Gianluigi Donnarumma's amazing rise from AC Milan debut at 16 to Italy Euro 2020 winner and signing for PSG

ITALIAN goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnaruma's meteoric rise began at just 16 years and 242 days old.

The giant stopper, who is only 22 now, became the second youngest goalkeeper to play in a Serie A match when he appeared between the sticks against Sassuolo for Milan at the San Siro.

The heir to Gianluigi Buffon's throne, the 6ft 5in keeper was instrumental in Italy winning Euro 2020.

He even walked away with Player of the Tournament- becoming the first goalkeeper to officially win the award.

Next season he begins a new chapter of his life at PSG after leaving boyhood club Milan, where he played a remarkable 251 times despite his tender years.


Donnarumma started his career with Napoli, having been born just outside the city in Castellammare di Stabia.

In 2013, aged just 14, he would leave Napoli for the Rossoneri, who paid around £200,000 for the teenager.

His elder brother Antonio was already on Milan's books, so he had family to lean on.

As part of the academy, the younger Donnarumma rose through the ranks with the Giovanissimi, then the Allievi, and finally the now extinct Primavera that gave 15-19 year-olds a competitive experience.

He always played above his age, so it was no surprise a first team call-up was round the corner sooner rather than later.


Ahead of the 2015-16 season, former Milan manager Siniša Mihajlović promoted Donnarumma to the first team squad, initially as third-choice behind Diego López and Christian Abbiati.

However, after a stunning pre-season he soon forced himself into Mihajlović's thoughts.

By October, he was picked ahead of Lopez to make his bow against Sassuolo.

At the age of 16 years and 242 days, he was just 13 days shy of Giuseppe Sacchi's record made 73 years earlier.

Afterwards, his rival Lopez told reporters Donnarumma is "the future of Milan and of Italian football".


No sooner had Donnarumma established himself as Milan No1, a contract wrangle began over his future.

Already represented by super agent Mino Raiola, it was announced he wouldn't be renewing his contract with the club in 2017.

Fans were left fuming and threw mocked up fake bank notes with his face on to the pitch during an Under-21 game against Denmark.

It left the wonderkid devastated and a poor showing at the U21 European Championships that summer damaged his stock.

But Raiola and Donnarumma got what they wanted, eventually. A month later they put pen to paper on a four-year deal worth £5million-per-annum.

A clause was also inserted into the contract that Milan had to sign his brother Antonio, who was playing for Greek side Asteras Tripolis, as a back-up goalkeeper on a salary close to £1million-per-year.


Already making great strides at Milan and with the U21s, it was a natural progression for Donnarumma to earn full international recognition.

In 2016, he made his debut against France – fittingly come on as a half-time sub for his hero Buffon in a 3-1 loss.

In doing so, Gianluigi made history as the youngest ever goalkeeper to appear for the national side at just 17 years and 189 days.

When Buffon hung up his gloves for Italy in 2018, Roberto Mancini didn't have a difficult decision to make.

Donnarumma was immediately installed as Italy's No1 and started in all the matches of the 2018–19 UEFA Nations League.


Ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, Milan were desperate for Donnarumma to extend his deal.

But Raiola's demands proved unrealistic for a club struggling with the financial implications the coronavirus has had on football's top clubs.

At one point, it was claimed that Raiola was asking for around £850,000-per-month for his client, as well as £17million in agent commission.

Back in May, he pulled out of all negotiations with a conclusion unlikely to be found.

Milan director of football Paolo Maldini later confirmed that Donnarumma would leave Milan when his contract expired on 30 June, putting Europe's top clubs on alert.

“He was a protagonist, a leader and often a captain," Maldini said of Donnarumma on AC Milan's Twitch channel.

"A professional must also be ready to change his shirt. It is increasingly difficult to start a career in one place and finish it there. 

"We must thank those who gave so much for Milan and Gigio did it, without ever disrespecting the club. Our paths divide here and I can only wish him the best."


Although he went into the Euros with a cloud hanging over his head about his future, Donnarumma didn't show any cracks in his armour.

The youngster gave an assured performance in the tournament as the Azzuri managed to go all the way.

Wearing a fetching pair of spiked Adidas Predator gloves, he punched and patted away everything thrown at him to keep three clean sheets in the group stages.

And his penalty heroics against Spain and England in the semi-final and final showed how difficult he is to beat from 12 yards.

After the final at Wembley Donnarumma was crowned the Euro 2020 Player of the Tournament.

The official award has only existed since 1996, with previous winners including Matthias Sammer, Zinedine Zidane, Theo Zagorakis, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Antoine Griezmann.

UEFA published on its website the Player of the Tournament in 1984, 1988 and 1992. The winners were Michel Platini, Marco van Basten and Peter Schmeichel, respectively.

However, these winners are unofficial – making Donnarumma the first keeper to legitimately win the award.


Next season, Donnarumma will begin with PSG who confirmed his capture on a free transfer on Wednesday.

"I am very happy to be part of this great club," he said after completing a deal worth a rumoured £200,000 a week.

"I feel ready to take on this new challenge, and continue to grow here.

"With Paris, I want to win as much as possible and give joy to the supporters."

It's likely he will be joined on his new quest by long-term girlfriend, Alessia Elefante, who prefers to keep out of the public eye.

He will add a winning mentality to Pochettino's men, as well as one vital skill.

Should the French side go to penalties in a crucial Champions League tie, you wouldn't bank against him becoming the hero yet again.

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