He might be approaching 40, but Gianluigi Buffon is still one of the best (if not the best) goalkeeper in the world of football. ‘Gigi’ was once again Juventus’ reliable man between the sticks during an historic 2016/2017 season for the Bianconeri.
Let’s start with some numbers. Buffon played 30 Serie A games, conceding only 24 goals and keeping thirteen clean sheets. Relatively speaking, he did even better in the Champions League. Only three goals conceded in eleven games, with just the final in Cardiff against Real Madrid on the agenda. In all competitions, nobody kept more clean sheets than Buffon. Only Atlético’s Jan Oblak and Monaco’s Danijel Subasic did evenly well with 21.
Buffon has survived many “Who’s the best goalkeeper in the word?” debates. He has firmly outplayed the likes of Peter Schmeichel, Oliver Kahn, Iker Casillas, while battling it out with the likes of Manuel Neuer and Thibaut Courtois today.
Even at 39, Buffon looks better than ever. Sure, he isn’t able to show that magical athleticism he once had and he doesn’t jump as high as he used to. But his reflexes, goal line saves, one-on-one abilities, and leadership qualities are as strong as ever.
Take his save in the Champions League against Olympique Lyon, maybe his most stunning save of the entire season. Lyon striker Nabil Fekir spun away from Andrea Barzagli and got a clean look on goal. Barzagli tried to recover but it was Leonadro Bonucci who deflected the shot upwards. In normal circumstances, the goalkeeper wouldn’t have stood a chance. However, Buffon made the crucial reflex to slap the ball with his right fist. Over the bar. And to think he saved an Alexandre Lacazette penalty kick earlier in the game and made a brilliant save on Corentin Tolisso’s header in a 1-0 away win with ten men.
It’s amazing how Buffon has been able to keep his concentration over the years. He’s won so many trophies, but still he’s there for Juventus in every big game and on every crucial moment. Like when he saved Andrés Iniesta’s effort during their clash with Barcelona. If Iniesta had scored, the game in Turin would have been tied 1-1. Now, The Old Lady went on to score the 2-0 and eventually won 3-0 against Lionel Messi’s Blaugrana.
Age is just a number, as Buffon’s professionalism has kept him going for another season. He’ll probably retire after the 2017/2018 season, but his show during the current campaign has many wondering when Gigi will ever decline.
By: Vince Van Genechten/@VVGenechten