How Donnarumma can take Italy to the crown again

How Donnarumma can take Italy to the crown again

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01 Apr 2022
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Decisive contribution of the team

In March, he made a decisive contribution to the relegation of both his teams from the most important tournaments, and in almost win-win situations. Which of these moments showed the real Donnarumma? Everything. Greatness and insignificance are combined in it almost equally. And he is not alone in this. Gigio’s class and flaws are symptomatic of a common Italian problem. Because of her, Meret warms the bench for David Ospina, another European champion Sirigu plays in the relegation zone, and Perin watches from the bench how Schensny cleans his karma after another jam. “We taught the rest of the world for years, and now we are behind,” said Dino Zoff, one of the best goalkeepers of the 20th century, with disappointment. 


Crisis of Italian goalkeeping school

The Milan media started talking about the crisis back in the mid-2000s, but they were not taken seriously for a long time. Buffon masked the problem. He worked miracles, and the Italians did not think that there was no one behind him. In the 14 years between Gigi and Perin, local academies have produced only one near-top goalkeeper – Sirigu. The rest showed promise at best. In the last few years, the situation has changed – Perin, Gollini, Donnarumma, Cranio and Meret have appeared. There is no longer a shortage of quality keepers in Italy. But there were problems with the school.


The next generation of goalkeepers have a couple of things in common:

Difficulty with strikes from afar. The Macedonians knocked out the Italians from the fight for the World Cup with a kick from 25 meters along a trajectory convenient for the goalkeeper and with scanty xG. Gijo has been running these since his debut in senior football, and he is not alone. The same applies to other Italian keepers – for example, Gollini. Special technique for one-on-one and close-range strikes. Most Italians do not close the distance to the limit, but wait for the shot – based on their own reflexes.

The Italian approach is much more effective and also clearly emphasizes the qualities of talented keepers, but the drawback is obvious – it only suits phenomena like Perin and Donnarumma. Both stand out with crazy reflexes and have made names on parrying shots from a few yards; natural data allow you to regularly win such skirmishes. But if the keeper is not so gifted, half of the balls will fly past him.

This is partly why Italian goalkeepers consistently top the rankings of the worst in the top leagues: the academy has not provided a systematic weapon against real threats, leaving only the calculation of positioning and natural abilities – and even if the former does not fail, few have enough reaction to consistently deflect shots from close range. In this sense, the Spanish and German schools win – their approach avoids dependence on innate talent and elevates average keepers.

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