Magic Mike Maignan makes doubt over Donnarumma disappear

by | May 26, 2022 16:01

Walking through the doors of Milanello to replace the departed Gianluigi Donnarumma last summer, Magic Mike Maignan waved a wand over any lingering doubt about the future in net, writes Matt Santangelo.

Arriving from Ligue 1 champions Lille for an estimated €13 m, 26-year old Maignan far exceeded expectations fans held this season, going above and beyond to ensure Milan’s goal was in good hands for the foreseeable future.

Considering his homegrown status, prolific play since debuting as a bright-eyed 16-year-old and winning Player of the Tournament for Italy at Euro 2020, Donnarumma left some massive shoes to fill on his way out of Milano. The countless moments where young Gigio rescued Milan from the depths of defeat to decide his own outcomes through stonewall goalkeeping were nothing short of remarkable given his tender age.

 

But, from the very first match of the Serie A campaign away to Sampdoria, it was overtly apparent that Maignan was the man for the moment.

Staking his claim as an all-action, versatile and athletic net-minder, Maignan had his number called early as a result of Sampdoria showing a willingness to test the new keeper’s impeccable reflexes and give him a proper Calcio welcome – to which he replied by confidently handling every attempt that came his way.

In Maignan, there is poise. A professional in every sense of the word, Magic Mike has such a strong command of his area that his defenders, Fikayo Tomori and Pierre Kalulu, can play with confidence. There is something to say about a keeper who takes complete ownership of his box and the impact it can have on the defensive organization and the overall play of a backline throughout a match.

For how elite Donnarumma had proven to be in virtually every aspect of his job, he often came under criticism for his ability to play effectively out the back and use distribution as a vessel for more than simply clearing his lines.

Throughout the entire season, Maignan’s precise passing range and vision served as vehicles for which Milan wished to create chances. There are plenty of examples of this, yet look no further than the two fixtures with Samp, who became the Frenchman’s most vulnerable victim.

Maignan’s pinged ball over the top into space for Rafael Leão carried the entire length of the pitch, leaving the Portuguese attacker with just a defender to beat for goal. The assist, the first made by a Milan goalkeeper in Serie A action since Dida in 2006, proved decisive in a narrow 1-0 win at San Siro in February.

In an era where distribution and graceful footwork in possession are valued more than ever from the goalkeeping position, this moment opened a lot of eyes and showed the heights Maignan’s skillset can take him.

Down the stretch, Milan’s title hopes remained intermittent. Week to week, the feelings and vibes would change as Inter seemed ready to unseat their city rivals. Bar the occasional bailout goal or moment of masterclass from Leão, scoring was hard to come by. However, along with defensive stalwarts Tomori and Kalulu, Maignan’s magic continued to leave all in awe, keeping the opposition in check to pick up crucial clean sheets.

Tonali: ‘Donnarumma texted me after Milan won the title’

Despite missing nearly two months of action due to a significant wrist injury, Maignan proved time and time again why he is a cut above the rest, collecting an astounding 17 clean sheets in 32 matches to win Serie A’s Best Goalkeeper award and etching his name in club lore as Milan became champions of Italy for the 19th time in club history.

Last year, as Milan were clinging to a top four spot, a cloud hung over the future in the net. To lose a gem-mint, 22-year-old homegrown goalkeeping prodigy in Donnarumma for free before he could even sniff his prime was deemed a catastrophe. As fans celebrated a return to the UEFA Champions League and a massive step forward in return to former glories, Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara worked behind the scenes to ensure the goal was in good hands.

With the swift acquisition of Maignan, it is safe to say with confidence that Milan went from the best goalkeeper in Italy – to the best goalkeeper in Italy, and with a third of the salary.

@Matt_Santangelo

4 Comments

  1. MilanEire

    An absolute diamond of a find 😉 Well done Maldini & Co

  2. Gre-No-Li

    One of the most inspired signings of all times, in any league, period.

  3. cheech

    Donnarumma who ???

  4. Feroli

    An excellent portiere. Amazing that no one else picked him up sooner. I hope Milan keep him.

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