Euro 2020, Player of the Tournament : Gianluigi Donnarumma
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A European Champion and the Player of the Tournament at the recently concluded EURO 2020, Gianluigi Donnarumma has come a long way since being a prodigy at Milan. Now with his contract at Milan ending and signing with PSG, it looks like he will be number 2 to Keylor Navas for the upcoming season. However, there is no doubt, that he will be the man between the sticks for the long term in Paris. So what can the Parisians expect from the young Italian?

One thing which stands out about Donnarumma is his domineering physical frame. Standing at 1.96m (6’5), he towers over his opponents. With his huge stature come a plethora of advantages that he exploits to the fullest. For many strikers, seeing the towering figure of Donnarumma rushing towards them tends to put them in a state of apprehension and often leads to an inability to fashion an effective one-on-one opportunity when up against him between the posts.

As was expected with the fact that he bears the same name as the Italian great Buffon, people were quick to draw comparisons with both Gigis, with many saying they were almost identical in style. Although they do share some similarities, it would be quite misguided to make such strong comparisons as when analysing both players it is clear to see the difference in their goalkeeping style. Both have a wonderful ability to save shots from long and close range, and have a command of their area that many goalkeepers would kill for.

However, when observing Donnarumma’s style one notices his tendency to rush out of goal when an opposition striker has breached his team’s defensive line. He is quick to anticipate when the striker may receive the ball in behind the defence and a lot of the time has already prepared to rush forward and thwart the striker’s advancement on goal. Add to this his eagerness to contribute to Milan’s circulation in the build-up phase and his desire to occasionally position himself higher up.

One of his main strengths which I was able to pick up on right from the start is his wonderful reflexes and shot stopping prowess despite his lanky frame. On many occasions this season, Donnarumma can be seen pulling off magnificent saves that many of the world’s goalkeeping greats would be proud of. Key to his wonderful ability to save shots is his fantastic positioning. He is always mindful of how and where he is positioned in relation to the movement and trajectory of the ball. Anticipation is again key here as he must predict the flight of the ball, a very difficult skill when the ball and the game as a whole is passing by at such a rapid pace.

Besides shot stopping he boasts an authoritative command of his area that is unusual for someone his age in his first season in professional football. He shows a great confidence when coming out to claim balls from crosses and punch balls clear. This ties in with his large 6’5 frame as he towers over other players inside the box and is able to dominate them physically with consummate ease. Opposition players often appear reluctant to challenge him aerially during set pieces and crosses as he can often appear intimidating to many players. He tends to punch more often than he catches, again taking advantage of his large wingspan to punch the ball out of harm’s way when confronted with balls coming in from wide areas.

Arguably his greatest asset, which I believe sets him apart from most every goalkeeper let alone those just in his age group is his wonderful ability in dealing with one-on-ones. He displays an astonishing bravery to constantly come off his line, especially for one so young and also phenomenal anticipation and reaction time as we see on a regular basis. It helps his team tactically as it allows them to maintain a reasonably high defensive line, safe in the knowledge that Donnarumma will be on hand to sweep up in behind and thwart opposition attacks should they break through Milan’s defensive line.

In spite of all his qualities and prodigious talent, he does display some glaring weaknesses, which is understandable for someone of his age which will most likely even themselves out over time as he improves his technique and becomes more experienced.

His command of the area is one of his greatest assets; however, when dealing with crosses he is nowhere near as proficient in handling the ball as he is at punching it clear. On a number of occasions, he could be seen fumbling balls that a keeper of his quality would be expected to deal with. This problem is not uncommon amongst young keepers though, David de Gea’s first season at Manchester United being a perfect example, so despite it being an area that needs to be improved, it is doubtful that it will continue to affect him as he progresses as a goalkeeper.


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