Milan’s teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was an easy pick for best young player award, writes Vincent Van Genechten.
A few years from now, people who follow Italian football – and football in general – will remember this date: October 25, 2015. It was the day Gianluigi Donnarumma made his professional debut for Milan in a home encounter with Sassuolo.
No, the 16-year- old didn’t keep a clean sheet, as the Rossoneri won 2-1, but he immediately impressed with his maturity and skills. Milan had a decent goalkeeper between the sticks with Diego Lopez, but conceding 14 goals during his first eight league appearances and winning just 10 points in the process turned him into a bench player.
It was a very bold move by then Milan Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, but in the end it paid off as Donnarumma proved to be a world-class talent. Even the most basic statistics prove the Diavolo were much better with “Little Gigio” in goal.
Donnarumma kept a clean sheet during 11 of his 29 appearances. Only three other under-23 goalkeepers in Europe’s five biggest competitions provided more for their respective teams: Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak, Villarreal’s Alphonse Areola, and Espanyol’s Geronimo Rulli. And in Serie A, only one man beat the Milan goalkeeper, that other Gianluigi, Mr. Buffon.
Additionally, the Castellammare di Stabia youngster conceded 26 goals throughout his first Serie A campaign. Only Pepe Reina (21) and, again, Buffon (10) beat the now 17-year- old in this regard. Pretty impressive, knowing the negative perception about Milan’s defence.
It was pretty clear from the start that Donnarumma was already amazing on his line. His reflexes are outstanding, his positional play very much developed, and the knowledge to use his length to catch or punch away aerial balls already in place.
However, it’s not as if Donnarumma is the perfect goalkeeper yet. He needs work with his handling, as he tends to fumble the ball too often. He’s also not quite there yet when it comes to passing, as he seems to become nervous with the ball at his feet.
Still, despite the tremendous seasons by young guns like Alessio Romagnoli, Amadou Diawara, Keita Baldé DIao and Piotr Zielinski, Donnarumma was a very easy pick for best young player of the season. This kid earned his praise and has given a whole fan base hope for a better future.