Gianluigi Buffon has been widely heralded as one of the finest goalkeepers of all-time. Over the course of his illustrious career, the 39-year-old has broken multiple records for club and country.
Featuring in the Bianconeri’s triumph over Sampdoria on the weekend, the 2006 World Cup winner accumulated 39,681 minutes on the pitch, surpassing club legend Giampiero Boniperti for most Juventus league minutes played.
The former Parma goalkeeper expressed his pride after the landmark feat, however, he dismissed rumours of his possible retirement in the near future.
In December, the 2015 Champions League finalist jokingly told newspaper TuttoSport he planned to play professionally at 65-years-old, reiterating his mission to reprise his Azzurri spot as “numero uno” in the upcoming 2018 World Cup.
Sport360 presents five key saves which helped immortalise the Italian in the eyes of European football fans for many generations to come.
Back when Italian clubs dominated the European stage, almost nothing stood in between Juventus’ road to the Champions League final in 2003. In a heated Group E encounter against Newcastle United, the Bianconeri, heavily under siege from the English club’s relentless attack, needed a moment of magic from Buffon to keep them in contention and raise morale.
Fan favourite Nolberto Solano gathered the ball from the left wing before unleashing a venomous strike headed towards goal. Buffon remarkably extended himself to nudge the ball out of play. Juventus would later top the group.
In 2003, Juventus managed to beat the odds, sweeping aside reigning champions Real Madrid over two legs to set up an all-Italian Champions League final against AC Milan at Old Trafford. In the domestic league, Juventus comfortably sat in pole position while their Milanese rivals lagged behind in third place, behind city rivals Inter Milan.
The underdogs had a golden opportunity to draw first blood when a cross from the right met Filippo Inzaghi’s head and seemed destined for goal. An impressive reflex from The Old Lady’s shot-stopper meant the scoresheet remained untouched.
Although Milan traveled back to Italy with the trophy after a penalty shootout, Buffon has listed the save as his career’s finest.
Zinedine Zidane and Buffon know each other pretty well, playing together when the Frenchman starred for the Bianconeri before his eventual departure for the Spanish capital and then facing each other in opposing teams on numerous occasions.
While many football fans will remember the iconic save during the 2006 World Cup final, this effort from a free-kick earns its place in the hall of fame. The Italian arguably won the tie for his side thanks to his myriad of saves, particularly a spot-kick strike from Luis Figo.
Years after the defeat to AC Milan in the Champions League final, Juventus were once again on the cusp of European glory. However, it would only lead to bitter disappointment for the northern Italians after Barcelona netted three times in 90 minutes to lift the trophy in Berlin.
Nevertheless, the route to Germany wasn’t one with out complications. In the group stage, Olympiakos caused an upset in their home turf, almost claiming the second qualifying spot for the knockout stages. Although Juventus lost the tie, Buffon’s bravura was on full display with an impeccably timed dive to stop an effort from the set-piece.
With the Champions League draw finalised last week, Juventus have an opportunity to exact their revenge after faltering against the Blaugrana two editions ago. The saying goes, “attacks wins games, defences wins titles”.
While Juventus are respected for their formidable back-line, ‘Gigi’ has single-handedly won games time and again. At 39, the goalkeeper proved this point true thanks to a stellar showing against Lyon during the current Champion League’s group stages.
The Bianconeri were reduced to ten men, but Buffon saved the penalty kick and later tipped Nabil Fekir’s deflected shot above the crossbar. Juventus held on as Cuadrado silenced the home crowd with his second-half strike.
French League sensation Kylian Mbappe’s stocks have been rising with almost every goal that he scores.
The AS Monaco striker who has been labelled as “the next Thierry Henry” was instrumental in knocking Manchester City out of the Champions League and taking his team into the quarter-finals.
And according to this OptaJoe stat, the 18-year-old is the top-scorer in all competitions among the top five leagues players since February 1, ahead of Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski.
Well, no wonder clubs are willing to spend any amount to sign the teen talent.
Do you think Mbappe will go on to become a world-class striker in future?
Romelu Lukaku has been in incredible over the last couple of seasons for Everton and currently leads the race for the Golden Boot in the Premier League.
Is he the real deal, though? Should a big club splash the cash to avail of his services?
Let us know your thoughts.
ALAM KHAN, correspondent, says YES
When Gonzalo Higuain moved to Juventus for £75.3m, it seemed incredulous that someone who was more profligate than prolific for Real Madrid and Argentina, had become the world’s most expensive striker.
Impressing more, though, when leading the line at Napoli persuaded the Italian champions to splash out. And Higuain is a prime example of why Romelu Lukaku will be worth the large outlay when Everton are forced to sell this summer.
While clubs may be reluctant to top £60-70m, there is every chance he will surpass Higuain’s value and standing.
This is the current footballing market, the going rate for someone who has the potential to be a feared frontline force for years to come. Along with Pablo Dybala and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, he will be sought-after because strikers can bring you success.
4 - Romelu Lukaku is only the 4th player to score 80+ Premier League goals before the age of 24 (Owen, Rooney and Fowler). Reputation.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 18, 2017
Powerful, pacy and proven in arguably the world’s toughest league. At 23, he has his best years ahead of him and, no disrespect to Everton, but with better players around him to create more opportunities he could soon have the repute to justify his fee.
The statistics so far are impressive enough. By his 21st birthday, Lukaku had 65 league goals, eight more than Lionel Messi and 21 more than Wayne Rooney. In the past four seasons he has 64 Premier League goals, bettered only by Sergio Aguero.
But in order to be the best, there’s no denying he needs Champions League football. That’s one of the reasons why there are doubts about his value. Another is why Chelsea let him go for £28m to Everton in 2014. His attitude and temperament have been questioned, but the Blues sold Kevin De Bruyne in similar fashion for a lower fee – and have seen him grow on the world stage.
Romelu Lukaku is the first Everton player ever to score 20 Premier League goals in a single season.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 18, 2017
Record breaker. History maker. pic.twitter.com/ifAwTJVQ2g
With the right coaching and confidence, Lukaku has shown his class and now has the same desire to do even more.
Strikers are always risky buys.
But isn’t every player? Lukaku’s stock will only rise and he could well be a prize investment.
Matthew Jones, reporter, says NO
Romelu Lukaku’s phenomenal season proves he is turning into the sensational player his undoubted talent promised when Chelsea snapped him up as a 17-year-old from Anderlecht.
But measuring the gap between where he is now and becoming the world’s most expensive player – it’s still a chasm.
His 27 goals in 33 games in all competitions this season is outstanding. That boils down to 21 in 28 Premier League games but it’s less impressive when you consider the opposition. Only three have come against top-six teams.
Of the other 18, 16 have been against teams in the bottom half. Of his 81 Premier League goals in 177 games since arriving in England, just 18 have come against the genuine elite – 22 per cent. Hardly eye-watering.
Lukaku said exactly what all the fans are thinking. Hopefully the board might actually pay attention to it now it's coming from a player.— EFC Fans Corner (@EFCFansCorner) March 15, 2017
As blistering as he’s been during stints with West Brom and Everton, there remains a doubt about his ability at the very top level. He failed to score a single goal in two seasons at Stamford Bridge, although admittedly he was never given a fair crack by Jose Mourinho, excelling during loan spells with the Baggies and Toffees.
He has certainly shown since departing he’s maturing into a lethal marksman. And now is definitely the time for a move to a club with a seat at football’s top table. But it remains to be seen whether he truly belongs at one of the biggest clubs, for such a fee.
Juventus parted with serious money to bring in Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli last summer, and while Lukaku boasts power and pace the Argentine has never had, the big Belgian possesses nowhere near the elite global status.
Speaking of the elite, the top 10 players to have once been the world’s most expensive footballer include Ronaldo (Brazil), Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. Current incumbent Paul Pogba is finding it difficult to adjust to his new-found status, but he and his fellow record-breakers have all established themselves on the world stage.
Lukaku is some way shy of earning the right to belong in such esteemed company.