Already 190 appearances for AC Milan over five seasons, with 160 in Serie A. Impressive numbers, especially for a 21-year-old.
We are of course talking about Gianluigi Donnarumma, who has been defending the Rossoneri’s goal since the 2015-16 season and celebrates his 21st birthday today.
As MilanNews note, it was back on 25 October 2015 that Gigio was given his debut and Milan have never looked back since, and now the once teenage phenom has grown into one of the best goalkeepers in world football.
Donnarumma never misses the opportunity to thank the coach who introduced him to senior football five years ago.
Speaking after winning the Italian Golden Boy award for best U21 player, he said: “I have been playing in Serie A and also in the national team for four years. I’m very proud.
“Everyone at the beginning said I was a phenomenon, but I only thought about working. Then one day Mr. Mihajlovic, whom I have to thank all my life, decided to let me play. I want to wish the best of luck to the coach.” Mihajlovic at present is of course battling Leukemia.
Gigio and Sinisa will always have a special relationship, one that now seems forged by the moment the latter smiled when Donnarumma saved Belotti’s last minute penalty in the first game of the 2015-16 season, when Mihajlovic was of course Torino manager. Almost as if to say it is impossible to get angry when you see your child grow up.
As if his numbers and performances weren’t enough, Donnarumma has received and continues to receive praise anyone who works with and close to him.
The most significant in recent memory arguably came from current director Zvonomir Boban during the crisis earlier this season.
When posed with the statement that Milan don’t have a leader, the Croatian responded: “Actually he is there. It’s been an absurd transfer market with thousands of agents wanting to explain football to us. Among thousand things I realised that Donnarumma is that man.
“He [Donnarumma] has so much passion, so much ‘Milanismo’ inside him, despite being so young he has so much weight.”
Donnarumma has never basked in the beautiful words that everyone spends on him, but rather he has always tried to improve himself.
Having experienced highs such as the Supercoppa Italiana win and lows like the two Coppa Italia final defeats, Gigio has always worked hard to raise his standards.
This year he is already at 10 clean sheets in 24 Serie A appearances, he is approaching the 200 official appearances in the Rossoneri and he is a starter for the national team, for whom he has already taken the field 16 times and will be a key part of the European Championships in June.
It will be another important test for Donnarumma, who for the first time in his career will compete with the best players in Europe. On his birthday, the wish is now that he can do that for his club too, by guiding his beloved Milan back to the Champions League sooner rather than later – with the help of others of course.