In the world of football, certain names have resonated throughout history. These are players who have been known for their incredible skill, as well as their impact on the sport. As time goes on, new talent rises through the ranks, working toward making the most out of what is normally a fairly short career.
One such player whose name has stood the test of time is Gianluigi Buffon, an Italian goalkeeper who many regard to be one of the best, if not the best goalkeeper of all time.
Here is a look into his career and legacy, and why so many fans hold him in such a high regard.
Buffon’s football journey began in 1991 when he joined the Parma youth system at the age of 13. The young Italian started out playing in several different positions before settling on goalkeeper. Just two weeks later, he had been promoted to first keeper of the Parma youth team.
Four years later in 1995, Buffon was promoted to the senior squad, making his Serie A debut for the club when he was only 17 years old. He made several notable saves throughout the match against seasoned players, demonstrating the value he brought to the club.
In his second full season with the team, he was named as the starting keeper for the senior squad, where the team finished in second place that Serie A season. Buffon only conceded 17 goals in his 27 appearances, which helped the young player to garner attention in Italy.
Continuing his play with Parma, he eventually earned the nickname “Superman” for his athleticism and ability on the pitch. He went on to win multiple notable tournaments and won Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year, as well as the Bravo Award during his fourth season with the club.
In the 2000/01 season, Buffon was once again voted Serie A Goalkeeper of the year, and placed third in the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper award.
The move to Juventus
On 3 July, 2001, Buffon was transferred to Juventus for a fee of €52.9 million and handed the number 1 shirt as starting goalkeeper. This club would be where the star keeper’s career would really take off.
His debut game saw the team win in a 4-0 home match against Venezia. He had two more clean sheets until he conceded three in a 3-2 loss against Chievo.
He stayed with the club from 2001-2018, before a one-year stint at Paris Saint-Germain. After the year was up, he rejoined Juventus, where he stayed until 2021.
He continued to perform at an incredibly high level for the rest of his time with the club. He was named the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper a record five times and was the first-ever goalkeeper to win the Golden Foot Award. Buffon would go on to be named the best goalkeeper of the 21st century by the same organisation.
He also played a pivotal role in Italy’s 2006 World Cup triumph.
Consistency and longevity
One of the biggest things that sets Buffon apart is not just his shot-stopping abilities, but the remarkable consistency and longevity he has displayed throughout his career.
He rarely had bad seasons and was able to keep his outstanding level of play for many years. He was well known for his concentration and calm composure under pressure, as well as his longevity.
Buffon’s unwavering excellence had been a constant for over two decades. His career lasted from the age of 13 in 1991, to his retirement at 45 years old in 2023. He spent his last two years of play with Parma, the team that started it all for him.
He was one of the oldest football players of all time by the end of his career.
Legacy and influence
Beyond statistics and trophies, Buffon’s legacy extends to the influence he has had on aspiring keepers worldwide. His dedication, professionalism, and passion for the game serve as an inspiration for the next generation of players.
While there have been a small number of controversies involving Buffon, including him risking a four-year prison sentence in 2000 for falsifying a high school accounting diploma to enrol for a law degree, Buffon has overall had a very positive impact on the sport.
Gianluigi Buffon will forever be remembered as one of the greats of football. There is no denying that he has rightfully earned his place among the greatest goalkeepers the world has ever seen.