At 22, Gianluigi Donnarumma is one of the world's leading goalkeepers. Voted Best Player at the Euros, the Italian was recently accorded the Lev Yashin award for the Goalkeeper of the Year… But then again, this is what he thinks he was destined to do.
Indeed, Donnarumma seems to have been in a hurry right from the beginning. Just six months after bursting into the AC Milan first team aged 16, he earned his first cap for Italy and then claimed Euro gold in the summer of 2021. Size, power, agility, strength in the air... the Italian youngster has it all and is loving his work at Paris Saint-Germain, where he arrived in the summer.
"Yes, it's a tough position - and it constantly fascinates me. Today, I'm very proud to be able to say that this is my role, and that I'm a goalkeeper," Donnarumma told This is Paris. "I was influenced a lot by my big brother who was also a 'keeper, and it's true that when I was a kid I wasn't scared of anything. So I became a goalkeeper quite naturally, and we soon saw that I had the necessary qualities, and that with hard work I could reach a good level. So I put my head down and started working."
The former AC Milan star has impressed this season with his commanding presence in the air and his shot-stopping. However, more than anything else, it's his calm presence that sets him apart.
"Being unaffected by pressure has always been one of my main qualities," he explained. "I'm very fortunate, because ever since I can remember, I always regarded pressure as something positive; it gives me strength. When I was a boy, I didn't feel any pressure on the pitch, and that's an advantage because when you step out at the San Siro, aged 16, with a big crowd watching, it can be daunting. But it went well for me."
This coolness doesn't just help him execute his own duties - it has a powerful effect on his teammates and Donnarumma feels that this is an important part of his role on the pitch.
"This quality helps me to transmit coolness to the rest of the team. That's really important when you're a goalkeeper," said the 22-year-old. "You need to have that ability to give off a sense of calm even during the difficult moments, to transmit confidence. It's really a vital quality for any goalkeeper who wants to reach the highest level."
Donnarumma's cool nature is allied to his exceptional athletic qualities. For a man who measures 1m96, the Italian is incredibly quick to react.
"Another quality I have is my explosiveness, despite having a big frame. This characteristic has always made me a bit different and I try to use it to my advantage. I try to develop my agility and my ability to get down quickly," he said. "This is an aspect of my game I work very hard on; I want to try to ensure that my big size is an advantage and not a disadvantage."
If Donnarumma continues to work so hard on the training ground, it's also because he is still young, and he knows he can get even better.
"In my view, it's so important to keep on learning. You need to make use of every situation, be it the advice of your goalkeeping coach or the work you do in training sessions. You have to use training to ensure that you're ready for situations that can arise in games. You have to be ready for anything," he explained. "Some people probably find that a bit dull or repetitive, but I love working like this. Especially as I feel good with my teammates, the staff and everybody at the club."
Eyes on the prize
So far so good then for the goalkeeper who is sharing the No. 1 position with Keylor Navas this season. Now Donnarumma wants to make sure the season ends with silverware.
"This season, I want us to win, collectively. I want to win the league, I want us to be a great team. We know we are capable of beating any side," Donnarumma declared. "Of course there will be some very difficult games, and we will have to suffer. But when you want to win titles, it's never easy. We will have to fight, train as well as possible, follow the coach's instructions and play every game as if it is the last. And keep on going forward, whatever happens."