2017 22under22 Countdown – #4: Gianluigi Donnarumma

“Donnarumma is a chosen one.”
– Gianluigi Buffon


Date of Birth: February 25, 1999 (18 years old)
Nationality: Italian
Position: Goalkeeper
Club Appearances: 63
International Appearances: 3
EIF Ability Rating: 72

*EiF Ability Rating is a representation of a combination of the player’s current ability and potential ability. It is determined by multiple rounds of voting, and then an addition of the scores given by each judge. The maximum score a player can have is 80.*


Young talent is not just on display amongst outfield players. Coming in at #4 in EiF’s 22under22 countdown is highly talented goalkeeper, Gianluigi Donnarumma. The Italian starlet is enjoying one of his best campaigns this year for AC Milan and is primed to take over the national team duties when the ageless Buffon eventually retires. AC Milan will face tough competition in order to keep the young Italian’s services. If reports are to be believed, both Chelsea and Real Madrid are among the clubs interested in securing Donnarumma’s signature.

Gianluigi Donnarumma was born in Naples, where he grew up playing for Club Napoli. At the age of 14, he was bought by the Italian giants, AC Milan for €250,000. Donnarumma made his debut for the senior team as a 16-year-old in October of 2015. It didn’t take long for the tall (1.96m) keeper to become the starter for Milan. By the turn of the new year, Donnarumma was the undisputed starter at the age of 16. Now in his second season, Gianluigi is becoming a part of the Italian national team. Donnarumma has three caps so far to his name and will be expecting many more over the next decade or two.


Strengths


 

Donnarumma’s length allows him to cover the entire goal. (Photo: Sportsnet)

Gianluigi Donnarumma is extremely tall. He is listed at 196 cm. That height comes in handy when trying to cover the entire net. Additionally, Donnarumma is very decisive in the air. When a cross comes in, he is strong and can jump over the heads of the outfield players. This is a big asset for the young Italian. In addition to his build, Gianluigi is also an excellent shot stopper. His reflexes allow him to react to close-range shots and parry them away. His 10 save performance in a 2-1 win over Juventus last month is a great example of the formidable shot stopping ability that Donnarumma possesses. His communication and command of the defense is another strength of his.


Weaknesses


Donnarumma
Gianluigi Donnarumma is set to take over from Buffon in the Italian national team. (Photo: acmilanbros)

It is easy to forget that Donnarumma is only 18 years old. Being so young, he is not the finished product and must improve on a couple of things. One of those things is his long range distribution. On numerous occasions, his long balls either come up short or go over the head of his desired target. Hopefully this is something that Gianluigi works on and can improve on. Another weakness of his is his tendency to not catch balls cleanly. At times, Donnarumma will allow the ball to spill out of his grasp. These are things that should improve with age and maturity.


Gianluigi Buffon is a legend in Italy and it was thought that no one could ever emulate him. However, a new Gianluigi, Gianluigi Donnaruma, may be that player. Having already taken over the starting goalkeeper spot at AC Milan from the age of 16, he is primed to do the same soon for the Azzurri as soon as the legendary Buffon stepts aside. Under the mentorship of Buffon, Donnarumma has the world at his feet. AC Milan now has to fend off interest from the Premier League and other European giants. If he does end up leaving Milan, his price tag could be upwards of €60 million. It will be exciting to see how this young prospect progresses and challenges the goalkeeping elites in the coming years.