Gianluigi Donnarumma hasn't gotten a ton of play time at AC Milan this season, but in his limited appearances, he's already impressed football fans and pundits across the globe. ESPN FC has praised him for showing "shades of Buffon," a reference to Juventus legend Gianluigi Buffon. Bleacher Report said Donnarumma provided proof that "the future is extremely bright for AC Milan. Other soccer-focused publications have showered the young keeper with similarly glowing praise. Donnarumma is, it seems, the breakout star of the 2015 2016 AC Milan season.

A Changing of the Guard

At the beginning of the season, Diego Lopez was the starting goalkeeper for AC Milan. The 34-year-old veteran is only in his second season with the Red and Blacks but has enjoyed a long and fruitful career. Having served as the first-choice keeper for both Villarreal and Real Madrid, Lopez is the kind of experienced goalkeeper that a team like AC Milan looks for.

Unfortunately, Lopez just wasn't getting the job done in the net during the first few months of the 2015 2016 season. In his eight starts between Milan's August 23rd opener and an October 17th draw with Torino, Lopez failed to keep a single clean sheet. The Red and Blacks only won three of those games, drawing the Torino match and losing the other four outright.

The Emergence of a Star

With his soccer club dangling just outside of the Serie A top 10, AC Milan manager Sinisa Mihajlovic decided to mix things up. On October 25th, in a home match against Sassuolo, Mihajlovic put Gianluigi Donnarumma into the goal instead of Diego Lopez.

The game was a Serie A debut for Donnarumma, who joined the AC Milan senior squad this summer, coming up from the football club's youth program. Just 16 years old, the rookie acquitted himself well in that first match, conceding one goal but still helping Milan to a 2-1 victory. The next week, in another home game-this one against Chievo-Donnarumma managed Milan's first Serie A clean sheet of the season.

Since then, Donnarumma also started in a 3-1 win against Lazio and a 0-0 draw with Atalanta. The latter fixture saw the young keeper earning "Man of the Match" distinction, making a series of fantastic saves against an Atalanta squad that kept the pressure on the Red and Blacks throughout.

When he took the pitch against Sassuolo, Donnarumma was the youngest goalkeeper to see Serie A play time in 35 years. Now, Mihajlovic has handed the youngest Diego Lopez's first team duties, which means that Donnarumma will be a regular feature on the pitch throughout the remainder of the 2015/16 Serie A season.

A Brief Player Profile

While Gianluigi Donnarumma might be one of the youngest goalkeepers ever to start in the Serie A, he
certainly doesn't look it when he's in the goal. At 6'5", Gianluigi has a true goalkeeper's frame. His long reach and impressive agility help him make saves that older keepers-Diego Lopez included-would struggle to make.

Perhaps most importantly, though, Donnarumma has showed an ability to perform well under pressure. AC Milan were in fairly dire straits when Mihajlovic called an audible and replaced Diego with Gianluigi in the net. Things have improved for the football club since, with Milan's table position improving to sixth place-just seven points off the lead.

Credited as one of the core reasons for AC Milan's turnaround, Donnarumma will only continue to face pressure in the coming weeks. The Red and Blacks have performed poorly for the past two seasons, and fans want to see a return to the winner's circle for the one-time Italian football heavyweights. Gianluigi's calm, composure, and patience in the goal could well prove the difference between a finish in the top five and a second consecutive 10th-place result.