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Dublin: 9°C Tuesday 18 May 2021

The 16-year-old goalkeeper at the centre of AC Milan's recent resurgence

After an awful start to the season, the Rossoneri have brought in Gianluigi Donnarumma and it’s worked a treat.

Image: Antonio Calanni/AP/Press Association Images

ON SUNDAY, AC MILAN went to Rome and beat Lazio 3-1 to make it three successive wins for the first time since April 2014.

And for the third straight game, they had a 16-year-old in goal.

Gianluigi Donnarumma, the Italian Under-17 keeper, was included in the Rossoneri’s squad for their pre-season tour of China before making his debut in a mid-summer friendly with Real Madrid.

New Milan manager Sinisa Mihajlovic liked what he saw and after the club endured an awful start to the Serie A season – losing four of their first seven games – he made a big call.

The youngster was handed a start in a midweek clash with local rivals Inter and kept his place for a home fixture against Sassuolo nine days ago. Lopez, the 34-year-old Champions League and La Liga winner with Real Madrid, was benched in favour of the raw and unproven teen.

On his competitive debut, he allowed a free-kick beat him at his post but Milan still managed to win 2-1 and the rut was no more.

Three days later, he was retained for the 1-0 win at home to Chievo. It was the team’s first clean-sheet of the season.

Donnarumma2 Source: Antonio Calanni/AP/Press Association Images

Donnarumma is an imposing figure, standing at a whopping 6ft, 5in – carrying a similar build to Milan’s 1990s goalkeeper Sebastiano Rossi. He plays with an impudence that occasionally complements his age: against Lazio at the weekend, he neatly sidestepped Felipe Anderson in his penalty area.

Still, he would’ve had another shut-out but for Ricardo Kishna’s 84th-minute consolation for the hosts.

Donnarumma seems set for a lengthy run in the Milan side and has a big fan in his manager.

When quizzed on why the youngster was being given an opportunity over the more experienced Lopez, the former Sampdoria and Lazio left-back was honest in his assessment.

Italy Soccer Serie A New AC Milan boss Sinisa Mihajlovic has faith in his teenage goalkeeper. Source: Paolo Giovannini/AP/Press Association Images

“I rate Diego Lopez very highly, but in recent weeks Donnarumma has looked in better shape to me”. he said.

I don’t look at a player’s age — I just see whether somebody’s good or not. He’s training well, and he gives me more faith right now.

Let’s see what happens next. He’s got everything it takes to be a great goalkeeper. People complain when you don’t field young players, and then when they do play you get criticised anyway. We’ll see what happens. We’ve got two great goalkeepers.”

But, Lopez has been battling injury since the season began and now faces a lengthy period on the sidelines because of tendonitis in his knee – something he’s been carrying for the last four months.

So, Donnarumma is perfectly-placed to be first-choice for the remainder of the campaign. Veteran Christian Abbiati, who’s now 38, will be back-up.

The recent good run means Milan are now in joint-fifth, five points behind leaders Fiorentina.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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