'Even Buffon didn't have to deal with the same pressure as Donnarumma' - Amelia

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Former AC Milan goalkeeper Marco Amelia has praised the 19-year-old for the way in which he has coped with the backlash over his contractual situation

Former AC Milan goalkeeper Marco Amelia believes Gianluigi Donnarumma is a "unique" talent, arguing that not even Gianluigi Buffon ever had to deal with the same level of pressure as the teenage sensation is enduring at San Siro.

Juventus captain Buffon famously made his Serie A debut at the age of 17, against a Rossoneri side containing fearsome forwards such as George Weah and Roberto Baggio, but earned Parma a 0-0 draw with a string of sensational saves.

However, Amelia points out that even during the Italy icon's early days in and out of the Gialloblu starting line-up, he was never subjected to the kind of vitriol that Donnarumma was forced to put up with last year during the furore over his initial refusal to sign a new contract at Milan.

The 19-year-old was even turned on by his own club's supporters over his alleged lack of loyalty and perceived greed and yet, in spite of a rocky period during last summer's European Under-21 Championship in Poland, he has held firm to re-establish himself as the best young goalkeeper in the world by helping a resurgent Rossoneri move back into contention for a top-four finish in Serie A.

Gianluigi Donnarumma NxGn

"At the beginning, he had, on his side, the carefree nature of a 16-year-old," Amelia tells Goal, just a day after Donnarumma finished runner-up in the 2018 NxGn which lists the 50 best teenagers in the world born 1999 or later.  "Today, at just 19, he also has the experience and a good maturity. 

"Let us not forget that for some time now he is living with the weight of the incredible pressure linked to his future and the rumours concerning him. None of us at that age, Buffon included, were carrying that huge boulder. 

"So, for his age, experience and characteristics, Gigio remains a unique player.

"The ability to withstand and manage pressure is essential. Taking into account all that gravitates around him, he is showing maturity and balance. 

"And if AC Milan are still in the race for top positions it is also thanks to his saves."

Gianluigi Donnarumma NxGn

Donnarumma has long been touted as Buffon's heir at international level, with even the 40-year-old shot-stopper claiming that his "little brother" is destined to usurp him as Italy's No.1.

Of course, Buffon has recently reversed his decision to quit the Azzurri, but Amelia is still in no doubt that Donnarumma will be in goal when Italy, who failed to qualify for this summer's World Cup in Russia, next grace a major tournament.

"The national team has to be rebuilt and Gigio can be one of the main players to start a new cycle," the 35-year-old enthuses.

"He now has the time to take on Buffon's mantle. There will be two years before the Euros and four years before the next World Cup. 

"He has to work to improve himself. Even Buffon works to be a better player and if you're a 19-year-old goalkeeper, you can improve by playing regularly and learning from your mistakes. 

"I can only wish that he has a career like that of Buffon, which for any goalkeeper is and will remain a model to study and follow."

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