Donnarumma will only grow following Madrid error, says Buffon

By Sports Desk March 11, 2022

Gianluigi Donnarumma will only grow stronger following his error against Real Madrid and remains one of the top three goalkeepers in the world, according to Gianluigi Buffon.

Paris Saint-Germain were eliminated from the Champions League in rather humiliating circumstances on Wednesday as they let slip a two-goal aggregate lead to lose 3-2.

PSG looked comfortable at the Santiago Bernabeu with an hour played, only for a Donnarumma mistake to gift Madrid the first of their three goals in a 17-minute comeback.

The Italy international effectively passed the ball straight to Vinicius Junior when under pressure close to his own goal and hat-trick hero Karim Benzema converted the cutback.

Donnarumma argued he was fouled by Benzema in the lead-up to his costly error in the last-16 second leg, but the goal was allowed to stand and Madrid did not look back.

But while the former Milan keeper has come in for heavy criticism for his display, Buffon insists his compatriot has the right mentality to respond.

"Mistakes like this will serve him; they are part of his growth path," Buffon told Corriere dello Sport. "I'm sure it won't have any negative repercussions, any problems for him.

"Besides, he's already shown he has the necessary strength to overcome delicate moments in his career. He's too solid to allow himself to be influenced by all this.

"He's one of the best in the world, among the top three along with Thibaut Courtois and Manuel Neuer. I have to say that otherwise I'm accused of being partisan!"

 

PSG have been eliminated from four of their nine Champions League knockout ties when winning the first leg – only Madrid (six times) have a worse record in the competition.

Donnarumma played both legs of the tie, but he has had to share goalkeeping duties with Keylor Navas this season, starting 18 games compared to the latter's 21.

The 23-year-old, who starred for Italy in their triumphant Euro 2020 campaign last year, has conceded 14 goals and kept eight clean sheets across those 18 appearances.

His 4.9 goals prevented – worked out by taking away the number of goals conceded from expected goals on target conceded – is among the best in Europe's elite leagues.

Only eight others boast a better return when taking all competitions into account, a metric led by Chelsea's Kepa Arrizabalaga, who has prevented 9.8 goals.

Courtois has a slightly better record than Donnarumma with 5.5 goals prevented, while Neuer – the other keeper referenced by Buffon – has let in 2.9 goals more than expected.

 

Taking aim at Donnarumma's critics, Buffon added: "Errors from goalkeepers are normal. Gigi can still give a lot for PSG. One or two mistakes a season are psychological.

"He made an unpopular choice joining PSG, but it must be respected. He wanted to fuel his ambition, something many didn't like. 

"They're the people who were waiting for this mistake. The problem is not the French who are enjoying it, but the Italians who were waiting for that."

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