Gianluigi Buffon…The Man, The Myth, The Legend.
Paul Pogba once quoted ‘Gigi is simply number one’ and who would argue.
It’s hard to escape the colossal magnitude that emanates from the mere mention of the Italian shot stoppers name, let alone the sheer dominance that he has held over the Azzuri’s number one spot for two decades.
Defining a goalkeepers career is never an easy task, especially when the affirming attribute towards mastery of this position is consistency. I mention only a few names laced with this unnerving characteristic as David Seaman, Peter Schmeichel and Gordon Banks. Still, all of the aforementioned always found ways to outshine consistency with heroic moments that catapulted them towards Superstardom.
Buffon’s record not only defines the word consistency with perfect illumine but he also stands out as a serial trophy winner becoming undoubtably the most decorated goalkeeper in the history of the beautiful game.
1 World Cup; 11 Scudetto’s; 6 Italia Cups; 7 Italia Super Cups; 1 Ligue 1; 1 French Cup; 1 UEFA Cup.
Stand out moments are undoubtably the 2006 World Cup win for Italy, yes Zinedine Zidane and Marco Materazzi took centre stage in what was a blood, sweat and tears game, however Buffon played his commanding role. A bullet header from the majestical Zidane in a slick move that he started culminated in a acrobatic, masterful one handed deflection over the crisp white crossbar of the Olympiastadion Berlin.
Career defining? Possibly?
What was certain is that the gloves and bold hands of Gianluigi Buffon gripped the scintillating “Coppa del Mondo” and lifted it towards the waiting “Pubblico italiano”.
Buffons formative years role back as far as 1991 playing in the Parma Youth System in various out-outfield positions, in particular as a Midfielder.
But a passion had always burnt inside the young italians heart and it was sparked by one man…Thomas N’Kono.
Buffon sat watching the 1990 World Cup Finals and his attention and passion drew to the Cameroon shot stopper aforementioned. This would lead to his debut in goal for Parma against the giants AC Milan coached by the formidable Fabio Capello in November 1995. Such was the performance of Buffons first venture between the goalposts it lead to Fabio Capello being quoted as saying “We deserved to win but we did not get the three points because Buffon was in goal for Parma”.
Arguably one of Buffons greatest club nights came in 1999 and the UEFA Cup Final held at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. A competion that saw Parma hold off opponents Fenerbahce, Rangers, Bordeaux and Athletico Madrid all on route to the final culminating in a match up against French giants Marseille.
A 3-0 win on the evening saw players like Chiesa, Crespo, Veron, Cannavaro, Thuram and of course Buffon shine a glittering light upon this northern Italian club di calcio surrounded by the powerhouses of Serie A that inhabit this region.
and they came calling…
I bianconeri placed a record breaking 52 million euros on the table for Buffon’s signature and as we say so often…the rest was history.
509 appearances later and no fewer than 11 Scudetto’s with Juventus along with a fairytale return to Parma in the glorious twilight of his illustrious career, Buffon sits on the pedestal of sporting greatness and i for one whole heartedly believe that he belongs there.
Grazie, Gianluigi Buffon.