Reds target the next ‘Buffon’

Liverpool are interested in a swoop for young AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, according to various reports, writes Sam May.

The 16-year-old, dubbed “the new Buffon” was drafted into first-team action earlier this season and has since made 17 appearances in Serie A for the seven-time European champions.

With Milan suffering a poor start to the Serie A season, manager Sinisa Mihajlovic sprung a surprise when he included young Donnarumma in the starting 11 back in October against Sassuolo.

The youngster had previously played in a pre-season friendly against Real Madrid last summer but the game against Sassuolo was his professional debut for the Rossonerri.

He beats legend Gianluigi Buffon to the youngest player in Serie A history, with the Juventus keeper making his debut aged 17. He is seen as his “natural” long-term replacement, with the veteran expected to retire in 2018. Buffon made his debut in goal for Parma two months short of his 18th birthday and became first choice the following season.

Paolo Maldini was 17 when he was promoted to the first team at Milan, after coming on as a substitute six months earlier. Both Maldini and Buffon had an immediate impact, but nothing compared to the sensational start of Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Donnarumma was born close to Vesuvius and his family home in Castellammare di Stabia is close to the ruins of Pompeii. Currently Donnarumma is on a contract of €160,000 a year. The deal awaiting him is said to be worth €1m net.

It is probably too early for Donnarumma to stake a claim for a place in Italy’s squad for the summer. He is yet to be capped for the under-21 side.

Empoli coach Marco Giampaolo recently gave his thoughts on him when he was quoted saying: “He has footballing intelligence that does not end with standing in the goal. He is always inside the game, when there is a back-pass he always moves. He has personality, he goes in search of passes.”

Franco Baresi, a youth coach at Milan also said: “Occasionally I ask myself if he really is 16 because he shows an extraordinary character and command in a role that is not easy.”

Another Milan legend, Enrico Albertosi, who was Italy’s goalkeeper in the 1970 World Cup, believes the club has found a player “who can bring them fortune for years to come”.

Jurgen Klopp is believed to be interested in securing a replacement for Simon Mignolet.

Manchester United and Chelsea have both been linked with the sensation, with the Italian Giants reportedly considering a giant £30million bid. In recent times, Ajax and Juventus have since joined Liverpool in the race for the starlet’s signature.

Milan are said to be planning a contract extension 2023 when he turns 18 in February 2017.