As he prepares to step on the goal line for the international friendly match against Spain, Italian living legend Gianluigi Buffon feels stronger than ever, ready to defend his country’s goal for the 155th time.
Italy will play host to European champions on Thursday night in Udine, and are standing at 7/5 to beat Spain in a game that will see the two Europe’s heavyweights get their Euro 2016 preparations under way.
The upcoming match with also be 155th time Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has stepped to defend Italy’s goal since his international debut in 1997.
Buffon represented Italy at all youth levels and was awarded his first senior team cap under Cesare Maldini at the age of 19, when Juventus goalkeeper stepped in to replace injured Gianluca Pagliuca during the first leg of the 1998 World Cup qualification play-off against Russia in Moscow.
A couple of fine saves from the youngster helped Italy qualify for the World Cup and rest is history.
He has been irreplaceable in Italy’s goal ever since, lifting the FIFA World Cup trophy in 2006 and finishing as a runner-up in the UEFA European Championship in 2012.
With his career at its summit, Buffon is looking forward to the Euro 2016 as his final opportunity to be crowned European champion, which would be a fitting decoration to his glorified career that is, slowly but surely, drawing to a close.
All good things must come to an end and Buffon plans to retire from football after the World Cup in 2018.
Juventus keeper announced his plans earlier in the year much to the disappointment of true football lovers who will miss a dying breed of a goalkeeper Buffon really is.
Loved by all, respected by everybody, Gianluigi Buffon has been a model professional throughout his entire career. Singled out for his leadership skills, Buffon has often also been described as a key dressing room personality.
His football qualities defied his age throughout the last couple of years during which some would go out and question his reliability, fearing that 38-year-old Italy international can no longer be considered as top of the game and among the world’s best shot stoppers.
Since 2010 many people believed his career could not endure a fight with injuries in his back and ankles as Buffon missed a lot of time following his back surgery the same year, but the Italian goalkeeper returned sturdier and went from strength to strength ever since.
Gianluigi Buffon, with mesmerizing smile always on his face, is somewhat like the best of wines, becoming better with age.
The current season offers plenty of proof.
As his team Juventus fights to retain the Serie A title, Gianluigi Buffon is breaking records, proving all doubters wrong, sending a clear message to all his critics.
During the Turin derby on Sunday Juventus keeper conceded his first time in 11 Serie A matches, capping the record of 973 minutes without conceding. Having already surpassed Sebastiano Rossi’s previous mark of 929 in the fourth minute of the game, Buffon was beaten from a penalty spot in the 48th minute of the 4-1 win at Stadio Olimpico.
Buffon also kept 10 consecutive Serie A clean sheets, which is also an all-time Italian record, having previously last conceded in a 2-1 victory over Sampdoria in January.
A true champion and a leader, Gianluigi Buffon used the opportunity to publicly thank every single one of his Juventus’ teammates for helping him achieve the incredible feat.
“No record comes down to a single man and you can’t be number one outside of the group”, Buffon began his message to Juventus players.
Having spent 20 years guarding the goals of Juventus, Parma and Italy, the 38-year-old shot stopper went on to even write a poem he dedicated to the goal, reflecting on his relationship with the net.
“I was 12 years old when I turned my back on you”, Buffon wrote, reminding the football world he started his career as a midfielder.
Juventus and Italy goalkeeper still has plenty to offer and his love for football will not take him away from the game, even when he calls it quits.
Football needs people like Buffon, the ambassadors of the game’s true spirit and Juventus will not let him go that easily.
However, until that day comes, world should use every second to enjoy in Buffon’s game.