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.