Italy is known for producing top quality goalkeepers over the last century but arguably the greatest ever custodian the Azzurri have produced is Gianluigi Buffon.
A product of the famed Parma youth team, Buffon honed his skills with Crociatini by joining the club at the age of 13 and went on to quickly become the number one choice at the tender age of just 17 in 1996. Just a year later, Buffon became a full Italian international and was regarded as the best young goalkeeper at the time.
Buffon’s time at Parma was a very fruitful one as he won the Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana and the UEFA Cup before even turning 20 and the sky seemed to be the limit for the talented goalkeeper.
Naturally, a number of top clubs came calling for Buffon’s services and it was Juventus who purchased the youngster for a world record fee of around £23million back in 2001.
With the huge price tag came a lot of expectations as well but along with his immense talent, Buffon had a very calm head on his shoulders and he was not fazed by the blockbuster transfer to Turin despite his young age.
Teams he will face in the Euros
Belgium, Sweden, Republic of Ireland
156 caps (As of May 1, 2016)
2015/16 club record
44 matches, 25 clean sheets
Premier League experience
Upon moving to Juve, Buffon played a huge role in the club’s consecutive title triumphs in 2002 and 2003. Juventus easily won the Scudetto during the 2004 and 2005 campaign as well but were eventually stripped of the title and relegated into Serie B due to the Calciopoli scandal.
Buffon was one of the players accused of participating in illegal betting during the scandal but was cleared of all charges. Ironically following such a difficult period, Buffon probably enjoyed the greatest moment of his career by guiding the Italian national team to victory in the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.
With Juventus in Serie B, many believed that a world champion like Buffon would look to leave but as a great mark of his loyalty, the goalkeeper stayed put at the club and helped them earn promotion into the top flight.
Upon returning to Serie A, Juve went through a lean spell of failing to win the title in four consecutive campaigns but all that changed after Antonio Conte arrived as manager and helped bring back the glory days to the club.
Unsurprisingly Buffon was an integral part of the success under Conte and remains a key figure under current boss Max Allegri, leading Juventus to five consecutive title victories between 2011 and 2016.
Style of Play
Buffon has always been known as a commanding and agile goalkeeper without any evident weaknesses. In a career spanning over 20 years, Buffon certainly has adapted his style constantly and rather than quick reflexes, the 38-year-old now relies more on positioning and reading of the game, which he has acquired through vast experience.
Nevertheless, Buffon has been and remains one of the most consistent goalkeepers ever seen and even at his advancing years, there are few better than him in his position at the moment.
Italy are reeling following their terrible performances at the 2014 World Cup and if the Azzurri are to acquit themselves better in France, one can be sure that their inspirational captain will have to perform to his high standards.
Did you Know?
- Buffon comes from a sporting family, with his father having represented Italy in shot put while his mother was a professional discus thrower.
- Despite his glittering career, Buffon has never won the Champions League title – the only major trophy missing from his cabinet.
- At the age of 38, Buffon broke the 20-year Serie A record of having not conceded a single goal by going unbeaten for 974 minutes during the 2015/16 season.
Parma – Coppa Italia (1): 1998–99; Runner-up: 2000–01, Supercoppa Italiana (1): 1999, UEFA Cup (1): 1998–99
Juventus – Serie A (7): 2001–02, 2002–03, 2011–12, 2012–13, 2013–14,2014–15, 2015–16, Serie B (1): 2006–07, Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana (5): 2002,2003, 2012, 2013, 2015,
Italy – 1 FIFA World Cup: 2006, UEFA European Championship Runner-up: 2012, FIFA Confederations Cup Bronze: 2013, 1 UEFA Under-21 European Championship: 1996, 1 Mediterranean Games: 1997