With Gigio Donnarumma’s situation at Paris Saint-Germain continuing to generate headlines, Oli Coates takes a look at how he ended up at the Parc des Princes and what the future may hold for Italy’s Euro 2020-winning goalkeeper.
Things are rarely simple for Gianluigi Donnarumma. Despite still only being 22 years of age, the Italian goalkeeper has had more drama than most experience throughout an entire career. That’s partly due to the fact he exploded onto the scene at such a young age, but could he really be about to leave Paris Saint-Germain already?
The former Milan shot-stopper is expected to start his first Champions League match against PSG tonight, but he still isn’t Mauricio Pochettino’s first choice in Paris.
In a summer of numerous coups for the Ligue 1 giants, signing Donnarumma was one of PSG’s very best pieces of business. While capturing Lionel Messi from Barcelona changes the club forever in a commercial sense, bringing in the Italy No 1 and UEFA Euro 2020 Player of the Tournament on a free was arguably even more significant on the footballing front.
Messi is nearing the end of his career and joins a PSG attack already drenched in riches. Donnarumma, on the other hand, could still have 15 years at the top, if his predecessor as first-choice Azzurri ‘keeper, Gianluigi Buffon, is anything to go by. However, the Italian stopper’s start to life at the Parc des Princes has been as tumultuous as his time in Serie A often was.
Costa Rican Keylor Navas started in goal for PSG’s 2-0 victory over Montpellier on Saturday, meaning Donnarumma has only featured in two of the Ligue 1 side’s 10 fixtures in all competitions so far in 2021-22. Given his status as one of the world’s leading goalkeepers, and the fact that he moved to France amid so much fanfare over the summer, Donnarumma is unsurprisingly unhappy with his situation in Paris.
The Castellammare di Stabia native left San Siro on a free transfer after his contract came to an end, a four-year deal he signed in 2017 on the back of another will he, won’t he saga. That contract was agreed after a month of drama and turmoil, in which agent Mino Raiola appeared to play a key role in Donnarumma coming to loggerheads with Milan.
Legal action was threatened, the Curva Sud turned against their former hero, and even Milan fans in Poland threw fake money at Donnarumma in their apparent revulsion at the situation. Despite the chaos and the death threats, the inner turmoil the academy graduate was going through was clear.
Still only 18 at the time, Donnarumma eventually decided to stay at San Siro, seemingly going against his agent, with reports that Milan circumnavigated the controversial Raiola in order to tie up their prodigious talent. Fast-forward four years, and a remarkably similar situation unfolded, but this time Milan called Raiola’s bluff – if that’s what you call it – and the player left on a free.
Donnarumma signed for the Rossoneri in 2013 aged just 14, for what at the time was a stunning fee of €250,000 for a Napoli academy player. He made his debut at just 16 years and 242 days old in 2015 though, becoming the second-youngest goalkeeper in Serie A history in the process.
Things would turn ugly less than two years later when the time came for Donnarumma to negotiate his first professional contract, after playing under a youth deal prior to that. There would be no second contract at Milan, while there were even reports that lawyers were trying to invalidate his extension in 2017, claiming it’d been signed under duress.
Donnarumma’s time at San Siro was nothing short of dramatic, and his departure brought the wrath of Milan’s ultras once more over the summer. Banners were put up warning against him ever returning to the city, which doesn’t bode well for what some are tipping to be on the cards in the near future for Italy’s No 1.
Juventus were interested in Donnarumma before his move to PSG, with agent Raiola confirming talks took place. Deciding against that move in favour of keeping Wojciech Szczesny appeared bizarre from the off and is looking like more of a catastrophe with each mistake the Polish ‘keeper makes. However, Szczesny’s contract runs until June 2024, and is worth around €7m per season.
Surely if Donnarumma is unable to turn the situation in Paris around over the course of the campaign and available in the summer, the Old Lady will go in for him. Considering some reports are claiming Navas has the support of PSG’s sizeable South American contingent, including Messi, the tension at the Parc des Princes doesn’t seem set to dissipate whichever goalkeeper is named between the sticks.
It’s unfathomable that Donnarumma will stick around in France as a back-up option. In light of the breakdown in his relationship with many Milan supporters, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Donnarumma starting next season as the Juventus No 1. The Bianconeri, of course, would kick themselves at the prospect of having to pay a transfer fee this time around though.