Donnarumma controversy explained: Milan impasse, fan fury and Juventus interest

By Sports Desk May 08, 2021

The Serie A title has gone for both last season's champions Juventus and 2020-21 pace-setters Milan, but they still have plenty to play for on Sunday.

The two Italian giants are third and fourth heading into the weekend but neither are yet assured of Champions League qualification.

The losers when the sides meet in Turin – or both teams in the event of a draw – could soon be caught by those below them.

And Milan's preparations have been impacted by speculation around regular goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, as Stats Perform explains.

What's happened with Donnarumma?

The Italy international is out of contract at the end of the season and his failure so far to commit his future to the club has riled Milan supporters.

No Serie A player has made more appearances or starts (both 211) in the competition than Donnarumma since his 2015 debut – he ranks second behind Samir Handanovic (80) with 67 clean sheets – but fans reportedly confronted the keeper last week and demanded he either sign a new deal or sit out the Juve game.

It was an exchange that was said to have left Donnarumma in tears.

"It is important to firmly reiterate that nobody outside of Milan can decide who stays at the club and who renews," Milan technical director Paolo Maldini told ANSA in response.

"Choices regarding what happens on the pitch are down to the coach, while the club is in charge of contractual issues.

"From this moment, every single negotiation for new contract renewals is frozen until the end of the season so that the team can focus solely on the league.

"In the meantime, we will continue to protect our players, as we always have done."

A predictable complication is Juve's status as the most likely suitors for Donnarumma, who has lost more matches to the Bianconeri in Serie A (eight of 10) than any other side.

Why leave Milan?

Reported interest in Donnarumma from elsewhere is nothing new, but he has surely never been closer to quitting his only club.

The 22-year-old holds the power this time given his expiring contract, and patience could understandably be wearing thin at San Siro.

Donnarumma has been kept extremely busy by a misfiring Milan team in recent seasons. He ranks second for saves (609) and penalty saves (eight) – behind Andrea Consigli (642 and nine) in both categories – over the course of his Serie A career.

These heroics have not yet been enough to return the Rossoneri to the Champions League, where Donnarumma is remarkably still to make his bow, and a top-four finish in 2020-21 is now far from assured.

Milan were unbeaten in the league this season before hosting Juve in the reverse fixture in January but have since lost seven times.

A young team may be blowing their best shot at qualifying for Europe's top club competition, while Donnarumma's form has started to wobble, too.

The keeper has saved 72.6 per cent of shots since his Serie A debut, but that figure has dropped to 68.9 this term. He has also conceded 35 non-penalty goals from shots worth just 33.1 expected goals on target.

If Milan miss out on the Champions League again, Donnarumma could reasonably argue he is in need of a fresh challenge.

Would Juventus be interested?

Four keepers have made 100 or more saves in Serie A while keeping out a greater share of shots than Donnarumma during his Milan career. Two of them already play for Juve.

Along with Alisson (79.3 per cent), who left Roma for Liverpool, and Inter champion Samir Handanovic (73.1), Gianluigi Buffon (77.0) and Wojciech Szczesny (73.7) have bettered Donnarumma's output.

Juve may not even be getting an upgrade then if they tempt the Naples-born star away from Milan.

But Buffon is now 43 and Szczesny 31, meaning both are likely to wane as Donnarumma presumably improves.

Illan Meslier, in 2020-21 at Leeds United, is the only keeper born after Donnarumma to have made 30 starts in a single season in one of Europe's 'top five' leagues. Donnarumma has done so six times already.

And not only is the Italian young, he is, of course, cheap.

Juve love a bargain deal for a free transfer, willing to pay the various related sums to avoid transfer fees for Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba, Kingsley Coman, Sami Khedira, Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot, among others. And that was before the coronavirus pandemic and its financial crisis.

The Turin giants might be able to pick up their keeper of the future for nothing. Alternatively, he could on Sunday further dent their own Champions League aspirations.

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