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Azzurri

A Would-Be Midweek Battle of Azzurri Goalkeepers

Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images


On Wednesday, AC Milan will take on promoted side SPAL at the San Siro. Milan are currently sitting in fifth place in the Serie A table with nine points, while SPAL sit in 14th with four. It is a matchup in which both teams will be looking for a result, but the most exciting part of the game was set to be the battle in between the goal posts: Gianluigi Donnarumma taking on Alex Meret, had it not been for an injury that has kept the latter sidelined.

AC Milan’s star 18-year-old goalkeeper was set to match up against Meret, a 20-year-old on loan from Udinese who helped SPAL make the jump from Serie B to Italy’s top flight. Both goalkeepers stood out last season with their great level of reactions and the highlight-reel saves they make, especially at their early ages. Both have gotten looks from bigger European clubs over the summer: Donnarumma, before he extended his contract, was linked with big moves to the likes of Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, and Juventus. Meret, meanwhile, was mentioned with Chelsea, Liverpool, and Napoli, all who understood the hype was certainly real with the latest crop of young Italian shot-stoppers.

The two keepers have also had the chance to play on the same team: both Donnarumma and Meret have earned their way into the Italian National Team picture with call-ups, serving as backups to the elder statesman, Gianluigi Buffon. While Meret has not gotten a start or seen action in a match for the Azzurri, he has been brought into the bench. In Italy’s World Cup Qualifying match against Albania in March, Meret was on the bench, alongside the freakishly tall teenager.

Milan’s prodigy, on the other hand, was handed the starting position for the U-21 Azzurri in their European Championships before they fell to Spain in the semi-finals. Donnarumma has also been on the bench throughout Italy’s World Cup Qualifying campaign after having a breakout season with the Rossoneri.

In addition to being called up to the Azzurri, both youth products are still growing in their respective clubs with eyes towards the future. Donnarumma and Meret each have a world of potential in front of them and are set to be the latest forces in goal for their respective sides: Donnarumma for the Rossoneri, and Meret for SPAL until he returns to Udinese from loan next summer.

It all seemed that Donnarumma and Meret were set to clash in Milan’s first ever match against SPAL, until Meret got sidelined in August with muscle problems. He has not played a match since, and has therefore not made his Serie A debut. After establishing himself as one of the best young keepers in Serie B, the excitement to see the Udinese loanee take on top-flight talent is very much justified. However, the prospect of Meret being tested in Serie A has to wait until at least the first week of October, when he is set to return from his injuries.

That means that the tantalizing clash between two young, exciting Italian keepers has to wait, at the very least until Milan travels to SPAL in January. For now, we can watch Donnarumma continue to impress on a weekly basis, and hope Meret gets healthy so we can see similar from him before the return fixture.

@ItalianFD

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