FT Dream Team Series: Donnarumma or Andre Onana between the sticks?
Here are two young and fantastic goalkeepers important to the game of football. One has been deemed the successor to the Great, Gianluigi Buffon in the Italian national team. The other, a bright talent from Cameroon destined to replace the African Legend, Vincent Enyeama at the hearts of the African audience. Onana at 22 and Donnarumma at 20 is an interesting debate. Both players are playing for big clubs in Europe. The former is the first choice keeper at Ajax and the latter a regular at AC Milan. Here’s your opportunity to find out who is better than the other.
We look at the level at which these young goalkeepers are playing at their respective clubs. Ajax is an important team in the Dutch Eredivisie and the elite competition in Europe, the UEFA Champions League. This means that Onana gets to be tested by the best forwards in Europe. Experience is key to a player’s development and the Cameroon international has just that. Donnarumma on the other hands, is at the struggling Milan club who are playing in the UEFA Europa League. As a result, Onana might just be in a more conducive environment for becoming a top goalkeeper, being surrounded by good players and playing at a high level.
Apart from that, assessing the level competition from within the club is also important in trying to understand the factors leading to a player’s development. Some argue to say that the best players have to compete with a good player for a starting spot. Donnarumma has Reina to keep him at his toes at AC Milan. However, some players went on to become legends without having another good substitute to compete with for the starting spot. Take Gianluigi Buffon for example. Juventus had faith in the goalkeeper since the early 2000s and he played first team football until 2018. Onana is in the very same situation as the Juventus as he is trusted by Ajax to protect the goal line. We assume that the African will take advantage of this opportunity and go on to have a great career.
What is a debate without facts and numbers? We also looked at what WhoScored had to say about these two players. The Italian national has played 8 games already including two UEFA Europa League appearances. In those two, he conceded a total of 4 goals as compared to Onana’s one against German Giants, FC Bayern Munich. This proves that the African goalkeeper is currently on top of his game already with Donnarumma yet to keep a clean sheet in European competition.
Also, hype is something that comes natural to a young player that is given an odd opportunity to show what they are made of at a big club. Donnarumma is no exception. The Italian has received so much hype around him that his valuation skyrocketed to £100 million just a year ago. Since he made his debut at a young age, some analysts rushed to conclude that he was the next Gianluigi Buffon which has since piled pressure on the teenage goalkeeper. The 19 year old has nothing to show for this hype as he is still yet to win a trophy with his club let alone qualify for the biggest club competition in Europe. In contrast, Andre Onana is somewhat an unknown character in the most prominent media coverage. Little is known about him which has allowed him to express himself without any unnecessary pressure. Because of that, the Cameroonian international is in a privileged situation which is working to his favor.
As much as we try to focus on the positives, one has to consider the weaknesses that these young goalkeepers need to overcome if they are to be named amongst the greatest of all time. It is no secret that both struggle to deal away with crosses in the box. This is something many players in their position struggle with. Petr Cech of Arsenal is not the best at dealing away with danger in the box when it comes from the wings. Donnarumma however, still lacks maturity in some aspects of his game. He is well known for his lapses in concentration which cast doubt on his future and whether he will realize his true potential if he carries on like that. Onana on the other hand, struggles with the ball at his feet. He is still yet to master long passes to the forwards in the front which is an asset in modern day soccer.
With all that, whom would you rather have playing in your dream team?