Goals from Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos helped Paris Saint-Germain secure a much-needed 2-0 victory against Nice in Ligue 1 on Saturday.

Messi struck 26 minutes in at Allianz Riviera, before he supplied the cross from a corner for Ramos' second-half header.

Victory was a first in three games for Christophe Galtier's side after back-to-back defeats, although they were indebted to goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma as much as Messi.

Nice peppered the PSG goal either side of half-time, only to come away empty-handed against their former coach, suffering their first defeat under Didier Digard.

PSG had started the brighter, knowing a victory was required to restore a six-point cushion to second-placed Lens, and went close to an opener when Danilo Pereira's header beat Kasper Schmeichel but bounced back out off the post.

Four minutes later, Messi made the breakthrough when he finished into the roof of the net from Nuno Mendes' square pass inside the area.

Nice refused to back down, however, and Donnarumma made excellent saves to deny both Nicolas Pepe and Terem Moffi late in the first half.

That momentum continued into the second half, with Dante agonisingly close to a deserved equaliser when the ball bounced down off the crossbar and back out via the post without fully crossing the goal line.

Further Donnarumma saves followed, including another notable stop from Pepe shortly after Dante's effort, and Nice were made to pay for their profligacy when Ramos rose highest at the other end to meet Messi's corner.

Danilo then headed against his own crossbar in the closing stages, summing up Nice's rotten luck.

Gianluigi Donnarumma warned Paris Saint-Germain the Ligue 1 title race is "not done yet" following their 2-0 loss to Rennes.

PSG were booed off by the Parc des Princes crowd as goals from Karl Toko Ekambi and Arnaud Kalimuendo inflicted a first home league defeat in just under two years, and turned up the pressure on head coach Christophe Galtier.

The Ligue 1 leaders are missing several key players through injury, including long-term absentee Neymar, as well as defenders Achraf Hakimi, Presnel Kimpembe, Marquinhos and Sergio Ramos.

Nevertheless, Donnarumma insists it is no excuse after a seventh defeat of 2023 - and second in three matches following their Champions League last-16 exit at the hands of Bayern Munich.

And despite their nine-point lead at the Ligue 1 summit, the goalkeeper has urged his team-mates to up their game.

"It was a difficult game. We were missing a lot of players, but we are not looking for excuses. In this type of match, we have to do better, we have to win - especially for all the fans who support us, who are always behind us.

"When we return, we will have to do everything to find our best level. We have to approach the matches better. We have to do better in terms of character and intensity.

"We have quality, but we have to improve on these points. I'm not happy that we've suffered so many defeats, but we have to look ahead and do everything we can to improve.

"We want to win as many points as possible. We need to win the championship, it's not something easy, and it's not done yet. We have to put our heads back in the right place because the championship is not over."

Bayern Munich were indebted to Matthijs de Ligt's heroics against Paris Saint-Germain and Yann Sommer offered the centre-back a sweet reward for his pivotal Champions League intervention.

Julian Nagelsmann's side recorded a 3-0 aggregate triumph in the last-16 on Wednesday after Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Serge Gnabry secured a 2-0 second-leg triumph at Allianz Arena.

However, PSG should have twice restored parity in the tie in the first half as Alphonso Davies thwarted Lionel Messi from close range before De Ligt cleared off the line with Vitinha firing at an open goal.

The latter chance came from an inexplicable Sommer error as he squandered possession inside his own area and the goalkeeper joked a deserved treat will await for De Ligt's last-ditch efforts.

"I will leave a truck filled with Swiss chocolate on his doorstep!," Sommer said on DAZN, before attempting to explain his error.

"The problem was, I had my solution to pass to [Josip] Stanisic but it was closed, then I had no more solution," he added.

"It was unbelievable what De Ligt was doing there, of course, I'm not happy with [my part] in the scene. 

"It's amazing how he thinks and saves me. If that goes wrong, then this game looks very different."

De Ligt's hooked clearance at full stretch proved the difference as Bayern kept a fourth straight clean sheet in the Champions League, their longest run in the competition without conceding.

While Sommer hailed his centre-back team-mate, Gianluigi Donnarumma was left to rue a "disappointing" performance as PSG were dumped out at the last-16 stage in Europe for a second straight term.

"There's a lot of disappointment in the dressing room," the Italy international told Canal Plus. 

"In the Champions League, the small details make the difference. We could have done better in the first half, we didn't. We're all annoyed and disappointed."

Lionel Messi will sit out of Paris Saint-Germain's Ligue 1 trip to Reims after suffering from discomfort in his calf, Christophe Galtier has confirmed. 

Messi opened the scoring in spectacular fashion as PSG drew 1-1 at Benfica on Wednesday, becoming the first player to score against 40 different teams in Champions League history.

He has also been involved in seven goals in his last five Ligue 1 matches (two goals, five assists), but a medical update issued by the club revealed Messi would miss Saturday's match despite undergoing "reassuring examinations" on a calf injury.

"There will be changes," Galtier subsequently told Friday's pre-match news conference.

"Leo Messi will not be fit for Reims but will resume training on Sunday morning. Kylian Mbappe has angina but will be travelling to Reims."

Meanwhile, Galtier praised Gianluigi Donnarumma for his response to criticism of his early season performances, after the Italy goalkeeper made six saves at Benfica.

"He works well, nobody is airtight against remarks - sometimes it becomes criticism and nobody is insensitive," Galtier said.

"What I could notice in this period is that he remained focused on his work, by trying to eliminate his little flaws and keep his strengths. 

"I saw nothing different in his preparation for the Benfica match. Obviously, he and the whole team, we were all satisfied with his performance in Lisbon. 

"I always pointed out his few little mistakes, whether it was a lack of concentration or other issues. He was told after Benfica that he must continue to always be efficient."

Should PSG win at Reims, they will have taken 28 points from their first 10 matches of the Ligue 1 campaign.

In the 21st century, only two teams have reached at least 28 points at that stage of a Ligue 1 season, with both going on to finish as champions (Lyon – 28 in 2006-07, and PSG – 30 in 2018-19).

Roberto Mancini was not entirely satisfied by Italy's Nations League win over Hungary, while Marco Rossi hailed Gianluigi Donnarumma as the "best goalkeeper in the world".

Goals from Giacomo Raspadori and Federico Dimarco saw the Azzurri leapfrog their hosts to top Group A3 and qualify for next year's finals, alongside Croatia and the Netherlands.

Yet the visitors were forced to weather a late onslaught from Hungary, kept in the game through Paris Saint-Germain keeper Donnarumma, who lived up to his reputation with a string of impressive saves.

That gradually eroded control over the match frustrated Mancini, who felt his side rested on their laurels too much across the closing stages of Monday's encounter.

"It was a difficult game," he told RAI Sport. "It was all perfect until the final 20 minutes.

"We really need to improve in our ability to control the game for 90 minutes, as we worked so hard to be 2-0 up, so suffering like that in the final 20 minutes just makes no sense.

"We should have kept pushing for a third goal. I lost my voice because I was shouting so much in the final 20 minutes."

Rossi, who played alongside Mancini in a brief stint with Sampdoria almost three decades ago and embraced warmly at full-time, was more philosophical on his side's defeat.

However, the Italian was fast to praise countryman Donnarumma, who after something of a mixed first year at PSG following his Euro 2020 heroics, looks back to his best this season.

"It would have been nice to perform a miracle tonight, but when you play against teams like Italy, you have to make zero mistakes and hope the other side get it wrong," Rossi said in his post-match press conference.

"Even when we did have the chances, we were kept out by the best goalkeeper in the world. It's no coincidence that PSG signed Donnarumma."

Rossi also hailed Hungary's supporters, praising their "great respect and civility" for their opponents in Budapest.

"I've been in football for many years," he added. "I've seen packed stadiums and fans on their feet, but never anything like the passion you can feel when Hungary play on home turf."

Neymar scored the only goal of the game as Paris Saint-Germain returned to the top of Ligue 1 with a 1-0 win over Brest, though the French champions were indebted to Gianluigi Donnarumma following his penalty save.

The Brazilian volleyed home his eighth strike of the campaign after half an hour to settle a scrappy affair, maintaining the hosts' unbeaten start.

However, Christophe Galtier's side survived a scare in the final 20 minutes as Donnarumma kept out Islam Slimani's spot-kick to preserve their led.

PSG have now won each of their last 10 league matches against Brest, and appear strong favourites for yet another title after extending their unbeaten home league run in to 25 games.

Brest came under intense pressure inside the opening 20 minutes with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi all going close for the Parisians. 

The visitors' struggles appeared set to worsen when Christophe Herelle received a red card for fouling Neymar, but they were reprieved after a VAR check revealed the PSG forward had strayed offside before the challenge occurred.

The Brazil international broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark, however, controlling Messi's wonderful lofted ball before firing past Marco Bizot.

The Brest goalkeeper did well to thwart Messi and Mbappe before the break, while the latter was also denied by the offside flag.

The woodwork then came to the visitors' rescue within five minutes of the restart; Messi heading against the post from Mbappe's cross.

Despite registering 12 shots on goal, PSG were almost made to pay for their lacking of cutting edge in the 70th minute when Presnel Kimpembe fouled Noah Fadiga in the box.

However, Donnarumma guessed correctly to keep out Slimani from 12 yards and ensure his side's return to the Ligue 1 summit.

 

Gianluigi Donnarumma remains the clear first-choice goalkeeper at Paris Saint-Germain, coach Christophe Galtier indicated on Friday as he defended the error-prone Italian.

On the eve of a Ligue 1 clash with Brest, Galtier was asked whether he might consider rotating his keepers and give veteran Keylor Navas a fresh chance to stake a claim.

Donnarumma was exposed in PSG's Champions League game against Juventus on Tuesday, when Galtier said it was forgetfulness that led to the visitors pulling back to 2-1 early in the second half.

From a short corner routine on the left, Filip Kostic crossed into the heart of the penalty area and Donnarumma came for the ball but failed to get close, allowing Weston McKennie the chance to head into a near-unguarded net.

The goal came just moments after Kylian Mbappe threatened to put PSG 3-0 up but shot into the side-netting, with strike partner Neymar crying out for a pass.

PSG did not concede again, so it was an error that did not prove too costly on the night, and Galtier is determined to back the 23-year-old Donnarumma.

"There will not be rotation in the goalkeeping position," said the former Lille, Nice and Saint-Etienne boss.

"We often forget that Gianluigi Donnarumma is still a young goalkeeper, even if he has been playing for quite a while. He often forgets that things can happen from a corner, and he misjudged it the other day, but he also made two brilliant saves. Of course, I've spoken to him about it.

"I always hope to have a goalkeeper who comes out for set-pieces and is very present in the box. He has the physique, technical quality, the jumping ability, so I don't want that mistake from a corner to stop him doing what I want to see from him."

Donnarumma was a European Championship winner with Italy last year, but he has a howler in him. Since joining PSG as a free agent in July 2021, the former Milan keeper has played 32 games and committed four errors leading to shots, two of which have cost his team a goal.

That is certainly not the worst record among goalkeepers from Europe's top five leagues, with 13 making more errors resulting in shots and 21 conceding more goals through mistakes since August 1, 2021.

However, it is far from the very elite level, with Manchester City's Ederson one of six goalkeepers with 30 or more appearances across all competitions to make no errors leading to a shot or goal.

Navas, the 35-year-old now serving as deputy, has made just one error, which led to a goal, across 26 appearances during Donnarumma's time in Paris.

The goalkeepers were rotated last season by Mauricio Pochettino, but that policy has been shelved by new boss Galtier.

It is seemingly only the goalkeeping role that Galtier is not inclined to switch around from game to game, as he said on Friday that others will be coming in and out of the team in the coming weeks, as PSG contend with Ligue 1 and Champions League commitments.

"I don't like the work rotation, but we need freshness," Galtier said. "That will happen automatically because I have a squad that is ready and available with quality. We will need freshness, so the team can continue to perform well."

Paris Saint-Germain were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw at home to Monaco as their 100 per cent start to the season came to an end.

PSG started the first half well, but a pinpoint Kevin Volland finish past Gianluigi Donnarumma put the visitors ahead at the break.

Christophe Galtier’s team pressed for an equaliser in the second period and found one when VAR awarded a penalty for a foul on Neymar, who stepped up himself to stroke home the spot-kick.

The hosts pushed for a winner, but could not find one as Monaco held on for a point.

PSG were ultimately frustrated not to pick up all three points, while Monaco will be glad to escape the capital with a draw.

The Ligue 1 champions dominated the early possession but fell behind after 20 minutes when Volland latched onto an Aleksandr Golovin throughball before rifling into the bottom-right corner.

Monaco nearly had a second before half-time, but Donnarumma scampered across his line just in time to tip Caio Henrique’s curling free-kick wide.

PSG hit the frame of the goal twice in quick succession in first-half stoppage time as a Lionel Messi drive rebounded off the left post straight to Kylian Mbappe, whose first-time effort hit the other upright.

Wissam Ben Yedder could have made it 2-0 after the interval when Donnarumma was caught well out of his goal, but the France international’s long-range shot went over the crossbar.

Neymar and Renato Sanches both went close to levelling for the hosts, but a combination of Alexander Nubel and poor finishing maintained Monaco’s lead.

Galtier’s men finally equalised when VAR awarded a spot-kick for a Guillermo Maripan trip on Neymar. The Brazil international fired the resulting penalty into the bottom-left corner.

Monaco came under increasing pressure in the remaining minutes as PSG hunted a winner, Achraf Hakimi being denied by the post, but Philippe Clement’s team held on for an impressive point.

New Paris Saint-Germain coach Christophe Galtier has pledged to end predecessor Mauricio Pochettino's practice of rotating between goalkeepers Gianluigi Donnarumma and Keylor Navas. 

Galtier was announced as PSG's new head coach on Tuesday, with the former Lille and Nice boss signing a two-year deal with the club.

The man who beat PSG to the Ligue 1 title when in charge of Lille during the 2020-21 season takes over a squad containing two world-class goalkeepers in Italy's Euro 2020 hero Donnarumma and three-time Champions League winner Navas.

Pochettino used both goalkeepers often during his one full season in charge of the Parisian giants, with Navas making 26 appearances in all competitions and Donnarumma featuring 24 times.

Donnarumma managed one clean sheet more (nine) than Navas did (eight) despite making two appearances fewer, while the two goalkeepers posted similar save percentage figures (Navas saving 75.76 per cent of shots faced compared to the Italian's 75.27 per cent).

Speaking at his unveiling, Galtier argued having a nominated first-choice shot stopper would provide greater clarity.

"I always work with a number one and a number two," he said. 

"It's easier for me and for them to know their position within the squad. I haven't met them yet, but I will do it very quickly."

PSG conceded 36 goals when winning Ligue 1 last season, the joint-fewest in the league alongside Galtier's former club Nice, who registered one more clean sheet (14) than the champions.  

Gianluigi Donnarumma hailed an "amazing and emotional year" after Paris Saint-Germain won the Ligue 1 title, but knows they cannot be "fully satisfied" due to Champions League failure.

Donnarumma was recruited by PSG ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, with Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos, Georginio Wijnaldum and superstar Lionel Messi also arriving in the French capital.

Messi joined forces with Kylian Mbappe and Neymar to form a fearsome frontline, with PSG easing to a record-extending 10th Ligue 1 title, their eighth in the last 10 seasons.

The championship win was also Mauricio Pochettino's first trophy as a coach, but the former Tottenham boss appears to be heading for the exit door after failing to deliver Champions League success.

Mbappe scored in both legs of the last-16 tie with Real Madrid, but Karim Benzema's incredible hat-trick inspired a turnaround for Los Blancos, who went on to lift the trophy in May.

Christophe Galtier, Zinedine Zidane and Julen Lopetegui are among the names linked with the potential vacancy.

While Donnarumma reflected gleefully on his first season in Paris, he understands the demands at PSG when it comes to the Champions League.

"Winning ten titles is a special thing. It really is great to be able to win," the Italy goalkeeper told PSG TV. "As players, we all wanted to go for it, but that was the case for everyone else at the club, too.

"It was our aim to win the title, so it really was an important season. Unfortunately, we got knocked out of the Champions League, but by winning the title, we gave ourselves some consolation, and that made us really happy.

"It was an amazing and emotional year but also a slightly difficult one. After we were knocked out of the Champions League, it was a bit strange. We had trouble digesting it, but we had to accept it.

"We had to move on because we still had the league title to win, and in the end, we managed to react. So, I'd say that the season was positive overall.

"If you put the Champions League to one side, it was a good season, but we can't be fully satisfied with it, and next year, we'll try to win as many titles as possible."

Marseille are the only French side to win the Champions League, back in 1993, while Monaco and PSG are the only other Ligue 1 teams to reach the final of UEFA's premier club competition.

Barring their 2019-20 final appearance and a semi-final appearance the following season, PSG have failed to pass the Champions League round of 16 in four of the last six campaigns.

That has led to questions over the competition in Ligue 1, but Donnarumma assures the challenge is tougher than critics suggest.

"A lot of people on the outside think that it's easy to win Ligue 1, but I know that that's completely untrue," he added.

"There are some big teams in this league, and there are some really tough places to go here, with hostile crowds and some very competitive sides.

"It really isn't easy, and you always need to be well-prepared and working at 100 per cent because some games are really difficult.

"If we aren't at 100 per cent, it gets hard to bring back wins, so we need to play at our best every time."

A defiant Gianluigi Donnarumma claimed he will have his "head held high" following Italy's 5-2 defeat away to Germany in the Nations League on Tuesday.

Germany led 5-0 at one stage in Monchengladbach and wearing the captain's armband, the Azzurri goalkeeper had a disappointing night personally, with Timo Werner pinching the ball off him before making it 4-0.

Goals from Wilfried Gnonto and Alessandro Bastoni provided small consolation late for Italy but for an inexperienced squad, Tuesday's loss was a harsh reminder of international football's margin for error.

Asked whether distribution with his feet was an aspect he needed to improve upon post-game, after similarly getting his pocket picked in Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League exit, the 23-year-old responded angrily.

"When did it happen before? When I was fouled against Real Madrid? If we want to cause controversy over these things, then fine," Donnarumma told RAI Sport. "I am here to talk for the team. If you want to blame me, fine, I’ll take the blame, I am the captain and I keep going with head held high.

“I think you’re all trying to create something about these errors, fine.

"We are angry. There are no excuses, we have to get back out there and prove this is not us. There are simply no excuses."

The Azzurri sit third in Group A3 after two draws and a win in their opening three games but following their loss in the UEFA/CONMEBOL Finalissima, Tuesday's defeat represents a return to square one.

Donnarumma suggested end-of-season fatigue had been a contributing factor, but it had not been primary in Italy's performance in Germany.

"We were lacking everything tonight," he said. "There was also some fatigue after four games in 15 days at the end of the season, but we don’t want to seek alibis. Now we will look each other in the eye and analyse everything.

"We’re really disappointed for the fans, for what they saw tonight. We had a few chances, but it’s not good enough. We’ll analyse everything and start again.

"All of us made mistakes. I could’ve dealt with the situation better at 4-0 and kicked it away, but you learn from mistakes and grow. Now we just have to rest and come back much stronger than this."

Gianluigi Donnarumma admitted he was left "speechless" after leading Italy to victory over Hungary in the Nations League. 

Goals from Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Pellegrini helped the Azzurri prevail 2-1 at Dino Manuzzi on Tuesday.

Gianluca Mancini's own-goal set up a nervous finish in Cesena, but the reigning European champions held out for maximum points in the Group A3 encounter.

Once again, Roberto Mancini handed the captain's armband to Donnarumma, who shook off an injury to his finger to take his place between the sticks.

The Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper became Italy's youngest skipper since 1965 when he donned the armband against Belgium last October.

And following his nation's failure to qualify for the World Cup – as well as the commanding Finalissima defeat to Argentina earlier this month – the 23-year-old has been pleased with the response of Mancini's youthful squad.

"We knew that we had to change and restart with young players after a difficult period," Donnarumma said.

"They [the youngsters] came here with the right spirit knowing that you have to do everything you can for this shirt.

"The captain's armband is an indescribable emotion, wearing the number one shirt and the armband is something that leaves you speechless. 

"For this shirt, I would play even without a finger, I have to thank the medical staff who helped me a lot; with my desire and their help, I was able to play tonight. 

"For me, this shirt is incredible and I will play as long as I can with this shirt."

Italy displaced Hungary at the top of Group A3 with four points from their opening two games.

As a result, Mancini believes his players can carry plenty of belief as the campaign continues against England later this week. 

"We played a good game, especially in the first half,” the head coach added.

"Their goal, however, created us some fear and pressure in a game we should have won with a bigger margin of goals. Both teams were a bit tired at the end.

"We are playing with several youngsters and we are aware that we have plenty of work to do, the road is still long. 

"We can go forward with confidence, however, because we played two good games against difficult teams in Germany and Hungary."

Gianluigi Donnarumma hailed the "perfect year" after Paris Saint-Germain and Milan won their respective leagues, but the goalkeeper has no regrets after leaving the Rossoneri.

Donnarumma was met with widespread condemnation by the Milan supporters after not renewing his contract, before opting to join PSG on a free transfer ahead of the 2021-22 season following his successful Euro 2020 campaign with Italy.

The 23-year-old kept five clean sheets in his 17 Ligue 1 appearances as he shared the goalkeeper duties with Keylor Navas, with PSG securing a record-equalling 10th Ligue 1 title.

Milan, meanwhile, edged out Inter to secure their first Serie A crown in 11 years, much to the delight of Donnarumma.

"After winning the title, the perfect year was the Scudetto of Milan and I congratulate them, they did an incredible job and I'm proud of them," said Donnarumma in a news conference on Sunday.

"I have no regret, I'm happy with what Milan have done and I wrote to all my team-mates to congratulate them."

Donnarumma was also praised the performance of fellow goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who was on top form to help Real Madrid to a 1-0 Champions League final victory over Liverpool on Saturday.

Courtois pulled off nine stops in the final, the most on record since Opta began recording data in 2003-04, as Madrid secured a 14th European Cup, more than double any other side.

"I saw the match and he played an incredible match, he kept Real Madrid standing until the end," Donnarumma said of Courtois.

"It made me feel a bit like we could have been there, but unfortunately football is like that. They won and I congratulate Courtois, he made great interventions."

Donnarumma's focus now turns to the 'Finalissima' between Italy and Argentina at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday, in a meeting between the European Championship and Copa America winners.

Italy defeated England on penalties in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley before missing out on World Cup qualification for Qatar after play-off defeat to North Macedonia.

"We must not forget what we did at the European Championship, this is a fantastic group and they gave us an incredible result," Donnarumma added.

"The disappointment of not qualifying for the World Cup is still fresh, we are still disappointed. It hurts, some guys will no longer be with us but we young people must bring Italy back to where it deserves."

Roberto Mancini will have Giorgio Chiellini to call upon for one final game before his international retirement, and Donnarumma says Italy will miss the experienced centre-back.

"We will miss everything about Giorgio, both on and off the pitch he was a point of reference for Italian and world football, especially for us young people," he continued. 

"He gave us great help, now we want to give him great joy. He will be missed on the pitch, he is truly fantastic and will always give you a hand, even just with a simple word."

Gianluigi Donnarumma "still has a lot to give", says former Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar, despite the Italy shot-stopper's recent spate of high-profile errors on the biggest stages.

The 23-year-old ended last season on the high of a Euro 2020 triumph with the Azzurri, shortly before a move to Paris Saint-Germain alongside fellow new recruits Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos.

But fast-forward nine months, and he has struggled with costly performances for club and country, resulting in Italy's failure to reach the World Cup and PSG's Champions League exit.

Ex-Selecao goalkeeper Julio Cesar feels Donnarumma has possibly struggled with expectations since his arrival at the Parc des Princes.

"Being a keeper is tough," he told Stats Perform courtesy of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. "Donnarumma made his debut at AC Milan when he was 16, then he joined the national team.

"He has already won a European Championship at such a young age, and then to join one of the strongest teams in the world, which is full of champions.

"Many positive things happened to this young man, sometimes it is not easy to have that personality you need to get on the pitch after all the things he has been through down the years.

"From being the strongest keeper of the world, to become the player making the mistake that kicked PSG out of the Champions League.

"Everybody was expecting PSG to reach the final simply because the club brought [Sergio] Ramos, [Achraf] Hakimi, [Lionel] Messi and him [Donnarumma]."

Donnarumma may not have been solely at fault for Italy's World Cup play-off exit to North Macedonia or PSG's elimination at the hands of Real Madrid, but Julio Cesar believes the ex-Milan star needs to learn to maintain his level amid the peaks and troughs of the game to become one of the best in the business.

"In football there are ups and downs, but you need to be consistent if you want to become a great keeper," he added. "If you make a mistake during a match, you cannot miss the next 10 or 20 balls.

"Otherwise, you are out. This is what I think, however, the team did not help. I am talking about both club and national team.

"PSG did not do a nice game against Real Madrid, same for Italy when they had the chance to qualify for the World Cup.

"He is a lad who still has a lot to give to football, he can offer a lot to this sport. He is very young, and fans will be happy to watch him playing, because he is a young talent."

Marco Verratti has come to the defence of his Paris Saint-Germain and Italy team-mate Gianluigi Donnarumma.

The goalkeeper came in for criticism following PSG's recent Champions League elimination at the hands of Real Madrid, in particular for his error that led to Karim Benzema scoring the Spanish side's first goal at the Santiago Bernabeu in an eventual 3-2 aggregate loss for the Parisians.

Donnarumma has conceded six goals in his last two club appearances, but ahead of Italy's World Cup qualifying play-off against North Macedonia, Verratti wants Azzurri fans to remember his performances during the run to winning Euro 2020.

"We need to be confident. Thursday will be an important match against a team that deserves to be here," Verratti told a news conference.

"As we did during the Euros, we have to go far with enthusiasm and desire.

"Each of us has different stories with our clubs, then here, we have to give everything. With the national team we have always managed to move forward."

It was put to the 29-year-old midfielder that players from PSG and Juventus who were knocked out of the Champions League could bring their dented confidence with them, and he was specifically asked about Donnarumma's mood.

"When you walk into Coverciano [Italy's training complex], you forget everything that happened before, the defeats with our clubs, and you remember what we did last year," Verratti retorted. "We are back to talking about the victory of the European Championship, it's different.

"He [Donnarumma] is sorry for his error against Real Madrid, but Gigio is a special guy. He was already back working the next day with the same enthusiasm.

"Let us not forget what he did for Italy during the Euros. He is one of the best goalkeepers in the world."

Donnarumma played seven games at the rescheduled tournament last year, making 10 stops at a save percentage of 71.43, conceding four goals and making key penalty saves from Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka in the final shoot-out against England to clinch the trophy at Wembley Stadium.

Italy are looking to make amends having failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and Verratti insists they will "give everything" to get to Qatar.

"We are accustomed to playing under this kind of pressure," he said. "We know it's a very important moment and we cannot afford to be out of the World Cup, but the only thing I know is to work, give my best and do everything there is.

"When Roberto Mancini arrived [in 2018], we were a broken team and he took us to win the European Championship. He worked on our minds above all, now we are a completely different side and we will do everything to go to Qatar."

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