In the run-up to Euro 2016, Football Italia will be asking who Antonio Conte should select in his Italy squad. Having become Milan’s first-choice goalkeeper before his 18th birthday, Matteo Calautti wonders whether Gianluigi Donnarumma should go to France.
Born in 1999 in Castellamare di Stabia, near Naples, Gianluigi “Gigi” Donnarumma has grown in Milan Academy until the last season, in which the first team ex-coach Filippo Inzaghi began to call him up. The most important feature he showed during training, according to the Diavolo staff, was his great calm between the goal posts, despite the aspect of playing against well-known footballers.
When Siniša Mihajlović, his present coach at Milan, decided to choose him to defend the goal posts instead of the more experienced Diego López, he made it clear that age was not a concern, despite Gigio being just 16. “The kid has been training very well and at the moment I trust him”.
More than once, during this season, Donnarumma has safeguarded Milan results with difficult diving saves. For instance at Juventus Stadium, where he was at full-stretch to save from Hernanes. Last month he made his debut for the Azzurrini, the Under 21 Italian national team, becoming their youngest ever player at the age of 17 years and 28 days.
The 1982 World Cup Winner and ex-Juventus goalkeeper, Dino Zoff, recently said: “Gigi has all the features to become a star goalkeeper. If he carries on he will become Buffon’s successor”. The Azzurri’s first-choice ‘keeper – and captain – Gianluigi Buffon has also publicly praised the youngster.
So, should the 17-year-old be called-up for Antonio Conte’s Euro 2016 squad?
He probably will not be called up for the European Championship because, excluding Buffon, Conte will need more experience between the posts. For instance, Mattia Perin has been playing well for Genoa and Salvatore Sirigu, even if he isn’t playing at the moment for Paris Saint-Germain, he could offer greater experience anyway thanks to his appearances in 2014 World Cup in South Africa.
This summer’s tournament may be too soon for him, but there seems little doubt that Donnarumma will be the future of the national team. A third-choice goalkeeper is unlikely to play in the tournament in any case, and the call would simply put the youngster under even more scrutiny.
Conte should leave Donnarumma at home this summer, safe in the knowledge that he’ll be able to step-up when Buffon finally hangs-up his gloves.
Published on Football Italia in 08/04/2016.