17th May 2018, Gianluigi Buffon a name synonymous with Juventus announced that he would be parting ways with the ‘Old Lady’ after a period of seventeen years. Seventeen years, that’s 6,205 days in a generation of footballers where money has been a priority and loyalty has taken a back seat, It is always special to see class players like Buffon remain loyal.
Buffon started his career at the age of thirteen at Parma and was initially a midfielder, but owing to his good height and built he made the switch to Goalkeeper and soon broke into the first team at the age of 17. He made his debut on 19 November 1995, keeping a clean sheet against eventual Serie A Champions Milan, in a 0-0 draw. Legendary Italian goalkeeper Dino Zoff heaped praise on Buffon after his debut saying “I’ve never seen a debut like his for the personality and quality he showed.”
After completing six seasons at Parma winning the Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana, a UEFA Cup and two Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year awards. Buffon was one of the most sought-after goalkeepers in the world, with links of a move to Barcelona, Roma and Juventus eventually Buffon signed for Juventus after seeking his father’s advice, who suggested that his chances to win a Scudetto would be greater at Juventus. On 3rd July 2001, Buffon completed his transfer for a 51.6 Million euros which was a Juventus record fee at the time and the highest fee for a Goalkeeper ever (in Euros).
Buffon started his Juventus career with three consecutive clean sheets and consistently put in good performances to guide Juventus to the 2001/02 Serie A title, only conceded 22 goals in 34 Serie A matches to pick up his third Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year award. The next four seasons were a display of Juventus’ dominance and quality, as Juventus went on to win the Serie A title in the 2002/03, 2003/04, 2004/05 and the 2005/06 seasons, Buffon had established himself as a top goalkeeper with 3 IFFHS best Goalkeeper of the year award in 2003, 2004 and 2006. But as all good things come to an end, this enormous success seemed to have been jinxed.
On 12th May 2006, the world of football was in shock it was revealed that several players including Buffon were involved in illegal betting, following interrogation Juventus was charged and stripped of their 2005 and 2006 titles and were also relegated to the Serie B for the 2006/07 Season. Media speculation cast doubts over Buffon’s inclusion in the Italian squad for the 2006 World Cup but was eventually included in the squad that went on to lift the coveted trophy in Germany. Owing to Juventus’ ‘Forced Relegation’ media speculation suggested that Buffon will depart the club, but he decided to stay put in Turin and help the Club regain promotion and their pride. Buffon’s loyalty to the club made him a fan favorite as Juventus went on to win the Serie B title with 85 points and regain promotion to the Italian top flight.
It was a very dark period for the Turin club, relegated to the B division and for arguably the best goalkeeper in the world at the time to return with a World Cup medal and play in the Serie B because of sheer love and respect for the club was really commendable. Buffon staying at Juventus during this time really proved that he isn’t only a world class player but is genuinely a nice human being who values loyalty and character over material possessions.
Soon after regaining promotion Buffon was cleared of all charges on 27th June 2007 by the Italian Football Federation. The newly promoted Juventus team had their work cut out upon their return to the Serie A, slowly but surely they were progressing on the right track that would give birth to a new era of dominance.
At the start of the 2012/13 Season Buffon was handed the captain’s armband and under boss Antonio Conte they won the Serie A in 3 consecutive seasons, to emerge as the dominant Italian force again. Since the 2016 Season Buffon has enjoyed his captaincy under manager Massimiliano Allegri and ever since Buffon has added 4 more Serie A titles and 2 UEFA Champions League Finals to his belt.
Now that a modern legend bids goodbye to the ‘Old Lady’, he may regret not having a Champions League medal but he shouldn’t be judged on that. He was, is and will always remain a Legend.