Ask any budding young goalkeeper to name their boyhood idols and you will hear a wide variety of responses. Perhaps they will pay a gushing tribute to Iker Casillas, Manuel Neuer or David de Gea. Oliver Kahn, maybe. Or Petr Cech.
The majority, however, will harbour dreams of following in the footsteps of a bona fide footballing legend who is still going strong at the ripe old age of 42 – Gianluigi Buffon.
Alphonse Areola, the France international on loan at Real Madrid, watched on in awe as the fabled Juventus stopper produced jay-dropping saves on the biggest stages of all, establishing himself as the talisman of Turin and a genuinely generation-defining talent.
But it seems that the admiration between two goalkeepers 15 years apart is no one-way street.
“As much from a physical point of view as from his confidence and his presence, he will become an important goalkeeper (in the future),” Buffon predicted as far back as 2016, when Areola shot to fame during a superb loan spell at Villarreal in La Liga, speaking to Canal+.
Two years later, Areola and Buffon became teammates at PSG. And, if the 2006 World Cup winner was an admirer of his young protégé before, his iron-clad belief in the young Frenchman was even more firmly established while sharing a dressing room at the Parc des Princes.
These days, Buffon is back at his spiritual Turin home while Areola is battling Thibaut Courtois, somewhat in vein, for the gloves at Real Madrid.
According to Mundo Deportivo, Premier League giants Arsenal are looking to take advantage of the uncertainty surrounding Areola’s future and provide Bernd Leno with some top-level competition in North London.
With a grand total of three La Liga appearances under his belt at the Bernabau, Areola needs to play far more regularly if he is to fulfil Buffon’s prediction. At Arsenal, however, he will once again find himself battling for a place with a shot-stopper at the top of his game.