In modern football there are very few players who can genuinely claim to be the ‘best ever’ in their chosen position. Italian goalkeeping legend Gianluigi Buffon is one such player.
A career spanning over twenty years, more than a century of caps and a trophy cabinet containing the World Cup certainly strengthens the argument that the Italian is the best goalkeeper of all-time.
Buffon began his playing career at Parma, making his debut in 1995 as a seventeen-year-old. A product of the club’s youth system, Gianluigi would go on to win the UEFA Cup and a Coppa Italia during his six years in the ‘Gialloblu’ first-team.
It was whilst he was with Parma that Gigi would win the first of his 176 international caps. Italy were in a play-off against Russia to qualify for the 1998 World Cup Finals in France when the Parma ‘keeper debuted as a substitute. The Azzurri qualified for the summer tournament and although not established yet as first-choice, Buffon made the squad and travelled to the first of his five World Cup tournaments.
The Parma goalkeeper quickly established himself as one of the best stoppers in Serie A, as well as earning himself the nickname ‘Superman’. After six-years with Parma, ’Superman’ became the world’s most expensive goalkeeper when Juventus paid £33 million to take him to Turin in 2001.
Turin became home for Italy’s number one for the next 17-years. Despite carrying the weight of a world record transfer fee, Juventus’ new goalkeeper retained his place in the side throughout an era of unprecedented success.
Buffon collected nine Serie A titles in his time in Turin, lifting six of those as club captain. In addition to those championship wins Gianluigi added 4 Coppa Italia winners medals as well as five Italian Supercoppa titles.
Even in the dark times for Juve, Gigi stayed loyal to the Turin side. The ‘calciopoli’ scandal saw Juventus relegated to Serie B and despite rumours surrounding his departure, Buffon stayed on to help Juve to promotion and back to their rightful place in Serie A.
Success wasn’t confined to club football either for the Italian Superman. Italy won their fourth World Cup at the 2006 edition of the competition. The Juventus keeper was immense as he produced five clean-sheets on the way to lifting the famous trophy. If it wasn’t already, Buffon’s place in the history of Italian football was well and truly cemented with the World Cup victory.
Gianluigi Buffon is more than a goalkeeper, he is a modern-day footballing icon. The abilities he has on the field have led him to considered one of, if not the, best goalkeeper of all-time. His personality and passion on the pitch is evident in every game he plays and draws in fellow players a fan’s alike.
As he entered his 40th year there was an expectation that Gigi would hang up his gloves at the end of the 2017-18 season. After lifting yet another Serie A title ‘Superman’ announced that he was leaving Juventus, but his career was not about to end yet.
For the first time, Buffon would play club football outside of his native Italy. French Ligue 1 Champions Paris St Germain lured the goalkeeper to the French capital in the summer of 2018. The move not only promised to prolong the Tuscan’s career, it would also provide further opportunities to win the Champions League, a tournament which has so far eluded the great man.
In one of Buffon’s first matches for the Paris side, the longevity of his career was brought into sharp contrast. As PSG faced off against Guingamp in Ligue 1, Buffon lined up against Guingamp number 11 Marcus Thuram. Marcus is the son of French World Cup winner and former team-mate of Buffon, Lillian Thuram. The elder Thuram was in the Parma line-up over twenty-years earlier when Buffon made his Serie A debut and now his son Marcus was taking to the same field as his father’s former team-mate.
As if to make Buffon feel even older, one of his new colleagues in Paris is Timothy Weah, son of former Milan striker George. In yet another link to Buffon’s Serie A debut, he played against George Weah on his debut as Parma took on Milan back in 1995.
From the seventeen-year-old debutant to the forty-year-old still playing at the top level of European football, Buffon is a legend of the modern game. The ability, passion and professionalism that has taken from Parma to Turin and then Paris remains at the highest level. If that isn’t enough, Gianluigi Buffon has had a trophy-laden career at both club and international level that can act as evidence that he way well the ‘the greatest keeper of all-time’.