The clock was already ticking past the five additional minutes that the match officials had allocated for the second half of the Serie A clash between AC Milan and Juventus and with the scoreline 1-0 in favour of the hosts, the defending Italian champions looked set to lose their first two games against the Milan giants this league campaign.
With the match in the 96th minute, Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira unleashed a ferocious effort about ten yards outside of the penalty area, and the ball headed towards the top corner. However, there was to be a spectacular match-saving lunge from Milan’s 17-year-old goalkeeper, Gianluigi Donnarumma to secure three points for the Rossonerri. And boy that was some way of doing it.
It wasn’t the first time that Donnarumma made a late save to ensure a Milan win. He was at it in the opening league game of the season against Torino when he kept out a well-struck Andrea Belotti spot kick late in the second half injury time to help his side secure a 3-2 win.
The 17-year-old looks mature beyond his age. Donnarumma’s big frame –he is well-built and stands 6ft 5in tall – gives him a big reach and helps him keep out seemingly certain goals. His reflexes are also top notch and allow him to react quickly to shots. The goalkeeper is technically adept and has earned recognition from the Italian legends and World Cup winners, Dino Zoff as well as Gianluigi Buffon.
They both have predicted the youngster to have an extraordinary career, while the current Milan boss, Vincenzo Montella, in the aftermath of his team’s defeat of the Old Lady, said that his custodian is predestined to achieve greatness.
Future at AC Milan
Having replaced Diego Lopez as the first choice goalkeeper at San Siro in October 2015 at just 16, Gianluigi Donnarumma looks all set to be the number 1 for the Rossoneri for a long time to come.
Barring any serious injuries, it would not be unreasonable to suggest that Donnarumma is likely to be Milan’s first choice goalkeeper for at least a decade and a half.
Prospects with the national team
Donnarumma is likely to be Buffon’s understudy until the 2018 World Cup, with the Juventus international having expressed his intention to retire from international football after Russia.
There is a good crop of Italian goalkeepers – Mattia Perin being another hot prospect – coming through the ranks, but Donnarumma is likely to make the Azzuri number 1 shirt his own for a long time to come.
Achievements so far
- When Gianluigi Donnarumma made his AC Milan first team debut against Sassuolo on 25th October 2015, aged 16 years and 8 months, he became the youngest goalkeeper to start a match in the history of Italian football.
- With his international debut for Italy against France on 1st September 2016, aged 17 years and 189 days, he became the youngest goalkeeper to ever play for the Azzurri.
Gianluigi Donnarumma was still more than three years from being born when Buffon made his professional debut.