Despite Thibaut Courtois telling reporters he is “close” to penning a lucrative new contract, Chelsea have reportedly lined up a stunning potential replacement should their number one fail to sign on the dotted line.

According to Barcelona-based sports publication Mundo Deportivo, Antonio Conte is ready to swoop in for AC Milan’s highly rated Gianluigi “Gigio” Donnarumma should Courtois decide his future lies away from Stamford Bridge.

Donnarumma, only 18 years old and already capped by his country four times, is seen as the natural successor to legendary Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi “Gigi” Buffon, who retired from international football late last year following the Azzurri’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Buffon backs ‘Gigio’ move

Following a critically acclaimed second season in Milan, the youngster was linked with the likes of Real Madrid and PSG, before ultimately signing a four-year contract extension last summer to keep him at the San Siro until 2021. However, Donnarumma has continued to court praise and attention as the season has gone on, with Buffon even advising his protege that a move away from the Rossoneri may be necessary for him to take his career to the next level.

Despite showing exceptional talent and a maturity beyond his years during his relatively short career to date, Donnarumma in the Premier League would be something of an unknown and Chelsea will surely be hoping that they ultimately won’t have to seek a replacement for their own star shot-stopper. However, despite insisting that he remains happy at Stamford Bridge, Courtois continues to be linked with Real Madrid and has been accused of gaming the media in recent weeks.

That being said, with talent such as the 18-year-old Donnarumma currently plying their trade in Europe, it does go to show that the club, at least, feel as though their current first-choice goalkeeper isn’t entirely irreplaceable.

Header image: “Gianluigi Donnarumma” (CC BY 2.0) by Doha Stadium Plus