Gianluigi Donnarumma is Italy's heir apparent to Gianluigi Buffon, and he's been living up to the hype at AC Milan.
Donnarumma sat on the Milan bench at 15 and was 16 years and eight months when he made his Serie A debut, the second-youngest player in history (the youngest was Pescara goalkeeper Gianluca Pacchiarotti, who only played for 10 minutes). Milan’s then-coach, Sinisa Mihajlovic, picked him to replace Diego Lopez, the previous season’s goalkeeper of the year, after a patchy run of form, and Donnarumma has kept his place ever since.
He is 6-foot-5, and his anticipation and awareness, as well as his youth, have led to comparisons with Gianluigi Buffon, who made his Parma debut at 17. Donnarumma is also comfortable with the ball at his feet, as he showed with a nifty back-heel to dribble around Miroslav Klose in only his second Milan appearance. International recognition has followed. He played for the U-21s four weeks after turning 17 and made his debut for the senior Azzurri team just six months later. Buffon is still Italy captain, but when he retires, his succession, literally, is in good hands.
What they're saying:
“I was there when Buffon made his debut all those years ago, and Donnarumma reminds me of him.”
– Adriano Galliani, AC Milan CEO