Off the back of five straight clean-sheets in goal to help Milan preserve their UEFA Champions League berth, Gianluigi Donnarumma rejoins with his Azzurri compatriots as the undisputed first-choice keeper heading into this summer’s Euro, writes Matt Santangelo.
The 22-year old shot-stopper will be making his first major tournament appearance for Italy, officially taking the baton that has been passed by legendary 2006 World Cup winner Gianluigi Buffon who stepped aside after the disastrous failure of 2018.
However, Donnarumma’s performances will be under further scrutiny this summer after he decided to leave Milan as a free agent at the end of his contract.
The 22-year-old had already faced the consequences of long contract negotiations with the Rossoneri during the U21 European Championship in 2017. That time, Milan Club Poland threw fake banknotes at him, unveiling the famous ‘Dollarumma’ banner.
According to reports in Italy, Gigio wants to sign with a new club before the beginning of the competition. For now, the only sure thing is that he will be leaving the Diavoli for nothing at the end of the season.
Despite being so young and still developing, Donnarumma has the experience of a veteran, amassing over 250 appearances at the club level for the Rossoneri and 25 for his country. Boasting a freakishly large frame, the 6 foot 5-inch netminder’s extension to reach the near-impossible attempts high while also having the dexterity to act swiftly to get down low makes him unique relative to someone his build.
A keeper capable of pulling off dramatic saves to decide the outcome of matches on his own. There are still areas where improvement is needed if he is to continue to assert his dominance amongst the world’s elite – specifically with his footwork, distribution and occasional lapse in judgement from a positional standpoint.
Donnarumma’s feet often came under criticism earlier in his career as a teenager, proving to be less than convincing in an era of the game where passing from the back is paramount to evading pressure and initiating swift build-ups.
Often, the Castellammare di Stabia native is able to nullify mistakes by virtue of his own heroics, but these errors will become more magnified as the stage becomes larger.
Still, with his young age and much football left to experience, Donnarumma is already one of the finest in his position. Regardless of where his next move is, the European Championships, like the UEFA Champions League, will grant him the opportunity to showcase it to a more global audience.
However, if Donnarumma were not to sign with a new team before the Euros kick-off, you can take for granted that every little mistake on the pitch will be directly linked to his uncertain future.