Gianluigi Donnarumma is no longer ‘the heir of Buffon’ after his penalty shootout heroics saw Italy crowned Euro 2020 champions and won him player of the tournament… at 22, the PSG-bound goalkeeper can dominate for the next 10 years
Gianluigi Donnarumma – ‘the heir of Buffon’ – came of age at Wembley on Sunday night.
The goalkeeper was Italy’s hero as they were crowned Euro 2020 champions with a penalty shootout victory over England. Donnarumma made the winning save from Bukayo Saka and also kept out Jadon Sancho’s effort.
His heroics, both in the final and the semi-final – which Italy also won on penalties -saw him become the first goalkeeper to win UEFA’s Player of the Tournament award.
Gianluigi Donnarumma was the hero in the penalty shootout as Italy beat England to win Euro 2020
Donnarumma has been making history with Italy for the last five years and it’s easy to forget he is just 22-years-old.
In 2016, aged 17 years and 189 days, he became the youngest goalkeeper to ever play for Azzurri when he came on for Gianluigi Buffon during a friendly against France.
In March 2017 he became the youngest goalkeeper to ever start a match for Italy, aged 18 years and 31 days. Roberto Mancini made him first choice when he took over as manager in 2018 and he has not looked back.
Italy have lost just once when Donnarumma has started – a 1-0 defeat by Portugal in the UEFA Nations League. He has conceded only 18 goals in 33 games and has kept 15 clean sheets.
Donnarumma is set to be Italy’s No 1 for the next decade but his future at club level rests outside of his homeland.
The ‘keeper left hometown club Napoli to join AC Milan in 2013 and made 251 appearances after making his competitive debut at the tender age of 16.
The goalkeeper made saves from Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka to hand Italy the trophy
The 22-year-old shot-stopper was named Player of the Tournament for his penalty heroics
The 22-year-old opted to run down his contract, which expired this summer, and he is set to be confirmed as a Paris Saint-Germain player after agreeing a five-year deal – reportedly worth £200,000-a-week.
Donnarumma wants to play in the Champions League on a regular basis and he has all the attributes to suggest he will pass that test when it comes.
The 6ft 5in ‘keeper has a huge presence and his stature no doubt played a role in putting off the penalty takers he went up against during the European Championship.
He has now won all five of the competitive shootouts he has been involved in during his career – a welcome stat for his new club.
While Donnarumma has long been hailed as the next Buffon, his relationship with football fans in Italy hasn’t always been smooth.
Donnarumma is represented by super agent Mino Raiola – who also works with Erling Haaland and Paul Pogba – and he made headlines for trying to secure the youngster a huge pay rise at Milan before he turned 18.
That put pressure on him ahead of the 2017 European Under 21 Championship and he failed to live up the high expectations during the tournament.
Donnarumma made 251 appearances for AC Milan after making his competitive debut at the tender age of 16
The ‘keeper has now won all five of the competitive penalty shoot-outs he has taken part in
There was a flurry of social media criticism in the aftermath with fans mocking up bank notes with his face on them, giving him the nickname ‘Dollarumma’.
He withstood the abuse and returned to form with Milan. In December that year he made his 100th appearance for the club – becoming the youngest player to do so.
There have been other clashes with opposition supporters. Napoli were furious when he opted to join Milan in 2015 and fans were even more livid when a video appeared of Donnarumma boasting about a save he had made from Arkadiusz Milik in 2018.
The stop ensured Milan earned a 0-0 draw, which meant Juventus beat Napoli to the Serie A title.
He may not have been popular then, but those same fans were no doubt proudly singing his name on Sunday.
Donnarumma has long been hailed as the heir to legendary Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon
Donnarumma is no longer Buffon’s heir after writing his name in the history books alongside his predescessor.
‘I was lucky as I played with Gianluigi Buffon, now I play with Gigi Donnarumma and it’s the same,’ said Italy’s captain Giorgio Chiellini.
That is perhaps the biggest compliment the ‘keeper could have received from his international team-mate.
PSG have have arguably secured the best free transfer of the summer, despite his high wages, while Italy will be hard-pressed to find a better ‘keeper in the next 10 years.
Donnarumma could well go on to become the best in the world but Sunday was the night he stepped out of Buffon’s shadow and became a champion.
The Paris Saint-Germain-bound goalkeeper has now written his own name in the history books