AC Milan supporters haven’t had much to celebrate over the last several seasons, but the emergence of Gianluigi Donnarumma is something all associated with the club should feel proud of. The 17-year-old has the potential to become one of the best goalkeepers in world football.
Aged 14, Donnarumma signed for AC Milan for just over £200,000 – a fee that has already proven a bargain. After making his debut in 2015, becoming the second youngest goalkeeper in Serie A history at just 16 years and 242 days, Donnarumma went on to establish himself in the Milan side. Diego Lopez, who appeared 37 times for Real Madrid in the 2013-14 season, found himself ousted by a special talent. In September 2016, Donnarumma’s career reached new heights, as he made his international debut for Italy, aged 17 years and 189 days, which made him the youngest keeper to ever have played for the Italian national team.
Donnarumma has made 19 appearances for Milan this season, which has taken his career total to 50 – a remarkable achievement for a player so young. The youngster is already a key member of the Milan side and he proved that at the beginning of the season in the Supercoppa Italiana (Italian Super Cup): after drawing 1-1 against Juventus, the game went to a penalty shootout; Donnarumma was the hero for the Rossoneri, as he saved a decisive spot kick to claim the first major trophy of his career. Milan are a team looking for a revival and Donnarumma has a big role to play over the coming years.
Standing at 6ft 5in tall, Donnarumma is a huge presence in goal, he also possesses agility, quick reactions, as well as being an excellent shot stopper. If you’re a goalkeeper with potential, and Italian, there will inevitably be comparisons made to Italy’s legendary number one, Gianluigi Buffon – a man with a World Cup winner’s medal to his name, and seven Serie A titles while playing for Juventus. Buffon is 21 years older than his young counterpart, with 165 more international caps, so the question remains: Is Donnarumma capable of one day succeeding the great man himself?
When Donnarumma first broke onto the scene at the San Siro, aged just 16, Buffon was quoted by ESPN as saying:
He [Donnarumma] is definitely a top goalkeeper. To be 16-years-old and able to handle that kind of media pressure is important and rare. I’m happy because he’s being protected and growing adequately, despite the enormous pressure that has been created for him.
More recently – four months ago, Buffon once again spoke of Donnarumma: reported by the Daily Mail, the Juventus shot-stopper called his Italian protege ‘the chosen one.’ Who better to give their seal of approval than one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time?
It is rare to witness such a young player, particularly a goalkeeper, feature prominently for one of the biggest teams in European football. Donnarumma has a special talent, with a unique ability, and the trust placed in him by the men in charge of both AC Milan and Italy is evidence of this. There is still a long way to go before the 17-year-old can be mentioned in the same breath as fellow goalkeepers and countrymen, Gianluigi Buffon and Dino Zoff. However, Donnarumma is already a phenomenon and as his career progresses, he is more than capable of reaching the towering heights set by his predecessors.