giorgio Chiellini took the cup with him on Sunday evening. Well, it would be more accurate to say Monday morning. The Italian captain insisted he was only continuing a tradition established by Fabio Cannavaro after the Azzurri won the World Cup in 2006, but he was reluctant to let the Henri Delaunay Cup out of his sight after Italy beat England in the Euro 2020 final.
As he left Wembley Stadium, Chiellini placed the trophy on the front seat of the Italian team’s bus and snuggled next to him. But then Gianluigi Donnarumma got on board. “Giorgione! [Big Giorgio]», Declared the Italian goalkeeper. “Will you give it to me for a few minutes?” “
How could he say no? It was Donnarumma who sealed Italy’s triumph on Sunday, saving consecutive penalties from Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka in the decisive shootout. A few minutes later, he was named player of the UEFA tournament.
As questions were asked in England about the wisdom of allowing a 19-year-old to take a penalty in the final, Italy marveled at the 22-year-old who turned it down. Donnarumma didn’t even celebrate at first, walking away with the nonchalant arrogance of a man who had been here and done this before.
Maybe it was because he had done it. Five nights earlier, with the same goal at Wembley, Donnarumma had refused Álvaro Morata to put Italy on the way to the final. It was the fourth and fifth shots on goal he’d been on so far in his senior career, and he’s won them all.
Not that avoiding cash kicks is the sum of Donnarumma’s contribution. He made a series of spectacular saves throughout Euro 2020, from a double save against Switzerland’s Steven Zuber in the group stage to a close-range block from Spain’s Dani Olmo in the semi-finals. Former Italian goalkeeper Walter Zenga defined his full dive to deprive Belgian Kevin De Bruyne of “a perfect demonstration of his technique”.
At the time, Donnarumma thought it was the most important rescue of his career. His efforts against Spain and England had to at least match him. And we haven’t talked about its distribution yet. It was Donnarumma who launched the attack that led to Italy’s goal against Spain, quickly handing the ball to Marco Verratti as their opponents were out of position.
Who could have imagined that Italy would so quickly find a worthy heir to Gianluigi Buffon? Donnarumma used to keep posters of his predecessor on the walls of his room when he was growing up in Pompeii. They even share a first name, although the youngest is called “Gigio” instead of “Gigi”.
He has no illusions about his idol. Buffon made a record 176 appearances for Italy and won a World Cup. “No, he’s the strongest of them all, number one,” Donnarumma said when asked if there could be a comparison. “He remains the greatest of all. “
However, 33 selections and a European Championship at 22 are quite extraordinary. The same goes for the ability to keep your cool while going through one of the most complicated times of your career. Donnarumma is leaving Milan to join Paris Saint-Germain this summer, a move that has made him a public enemy for many supporters.
“I was very calm,” Donnarumma said on Sunday. “My teammates stayed close and I put it all aside. My head was purely at the service of the team and the boss. In the end, this approach paid off.
He cried full-time on Sunday, however, and while many teammates did the same, it was tempting to wonder if there was an element of his own journey in those tears. Milan was his childhood club and to leave is also to separate from his goalkeeper coach, Nélson Dida, the other player whose poster occupied these walls next to Buffon.
How much has Italy benefited from the Brazilian’s work this summer? Dida himself was an excellent penalty brake, and without a doubt, pearls of wisdom were passed on. But Donnarumma has a lot of impressive mentors in his day, including Buffon himself with the national team. Italy’s substitute goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu was the last person to whisper in his ear before the shootout against England, a player who himself started for four seasons at PSG.
Then, of course, it helps to play behind a central defensive pair like Italy’s. ” I want to thank [Leonardo] Bonucci and Chiellini, ”said Donnarumma when he was informed of his Uefa award. “It’s thanks to them that I won.
Juventus defenders had had enough grief in this competition, starting together when Italy was beaten 4-0 by Spain in the Euro 2012 final and again when they were knocked out by the Germany on penalties four years later. They have won the championship together eight times at Juventus – Bonucci missed the 2017-18 title, spending a season in Milan – but none had been able to validate this domestic success with something greater.
Maybe they were the ones who needed Donnarumma. “Despite our delay, we have always been in charge of the game,” Chiellini said full time. “Then for the penalty shootout we had Gigione. We went from Gigi to Gigio!
Donnarumma knows he would have to earn a lot more to have his name pronounced with the same respect as Buffon’s. Helping Italy win their first European Championship in 53 years is a good start.