• Gianluigi Donnarumma has made quite an impression since his Serie A debut (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
AC Milan's teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma could well come up against his hero Gianluigi Buffon this weekend in a changing of the guard in a match that can revive Serie A, despite the relatively lowly positions on the ladder of both clubs.
Joe Russo

20 Nov 2015 - 1:28 PM  UPDATED 21 Nov 2015 - 1:28 PM

The match, and what happens between the sticks at either end, could be a watershed moment in Italian club football, and perhaps, the national team in the not-too-distant future.

Donnarumma, the baby-faced AC Milan shot stopper, could be one of the very best feel-good stories of the Serie A this season. At 16 years and eight months, he became the youngest goalkeeper to start a Serie A game.

That in itself is a truly remarkable feat but to debut for AC Milan, historically one of the biggest names in world football, is even more special.

Now he remarkably gets to realise a childhood dream, although technically, he is still a child!

As he looks down the pitch at Juventus Stadium he will see his idol, 37 year-old Buffon, in the opposition goal.

Buffon is one of the truly great ‘keepers in modern football and is still Italy’s first choice - but this could be the changing of the guard.

Donnarumma, who hails from just south of Naples, has played great football since his debut last month and has already been described by those in the know as the 'next big thing'.

Of course, it is still way too early to write off Buffon and brazenly predict a baton-change with Donnarumma, at least for now, but everyone has an expiry date and Buffon will be no exception.

He too will be eventually washed away by the tide of old age and Donnarumma is the most exciting thing to happen to goalkeepers in Italy since, well, a teenage Buffon made his debut for Parma two decades ago.

For other supporters of Italian football there is a certain amount of schadenfreude in seeing Juventus below par this season. The joy for the rest of Italy is palpable because in Italian football there is a chasm between Juventus supporters and supporters of all other clubs.

Juventus are arguably the most hated team for a myriad of reasons, not least the four consecutive titles that had rendered the Serie A somewhat monotonous and lacklustre. But they are no longer invincible and the Serie A is coming out of hibernation.  

This year’s title will be fought out by a number of teams including Fiorentina, Inter Milan, AS Roma and Napoli, and that mixture in itself has made the 2015-2016 campaign one of the most open and interesting contests in years.

Juventus’ demise is the best news story in the last five years for Italian football. 

In the post Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez era, the grand Old Lady is there to be beaten. Many will be not-so-secretly hoping Milan topple Juve to keep them away from the top teams.

In another twist, Massimiliano Allegri, who was the surprise appointment to the Juventus bench less than 18 months ago, was the last coach to guide AC Milan to the Serie A title. That Scudetto in 2011 cemented his name alongside the great AC Milan coaches such as Nils Liedholm, Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello.

Onitially he was hated by Juventus supporters because he was 'the AC Milan coach' but after guiding Juventus to within a whisker of the treble last season, he is now despised by AC Milan supporters. Sometimes you just can’t win. 

The two most successful Italian football clubs in history can reignite the spirit of the Serie A even though, at this stage of the season, both are off the pace in the title race.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Joe Russo is a football writer at Australian-based Italian newspapers La Fiamma and Il Globo.