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20 Jul 2018

Gianluigi Donnarumma: A worthy replacement for Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois?

Gianluigi Donnarumma: A worthy replacement for Chelsea's
Thibaut Courtois?

With Real Madrid sniffing around the Belgian, Maurizio Sarri is reportedly looking in Italy for his replacement.

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 AC Milan's situation

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Donnarumma vs Courtois

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A worthy replacement?

(Photo credit: Doha Stadium Plus Qatar)

From Juventus to Chelsea, Gianluigi Donnarumma has been attracting a long list of potential suitors since his breakthrough into the AC Milan starting XI in the 2015/16 season. With Mattia Perin signed over the summer to replace Donnarumma's namesake Buffon, though, it seems as though the Old Lady has had her head turned.

As Alisson Becker similarly puts pen to paper on a world record move to Liverpool, whilst Real Madrid continue to pursue Thibaut Courtois rigorously - with Chelsea resigned to losing him - it made for slightly depressing reading to see the Blues linked with a move for former 'keeper Petr Cech, one that has been obviously declining since a move to Arsenal three years ago.

As per the Evening Standard,  however, new Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri has added the 19-year-old talent to his transfer shortlist, hoping to take advantage of Milan's precarious financial predicament as the Italian hunts a replacement for his Belgian number one.

AC Milan's situation

Despite a hefty investment in a wealth of new players, Milan staggered to a sixth-placed finish in Serie A, missing out on their dream of a return to Champions League football. But the means they used in attempting to turn fantasy into reality has left them in a slight predicament.

Initially banned from Europa League football next season and needing to offload players to balance the books doesn't make for a promising future.

It's a desperate situation for a club steeped in history and tradition, but needs must for Chelsea and they'd be foolish not to capitalise on a weakened financial position that could result in a lower fee for one of the brightest goalkeeping talents in the game.

Donnarumma vs Courtois

Despite playing one fewer game than Donnarumma, Courtois kept an impressive 15 clean sheets from 34 Premier League games, conceding 0.91 goals per game and making 61 saves in total. 

Though Donnarumma made more saves (72), he was beaten more frequently than Courtois was at Stamford Bridge, conceding seven more goals and subsequently keeping three fewer clean sheets.

Donnarumma Courtois
Goals conceded3831
Clean sheets1215
Saves7261
Saves per goal1.952.10
Distribution accuracy78%75%
Catches7865

All statistics taken from Serie A and Premier League appearances.

Perhaps the most useful barometer of how well 'keepers compare to one another is their saves per goal. Or how many shots do opposition strikers need to take, on average, before they beat the 'keeper. Courtois, therefore, made 2.10 saves per goal conceded, whilst Donnarumma managed 1.95.

This suggests that Donnarumma was more frequently and easily beaten than the player he could replace in west London, though the marginal difference is indicative of the Milan stopper's capability to step into Courtois' shoes.

REUTERS/Dylan Martinez 

However, Sarri values distribution extremely highly. He persisted with an error prone Pepe Reina at Napoli because he was able to kick start attacking moves with his distribution, so Donnarumma's 78% accuracy is likely to impress the Italian.

Another sticking point is Donnarumma's aerial ability. Given his imposing presence - standing at six foot four - and the fact that he made 78 catches, the 19-year-old would be a good fit for the physicality of the Premier League, where he's put under pressure at set pieces and crossing scenarios.

A worthy replacement?

What's clear is that Courtois is the better 'keeper - of that there are no questions - and it's demonstrated by the fact that no 'keeper has committed more errors leading to a goal since the start of the 2016/17 season than Donnarumma (7).

However, this damning statistic is also indicative of his youth. He's a teenager and, hence, prone to lapses in concentration and mistakes, though he's young enough - especially for a 'keeper - that these issues can be drilled out of him in the long run. There's significant scope for improvement.

With Alisson moving to Liverpool and Jan Oblak perhaps unattainable from Atletico Madrid, Donnarumma is the best of the rest with bags of potential and longevity. It certainly beats resigning Cech.