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A 17-year-old rumoured Man United and Madrid target is ripping it up with Milan in Serie A

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma looks a star in the making.

Gianluigi Donnarumma has impressed since making his Milan debut at 16.
Gianluigi Donnarumma has impressed since making his Milan debut at 16.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

IT’S NOT EASY being a teenage footballer at a top club. Generally, if they’re not playing academy football, they must resign themselves to a series of loan moves elsewhere.

With a bit of luck, they might get one or two chances to prove themselves in their early 20s if the expensive summer signing gets injured for a period.

Teenagers, by contrast, invariably have next to no chance of lining out for a top European club, though there is one individual currently bucking that general trend.

Amid Milan’s 2-1 victory over Fiorentina on Sunday, Gianluigi Donnarumma made his 55th Serie A appearance for the club since replacing former Real Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez as the side’s number one.

He has been a regular for the side who are currently seventh in Serie A since making his debut against Sassuolo on 25 October 2015.

Suffice to say, Donnarumma has impressed since getting his chance. Last August, he became the youngest Italian to win a senior call-up in over 100 years.

The following month, he made the prestigious Golden Boy shortlist.

And the 17-year-old had a big role to play in ending Milan’s trophy drought last December, as they won the Supercoppa Italiana 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw with Juventus in Doha.

And as impressive as Donnarumma’s form is, particularly in the modern football era where teenage players are seldom given a chance, he is not the only goalkeeper to excel at an incredibly young age.

Source: SportVideosMM/YouTube

Iker Casillas made his senior Real Madrid debut at the age of 18, while appearing in the 2000 Champions League final against Valencia just four days after his 19th birthday.

David de Gea was 20 by the time he joined Man United in a £18.9 million move, and had more than 50 senior games under his belt for Atletico Madrid by then.

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Meanwhile, Juventus and Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon — who is still going strong at the age of 39 — made his Parma debut against Milan as a 17-year-old.

Donnarumma replaced Buffon in Italy’s friendly against France last September, in what ultimately could be looked back upon as a symbolic passing of the torch.

Of course, the Naples-born stopper still has a long way to go to emulate the aforementioned greats, but the early signs are certainly promising.

Moreover, it’s no surprise to read about recent rumours linking Donnarumma with a move to a number of clubs, including Barcelona, Man United and Real Madrid, with young Italian players not allowed to sign long-term contracts until they turn 18.

He certainly has no shortage of admirers, with Milan coach Vincenzo Montella recently commenting: ”For me, Gigio has the potential to win the Ballon d’Or.”

The stats also back up the hype. Donnarumma has an incredible record at saving penalties, while he is widely credited with playing a huge role in helping Milan prevail in a number of big games this season.

With Milan still not the force they once were, a move to a bigger side seems conceivable in the summer. Should that be the case, Donnarumma’s destination could depend on the movement of other top goalkeepers, with the likes of Thibaut Courtois, David de Gea and Hugo Lloris among the highly-rated stoppers perpetually linked with a move away from their respective parent clubs.

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Paul Fennessy

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