With Buffon nicely settled in at PSG we take a look at a career of more than two decades is going to have its fair share of ups and downs, but Gianluigi Buffon’s has had enough for 10 players.
1. The legend begins (November 1995)
Has there been a better debut for a goalkeeper than keeping a clean sheet as a 17-year-old against one of the all-time greats in Roberto Baggio and the Liberian powerhouse George Weah? Buffon jokingly stated he deserved a 10 from Gazzetta Dello Sport rather than the 8 they awarded him.
2. Numero uno (August 1996)
Buffon made nine appearances in 1995-96 but was made first choice goalkeeper by Carlo Ancelotti at the expense of Luca Bucci ahead of the 1996-97 season. Buffon was only 18 but was already earmarked for greatness. Bucci would stick around for several months before joining Perugia on loan.
3. First – and only – European glory (May 1999)
A classy Parma side swept all before them to beat Marseille 3-0 in a very one sided final in Moscow to lift the UEFA Cup. It would prove to be Buffon’s first and last piece of European silverware, as he would suffer endless heartache with Juventus on the biggest stage. No Italian side has won the UEFA Cup – or Europa League as it is now – since.
4. Superman begins (March 1998)
In a game against Inter in 1997-98, the Inter of Il Fenomeno Ronaldo, Buffon saves a Ronaldo penalty at the Ennio Tardini. The game ends in 1-0 win to Parma and Buffon reveals a Superman t-shirt for the first time. The nickname would stick with him for the rest of his career
5. Italy debut in the snow (October 1997)
Gianluca Pagliuca clashes with Andrei Kanchelskis and can’t continue. So Buffon, at 19, makes his Italy debut in a critical moment of a critical game – a World Cup playoff. He makes a string of saves to keep Italy in the game as it ends in a draw, and goes to France ’98 as third choice goalkeeper.
6. The Paraguay save (April 1998)
Playing in a friendly at the Tardini, Buffon makes a save from point blank range when a goal seemed a certainty, with the agility to fly through the air indeed reminiscent of Superman. Buffon called it one of the best saves of his career.
7. The move (July 2001)
Juventus had just sold Zinedine Zidane to Real Madrid for a world record fee, but Luciano Moggi was not one to be outdone by men of a similar ilk. Moggi had already been working on the Buffon deal whilst negotiating with Real for Zidane and he was signed alongside Pavel Nedved, Marcelo Salas and Lilian Thuram.
8. His greatest save (May 2003)
In the 16th minute of the Champions League Final against Milan at Old Trafford, Pippo Inzaghi meets a Clarence Seedorf cross with a vicious diving header from 7 yards out. It seems a certain goal for the Rossoneri, however Buffon has other ideas. Immediately diving to his left, he parries the ball around the post in the blink of an eye, leaving Inzaghi, and everyone else, flabbergasted. It would though be the first of three final defeats for Buffon.
9. The king (August 2003)
Buffon was named as UEFA’s Club Footballer of the Year award for his displays in guiding Juve to the Champions League Final. He was the first and last goalkeeper to win the award, and was also named as best goalkeeper in the same season.
10. First Scudetto (May 2002)
The first of nine Scudetti [the player counts 11], and arguably the finest of them all. It was the day that will forever go down in infamy, of Ronaldo sitting on the bench at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome in tears, as ‘pazza Inter’ emerged in all its glory to lose the title when it was within their grasp. It was Juve’s first title for four years.
11. World champion (July 2006)
Buffon was at his imperial best during the tournament, conceding only two goals – one an own goal and the other a Zidane penalty – on the road to glory in Berlin. He would also pull off a ridiculous save from a Zidane header late in the final to keep the score level.
12. On the podium (December 2006)
Buffon would finish second in the Ballon d’Or voting for 2006 behind fellow Italian Fabio Cannavaro. It’s been argued by many that it was Buffon who really deserved the award. No goalkeeper has come as close to matching Buffon’s second-place finish.
13. Can’t put a price on loyalty (July 2006)
Juve are demoted to Serie B for their role in the Calciopoli scandal. A plethora of stars left the Old Lady, yet Buffon remained. Unlike the other players who stayed [Alex Del Piero, Pavel Nedved and David Trezeguet, to name a few other big-hitters) Buffon was at the peak of his powers and could’ve easily walked into any side in the world at that given point. But he showed tremendous loyalty in staying for a club that had made him a superstar.
14. Promotion (May 2007)
Buffon tasted promotion for the first and last time in his career as Juve made an immediate jump back to Serie A, despite starting off with -9 points. They won the title with three games remaining.
15. Back to his best (2011-12 season)
Buffon went through a rough patch during the turn of the decade. He had numerous problems with his back and it seemed like Buffon, already a legend, was on the downward trajectory and the days of Superman were long gone. Yet he returned to his best during Antontio Conte’s first season in charge as Juve won Serie A for the first time since 2006.
16. Glory, glory, glory (2012-2017)
Buffon and Juve took advantage of the Milanese malaise to run rampant over calcio, winning title after title, first with three in a row under Conte, then further titles with Max Allegri, including four domestic doubles. Buffon would finish fourth in the Ballon d’Or ranking in 2017, the best a goalkeeper had done since Buffon was second back in 2006.
17. Tears of a legend (November 2017)
In the aftermath of Italy’s shock exit from the World Cup after a playoff defeat to unfancied Sweden, Buffon was denied a record sixth-consecutive World Cup tournament. The stopper broke down on air minutes after the game ended at San Siro, breaking the collective hearts of the football world.
18. Clapping national anthems (2016-17)
In a friendly with France in the Stadio San Nicola in Bari, Buffon, upon hearing the French national anthem booed by a minority of the crowd, spontaneously began clapping. This was picked up and soon the majority of the crowd followed. A year later he would perform the same act when the Swedish national anthem received the same treatment in the San Siro. Buffon received huge commendation from French President Emanuel Macron.
19. The end is nigh (May 2017)
Time waits for no man. Three days before Juve’s last game of the season against Hellas Verona, Buffon called a press conference in which he told the world that this would be his final game for the club after 17 years. Three days later, he left the pitch as a Juventus player for the final time. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as fans of all ages broke down as an era drew to a close.
20. Beating depression (2003-04)
His greatest battle. Buffon revealed that he had suffered with bouts of depression during this time, and he had a fear of going out on to the pitch, and suffered a panic attack before a match against Reggina. For all that he’s won on the pitch, this remains his greatest victory.