Nothing quite defines generations like an outstanding goalkeeper, just as nothing quite defines Italian pompousness like the sheer arrogance, self-importance but eternally genius nature of Gianluigi Buffon.
While your fantasy football stats may tell you how great David De Gea is, they don’t speak of his character, his leadership nor his undying, relentless will to win. Buffon must have been one of the most annoying keepers on the planet to stand next to before an incoming corner – and not just because he conditioned his hair better than you did, Brexit Dan.
An announcement arrived today that confirmed Buffon will play his last game for Juventus at the weekend, and while this isn’t strictly a retirement, it may as well be. Gigi, go forth and make unquantifiable money in China or Saudi Arabia, nobody will hold it against you. Your time in the serious realms of football is done, and your irrepressible free spirit is set to be let loose on the world.
Sure, he may have some comedic moments in football-light leagues from here, but nothing ever quite compares to the original – except Toy Story and Home Alone, the sequels are incomparably better – but you know what I’m getting at.
Arrivederci, my friend. But before you go, here are your top five moments.
5. THAT performance against Bulgaria
Gianluigi Buffon was closing in on Fabio Cannavaro’s record appearance total for Italy, but the game prior to this saw Italy face off against Bulgaria in a qualifier for 2014 FIFA World Cup.
What transpired was one of the best 90-minute performance from any netminder in the history of the sport. Below are just a couple of examples.
4. The Greatest Save of All-Time
Okay, okay – don’t set yer Da loose on me. I understand that it’s completely subjective and that you, a fellow human being, may have a different opinion to me on this.
You’re probably going to cite David Seaman against Sheffield United, actually. That was only fun because he moved and looked like he should be sat at home watching himself play instead of actually being there. Anyway – this save against Paraguay, for your viewing pleasure.
3. Ballon d’Or Runner-Up in 2006
Goalkeepers never get credit. Certainly not on a global stage. They’re typically undervalued, typically blamed first and typically forgotten about when it comes to individual awards.
Lev Yashin is the only goalkeeper to have ever won a Ballon d’Or – he did so in 1963. Buffon very nearly, and probably should have, won it back in 2006 after a campaign that saw him achieve a couple of things we’ll get back to in a minute.
2. Winning Serie B
Now, most people will scratch their heads here and wonder just why winning the second tier of Italian football represents a bigger achievement than a Scudetto. It’s simply down to loyalty – something that epitomised Gigi throughout his career.
When Juventus were demoted in 2006, he was one of few players that opted to stay with the club and bring them back to the top table in comfortable fashion. This pretty much secured the heroic status he already enjoyed with ‘The Old Lady’.
1. Beating France to win the World Cup
Zidane and Buffon will certainly be considered two of the best players of ‘that’ generation and a showdown between the two took place in Germany in 2006, during the World Cup final.
Zidane opted to go out on… ehh.. interesting terms in this game, while Buffon opted to show his class to frustrate the Frenchman, before lifting the trophy that signifies eternal greatness.
What a career, Gigi.