Italy missed out on its first World Cup since 1958 this past Monday when the Azzurri failed to defeat Sweden in the second leg of a UEFA World Cup qualifier play-off. Along with the humiliation of not making it to the global tournament, the loss marked the end of an era for Italy as shortly after Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli, Daniele De Rossi, and Gianluigi Buffon all announced their retirement from the national team.
By far, the retiree that marked the most significant impact on the footballing world was captain Buffon, who tearfully walked off the San Siro pitch. The Tuscany native has never called the San Siro his home in his club career playing with Parma and Juventus but his replacement does. AC Milan goalkeeper, 18-year old Gianluigi Donnarumma, is head and shoulders above the rest in his position and is showing signs of becoming an idol for the Azzurri in years to come.
A new era has begun for Italian football and with it a new man in between the sticks with the same first name as the immortal legend. The younger Gianluigi has massive gloves to fill and that is still a tremendous understatement as Buffon made an impact on Italian football larger than life.
The 18-year-old goalkeeper only has four official appearances for the senior squad and will now surely be the first-choice goalkeeper for whoever steps in after Gian Piero Ventura’s departure. A huge shadow of the former Azzurri captain will always be behind him but it is time for this new era to try and prevent another humiliation like the one that was seen on Monday night.