The exuberance of youth can sometimes compete the wealth of experience. The world of sport has often provided wonderful examples – gymnast Nadia Comaneci, cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar – spring to mind readily. Gianluigi Donnarumma, 16-year-old, has caught the eye by starting for AC Milan as the youngest ever goalkeeper in Italy’s Serie A football competition and promising much in the years ahead. For years, his height caused him to have to produce his birth certificate to be able to compete in age-group competitions but now he will not have to worry about that and can focus on towering over the others.
Jersey Number 99
Gianluigi Donnarumma made his debut for AC Milan in the Serie A against Sassuolo in front of a hard-to-impress crowd at the San Siro on October 25 this year. Having already played for the Italian national Under-21 squad, he was 16 years and 8 months old when he made his maden Serie A appearance. The 6’5” goalkeeper kept his first clean sheet in his second match for the Rossoneri against Chievo Verona. Dislodging Diego Lopez, a veteran twice his age, from the number one position and making it his so early in his career speaks volumes of the youngster’s potential and mental make-up.
Facing His Idol
Lopez termed him the future of Italian football. The teenager went up against his childhood idol and Italian legend Gianluigi Buffon when AC Milan played Juventus at the Juventus Stadium on November 22. Donnarumma ended up on the losing side but soaked up priceless experience and exchanged a few words and jerseys with his idol – a memory he will cherish.
The Future of Italian Football
Buffon, who himself debuted for Parma at age 17, couldn't hold back his admiration for his young namesake. "He [Donnarumma] is definitely a top goalkeeper," Buffon said. "To be 16-years-old and able to handle that kind of media pressure is important and rare. I'm happy, because he's being protected and growing adequately, despite the enormous pressure that has been created for him."
The record-breaking Italian has not only turned heads all over the world with his incredible feat but also inspired youngsters. Donnarumma’s incredible story has a positive message for people who let age interfere with their life goals. Certainly, if one possesses the skills and confidence to make it big, nothing, especially age, can stop one from achieving dreams. Donarumma has done the unthinkable in a club and a league known to be wary of blooding youngsters like him in the first team.