AC Milan coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has backed Diego Lopez to recover his form and challenge 16-year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma for the number one jersey at San Siro.
Highly-rated goalkeeper Donnarumma has displaced the former Real Madrid man for Milan in recent weeks, starting the last three Serie A games.
Lopez – an unused substitute in those encounters – has since been confirmed to have been suffering with tendonitis in his left knee, Milan stating this week that the 34-year-old is set for a spell on the sidelines as he receives treatment.
“I have already said I rate him highly, but lately I didn’t think he was in top form,” Mihajlovic said of the Spaniard.
“He has been a real man, however, playing through the pain and not looking for excuses. We will wait for him to come back.
“But I won’t take anything away from Donnarumma. He is a jewel for Milan and the future of Italian football who is playing well.”
Milan have turned a corner of late, picking up maximum points from their last three Serie A outings, although the likes of Keisuke Honda and Luiz Adriano have had to settle for spots on the bench during that time.
Of the pair’s recent struggles to hold down a place in the side, Mihajlovic added: “A player at Milan has to be happy. If he is unhappy, he is free to leave.
“Honda, if I recall, has played. No one here is indispensable. Everyone is important and part of the squad. When you are given a chance, you have to make sure you are ready. All this passes through training as well.
“In football, with injuries and suspensions, there are possibilities to play. If a player doesn’t play much, he has to get angry with himself and not the coach.
“I am sorry for Luiz Adriano because [Carlos] Bacca is making the difference. I want to congratulate Luiz Adriano though because he is doing really well when he comes off the bench.
“His two goals have given us six points. I won’t forget it. He’s an important player, who is conducting himself well and training with a great desire.”