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Donnarumma Flops at EURO'24. After Such a Failure, He Can Lose the № 1 Spot at PSG

Gianluigi is the most controversial goalkeeper of modern times. At the continental championship, he conceded four goals in four matches.

Italy was eliminated from EURO 2024, and there is no point in analyzing their poor performance. Luciano Spalletti got confused, couldn't find the optimal combinations, and overcomplicated things. They lacked a smart defensive midfielder. Without Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, it was difficult.

It's obvious. But in this team, there is one ambiguity, one paradox. And that is Gianluigi Donnarumma. Possibly the most controversial goalkeeper of modern times. And therefore attractive for analysis.

Let's start with that Donnarumma plays better for the national team than for clubs. He set a record for the most consecutive clean sheets at the national level — 1168 minutes without conceding a goal. At the 2021 European Championship, he dominated the penalty shootout in the final and became the tournament's best player. At EURO 2024, alongside Riccardo Calafiori, he was the best in the team. Donnarumma saved everything and did not make a single mistake.

So why does he play better for the national team? There are two hypotheses:

  1. At the national level, teams press less intensively. Because of this, Donnarumma less often finds himself in situations where his main vulnerability—playing with his feet—can be exposed. Additionally, he is not required to pass a lot in the national team. At PSG, mistakes occasionally happen precisely because of the much more active play of the goalkeeper with his feet.
  2. Playing for Italy, Donnarumma is more focused and responsible. This is pure psychology and motivation. His performance at EURO 2021 was awe-inspiring. At that time, he left Milan amid a scandal and found himself under enormous pressure. Being 22 years old, a relatively young guy, he never wavered, even in the decisive penalty shootout.

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However, in critical moments in games for PSG, Donnarumma is sometimes not flawless. All three of PSG's last exits from the Champions League were accompanied by his mistakes. Two years ago, his blunder led to the elimination by Real Madrid, a year ago — a severe mistake against Barcelona. This season, Donnarumma made significant errors in the playoffs against Barcelona and Borussia.

Half of these mistakes were made after set-pieces near PSG's goal. Perhaps this is the secret to making Donnarumma make mistakes. Opponents know about another of his weaknesses — playing on crosses against high balls. They create obstacles, causing the goalkeeper to either not come out for the ball or remain in a half-position. Perhaps this either goes unnoticed at the national team level or cannot be organized. For Italy, Donnarumma has no problems on crosses.

On the other hand, he does make crucial saves for PSG. Even last season, in the Champions League group stage against Borussia, it was Gianluigi who saved the match, leading the team to the playoffs.

And in the last season, Donnarumma delivered his best shot-stopping performance. He tops the statistical ranking of goalkeepers in Europe—saving PSG from 10 clear goals. So, in terms of shot-stopping, he has just reached his peak.
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But Donnarumma's weaknesses — playing with his feet and on crosses — make him a mystery and a dilemma for head coaches. They get a vulnerability during set-pieces. And the lack of the option for quality short play from the goalkeeper has become almost mandatory for top clubs in modern football.

Yes, Donnarumma is full of contradictions. But if you add all the solid qualities and subtract the weak ones, you still get a strong goalkeeper. Still, not one of the best — it's not sure that the Italian will make it into the top 10 goalkeepers in the world — but vital.

For PSG's new acquisition, Safonov, the problem is that he is also unstable and controversial. He has the same weaknesses: he is poor with his feet and makes mistakes on crosses during deliveries. PSG was looking for an alternative to Donnarumma and signed almost his copy. Well, if the club is contradictory, it attracts similar goalkeepers.

Published by Patrick Jane