Profile of a legend: Gianluigi Buffon
Coral look at the legendary goalkeeper
After 17 incredibly successful years at the top, Gianluigi Buffon looks set to leave Juventus.
The 40-year-old stopper has enjoyed an incredible time at the Old Lady, racking up trophy after trophy and ensuring his place as one of the all-time greats of world football.
Buffon’s career can be carved up into three separate but interlinking threads. And the Coral News Team have profiled them all below…
Buffon is inextricably linked with Juventus, but it was with Parma that the young stopper first made his name. After four years in the Stadio Ennio Tardini youth system, a fresh-faced Buffon made his first-team debut for Ducali against AC Milan as a 17-year-old in 1995. Needless to say, he kept a clean sheet.
He would go on to become first-choice for Parma a year later, starring as the club finished runners-up in Serie A. Another barren season followed the year after before Buffon and Parma tasted the success that their quality promised in the 1998-99 edition of the UEFA Cup.
A team including Hernan Crespo, Fabio Cannavaro, Lilian Thuram and Juan Sebastian Veron breezed to the final in Moscow, seeing off Atletico Madrid and Rangers along the way. Marseille lay in wait in the final. But the French side proved no match for the classy Italian outfit, as Parma ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.
A Ballon d’Or nomination followed for Buffon, who remained with the club for two further seasons prior to a £32.6m move to Juventus in 2001.
Buffon planted the seeds of his success with Parma. But it was at Juventus where the plan really fell into place.
In 17 years with the Old Lady, the stopper has won 11 Serie A titles, four Coppa Italia trophies and has been named in the UEFA Team of the Year on no fewer than five occasions. Yet it’s not those trophy-laden years that personify Buffon’s relationship with Juve, but the 2006-2007 Serie B campaign.
Many top names departed from Stadio delle Alpi following Juventus’ demotion for their part in the Calciopoli scandal. But Buffon remained. He helped lead the club back to Serie A after a season, where they’ve dominated ever since. His commitment, passion and honour typify his character and his near two-decade long association with club.
Only success on the European stage has eluded the 40-year-old in his time with Juventus. They came close this season but were undone in the final moments by Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu.
No doubt that will always be a minor sore point for a great like Buffon. But for what he has achieved, and in the manner he has achieved it, he will forever go down as a legend of the club and football as a whole.
For a player who trades on honour and passion – alongside his unparalleled qualities as a goalkeeper – playing for Italy was always likely to be a defining period in Buffon’s career.
Since making his debut for the Azzurri in 1997, the stopper has recorded an incredible 176 international caps. He is Italy’s record appearance holder and has been a mainstay of the team for 20 years.
For all the incredible things he achieved at Juventus, arguably the pinnacle of his career came during the 2006 World Cup. The number one kept five clean sheets in six matches as Italy advanced through the Group Stages and Knockout Rounds en-route to a final meeting with France.
After it finished all-square in normal time, Buffon made an extraordinary save to tip Zinedine Zidane’s goalbound header over the bar to force a penalty shootout. The rest, as they say, is history. Italy won 5-3 on spot-kicks to seal their first World Cup triumph since 1982.
Buffon was later named as runner-up in the FIFA Ballon d’Or at the end of the year.
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