To say that Gianluigi Buffon is a legend doesn’t say enough about him. At 40 years of age, he has accomplished so much in his lifetime. To football fans everywhere, Buffon is an icon of the sport. He doesn’t just symbolize a goalkeeper’s role on the pitch, but he represents the heart of a true man of the sport.
In football today we see the spawn of new competitors and new faces coming up within the system. Gianluigi Buffon has taken this essence of young competition and proven time and time again that he is the greatest of all time for a reason, leaving very few able to meet his level.
When you talk about Buffon, you think of everything that he has done. His most faithful and loyal period, in my opinion, was sticking with the Bianconeri after being relegated to Serie B. He not only showed heart for the sport, but for the team, “In the end it was a simple choice for me, if Juve had to go down to B then I had to go with them. I didn’t really need to think about it. Juve helped me become a world champion and therefore I owed them a huge debt.”
In his career, Buffon has maintained 283 clean sheets, been named the Serie A goal keeper of the year 12 times, holds the record for most clean sheets (21), has 77 clean sheets for Italy, has won 8 Scudetti in the Serie A, and, at 38 years old, he managed to break a 22-year record in 2016, by going 974 minutes without conceding a goal in Serie A.
In 2001, Buffon was taken from Parma at a fee of £33 million. Which had remained the highest ever paid for a goalkeeper, until last summer involving the signing of Ederson to Manchester City.
In 2002/03 season, Buffon helped Juventus reach the Champions League final, drawing 0-0 to Milan in Manchester, unfortunately losing to penalties in the end.
Buffon claimed two further championships under Massimiliano Allegri and has been able to reach two more Champions League finals, one in 2015 and the other in 2017.
As far as the facts and numbers go, that is not what defines Gianluigi Buffon. Though he has completed a lot in his lifetime, it is what he stands for and what he represents that identifies him. Following many other legends to have played for Juventus, he remains, symbolizing what the Bianconeri means to it’s supporters, “I haven’t lost an awful lot in my life, but the defeats have taught me more than the victories. Whenever I lose, I focus on the ability of my opponents and on the mistakes I made. Not looking for excuses is the right thing to do.” He is sportsmanlike, classy, professional, and well-spoken, not seeing many of these players step foot onto the pitch.
With the Juventus fan base that has been fortunate to witness the likes of Pavel Nedved, Gianpeiro Boniperti, David Trezeguet, Beppe Furino, Zinedine Zidane, and Alessandro Del Piero, Gianluigi Buffon embodies not only a leader, but a representation of the club.
There have been talks of retirement for the Italian legend, as his time with Juventus is contractually ending, and his Italian career cut out after the Italians failed to make the 2018 World Cup. Fans are sure they want him to continue on, as he has created an embodiment of a true leader, “I want what’s best for the team, to understand what kind of clothes I can wear, whether Juventus think I can still be important. I don’t want to become a problem for Juventus or my teammates.”
He is a role model, a leader, and a captain. He has nurtured the wounded, encouraged the doubters, and remained positive even when there was negativity in his life. It may have been encouraging Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini to remain, despite their age, knowing they could still produce the heart of Juventus. It could have been the reassurance Max Allegri needed when he was to give support to players. We have seen so much from the Italian great, especially so this season. The heart, the hunger, and the determination, both on and off the pitch.
The 40-year-old is still unsure of his future, whether he will continue to play or take a different direction in the sport, “I see myself in football, because at the end of the day, it has always been my life. I don’t think I can know right now if it’ll be as a Coach or a director or what, because I’ll need a five or six-month sabbatical when I stop and use that to clear my head.” He will forever be a part of football, one way or another.
In the end, Gianluigi Buffon has created so much for the sport. If we continue to see him on the pitch, standing in front of the net, dressed head to toe in Juventus gear, we will be happy. Or it may be in the stands beside Nedved. Even quite possibly on the sidelines. Having just turned 40-years-old, time has not stolen agility, pace, hunger, or the will to win. He celebrated his birthday the only way he knew how, by helping Juventus win yet another game, with a clean sheet I might add. Juventus took on Atalanta for the Coppa Italia. Gonzalo Higuain securing the one goal 3 minutes in, and Buffon saving a penalty on Alejandro Gomez. Allegri praised his performance, “He has a rest for a few weeks, perhaps he needed to put his feet up, but he’s back now and he’s our first-choice goalkeeper. Szczesny did well in his absence and is a champion, but Buffon is Buffon.” This was his first start since his injury he received in early December of last year, making it his official comeback, and he hit it off with a bang.
It will forever be a sad day when the Italian hero officially retires, but he will remain as the strong man he has always been at Juventus, “I still don’t feel old. Will I say goodbye to the game in ten or 15 years’ time? Who knows – I might retire when I’m 65.” He emphasizes the meaning of playing for a team like Juventus. Gianluigi is everything that footballers hope to stand for and represent. His heart, grit, ability, and leadership is exactly why he is the greatest of all time. It is very rare you will find someone like Gianluigi Buffon. A rare picking, a rare breed, and most definitely a legend.
Writer: Julia Villa/@jjvillz
Photo: Juventus FC