You could be forgiven for thinking Italy legend Gianluigi Buffon has yet to turn 30 years old. However, the sad reality is Buffon turned 38-years-old in January. It is sad because football fans will soon lose sight of one of the world’s best goalkeepers ever. Buffon will likely retire after World Cup 2018 as he has hinted on more than one occasion.
Hunger, pride and dedication are but some of the elements driving Buffon and keeping him going even at this advanced football age. It is hard to pinpoint one particular save or one specific performance as Buffon’s ultimate display due to the fact the Italian legend has outdone himself on several occasions.
While the World Cup 2006 triumph most likely stands as Buffon’s greatest achievement due to a number of factors, winning the 2015-16 Serie A title ranks among his dearest, if not the most special one. Buffon himself stressed this Scudetto meant more to him than any of the previous four consecutive titles. For starters, this is a historic and record tying 5th consecutive Scudetto triumph for Buffon with the Bianconeri. In doing so, Buffon’s Juve tied the club’s own record and that of the famous Torino side (though Torino’s 5 Scudetti were not in consecutive years due to interruption by World War II).
However, the most remarkable feat achieved by Juve on the way to defending the league title has been the astounding turnaround following the dismal start to the 2015-16 campaign. Languishing near bottom after several Serie A rounds, the Old Lady pulled herself together and mounted a tremendous challenge defeating all but one opponent in the last 25 rounds of league football. Juve gathered 73 out of a possible 75 points since the Sassuolo defeat. The rest is history as they say.
Football fans have now grown accustomed to hearing about Juve’s wins this season and, not surprisingly, the Bianconeri victories have coincided with Buffon’s heroics. Without stressing too much on the stats, one reference must be made to Buffon’s record of not conceding a goal in Serie A for 974 minutes! In doing so, he broke a record which stood for 22 years. Buffon also holds another Serie A record as he kept 10 consecutive clean sheets.
Nevertheless, his greatest contribution might have come via an action he took off the pitch. Buffon’s statements following the loss to Sassuolo triggered a reaction by the squad. Despite being extremely disappointed, he was both firm and fiery: “Talking about the referee all the time is what losers do and we do not stoop to that level. We wear the Juventus shirt and must do it justice.” This is coming from Buffon who has been proud to wear the Bianconeri shirt and who was committed to Juve despite being demoted to Serie B in 2006.
Buffon did not just issue a statement or throw words around, but actually backed up his famous declaration with hard work and commitment. He was great against Torino when Juve snatched a late win in the Turin derby thanks to on-loan Colombian winger Juan Cuadrado.
There are several games during which Buffon was decisive and there are certainly numerous moments when he saved Juve from conceding goals. For the 2015-16 season, Buffon’s record stands at 34 games played in Serie A, during which he kept an impressive 20 clean sheets while conceding only 17 goals.
It could be said that fate was determined to highlight Buffon’s importance to the Juventus cause when the Bianconeri traveled to Florence to take on Fiorentina in a highly charged atmosphere. He not only saved a last minute penalty-kick but also the follow-up!
While LA Lakers and NBA legend Kobe Bryant struggled for much of his farewell season before capping it by his remarkable 60 point performance against the Utah Jazz in his last official game, Buffon, at the age of 38, has been playing at a consistently high level and breaking records while enjoying some peak performances and winning trophies.
To outline how remarkable his 2015-16 campaign has been, it would not be inaccurate to state Buffon is perhaps having the best season of his career!