"He is a jewel," AC Milan coach Sinisa Mihajlović said of goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, with the 16-year-old eager to follow in the footsteps of the original 'Super Gigi'.
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Italy's long search for the new Gianluigi Buffon may be over, with 16-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma causing a stir at Milan – UEFA.com welcomes the anointed successor to 'Super Gigi'.
Name: Gianluigi Donnarumma
Debut: 25 October 2015 v Sassuolo
Date of birth: 25 February 1999
They say ...
"I don't look at age, I look at whether someone is good or not when I decide who is playing. He is a jewel for Milan and the future of Italian football."
Milan coach Sinisa Mihajlović
"He is a polite, serious lad, but he has no fear. He has always been a huge Milan fan. He dreams of being Milan goalkeeper for the next 15 years. This dream is very likely to come true."
Milan youth coach Christian Brocchi
"A youth system produces one goalkeeper in a million like Donnarumma."
Former Milan defender Filippo Galli, head of the Rossoneri's youth system
Donnarumma was born in Castellammare di Stabia, a town near Naples now known as the "goalkeepers' factory" since it spawned former Napoli shot-stopper Gennaro Iezzo, Bologna's Antonio Mirante and Donnarumma's older brother Antonio, custodian at Genoa. Playing for Club Napoli Castellammare, the younger Donnarumma was quickly noticed by all the top clubs in Italy. Milan – the team he has always supported and where his brother once played – won the race to sign him and gave him his first professional contract in March 2015.
Playing style ...
Tall and strong but also very agile, Donnarumma has impressed for the authority with which he directs his defensive line. Donnarumma was considered very good with his feet during his period in the Milan youth system, although his ball control has not been perfect in his first Serie A outings. This, however, should improve with experience.
Shades of ...
Buffon made a memorable debut for Parma aged 17 in a game against Milan – Donnarumma was 16 years and eight months old when he was given his Serie A bow, becoming the league's second youngest goalkeeper of all time after Gianluca Pacchiarotti in 1980. Donnarumma's debut was not as auspicious as Buffon's – he conceded a saveable free-kick – but Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani captured the mood when he said. "He reminds me of a young Buffon."
Eureka moment ...
Donnarumma saved three penalties – including one from Real Madrid's Toni Kroos – in pre-season friendlies, but Milan's decision to keep him in the squad instead of sending him on loan to get regular football caused some surprise. However, he quickly proved that he did not need a move away to play. Milan won their first three games with Donnarumma in goal, but arguably his best performance was in the 0-0 draw against Atalanta that ended that run. "Donnarumma worked miracles," wrote Gazzetta dello Sport.
Best case scenario ...
A UEFA Champions League winner with Real Madrid in 2014, Diego López has pledged to reclaim the Milan No1 jersey. The Spaniard, who started the first eight league games of the season, noted Donnarumma's talent earlier this term when saying: "He is incredible. He is extremely young but seems ten years older than his actual age. He can make history at Milan." Italy have high hopes for him too; Donnarumma recently earned his first Under-21 call-up.
He says ...
"I have been given a lot of responsibility, but I can deal with that. I try to transmit a sense of calm to the team while continuing to play my game. Buffon is my idol. My dream is to become a regular in the senior national team and follow in his footsteps. Anyone would love to have a career like his."