game," the former defensive midfielder said.

"People need to understand whether Gigio really does want to go or if he wants to stay. I can say I'm working with a great athlete and professional.

"I am the coach of Milan, so I can talk about the lad, the athlete, but nothing else. Gigio has not told me personally that he wants to leave. If he did, that would be different," Gattuso added.

(With inputs from IANS)