Back to Black
They called him the Black Spider and the Black Panther not only for his head-to-toe black dress code, but also to highlight the uncanny athleticism, stature and imposing presence in goal.
And those who still remember seeing Lev Yashin in action would attest to the notion that the Russian international was the best goalkeeper there ever was. The first shot stopper to stamp his authority on the entire defense, Lev Yashin was the pioneer and the revolutionist, a player who forever changed the way goalkeeper were perceived.
Never before had a goalkeeper been seen shouting orders to his defenders and getting off the goal line to intercept crosses and stop the attackers, so it is fair to say it was Yashin who brought these novelties – today considered such ordinary traits of a goalkeeper – to football.
The man who, according to FIFA, saved well over 150 penalty shots in his professional career and kept more than 270 clean sheet in his career remains to this date the only goalkeeper to have ever won the coveted Ballon d’Or.
The best goalkeeper of the 20th century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS), Lev Yashin has met his equal however.
Russian Legend Meets His Match
With calls for the glorious Ballon d’Or prize to be awarded to Juventus captain and Italy’s legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon gaining pace, the 39-year-old shot stopper deserves to be recognized as arguably the greatest goalkeeper of the modern era. Perhaps even the greatest ‘keeper of all times.
Different eras in football history are hard to compare and analyse side by side since football as a sport has evolved and transformed into a physically more demanding discipline which stands as an utterly different world to the one Lev Yashin dominated.
Remarkable 22 trophies during a career which spans more than 1,000 matches make Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon a living and walking goalkeeping legend however. Eight Italian league titles – sixth consecutive of which was won this weekend with Bianconeri – and the 2006 World Cup with Italy stand as arguably the most prominent achievement for the 39-year-old.
Buffon has won the league and cup double this season with the Old Lady and has the opportunity to achieve a coveted treble as Juventus lock horns with Real Madrid in the Champions League final on 3 June.
Juventus are given 19/10 betting odds to beat Los Blancos and lift their first Champions League title since 1996, which would definitely be another highlight moment in Gianluigi Buffon’s illustrious career more so as it was the Champions League glory that has always eluded him thus far.
In addition to the impressive list of accolades he received throughout his glorious career, Gianluigi Buffon – more importantly perhaps – remains perceived as a great man, jovial character, and overall a great pal.
Football world seems to have come in unity to offer backing for the Italian goalkeeper to be rewarded with Ballon d’Or if he succeeds in winning the European crown.
Ballon d’Or for Buffon?
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, whose team got eliminated from Juventus earlier on in Europe’s elite club competition, feels that Buffon should be picked in front of Leo Messi for this year’s personal award.
“Messi this year will win the Golden Shoe as top scorer and deserves the Ballon d’Or again. But if you must look at the trophies then Buffon has won the Scudetto, the Coppa Italia and can win the Champions League. He deserves it for his career and also for this season and it would be good for another goalkeeper to win it after Yashin.”, Pique told Mediaset.
Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann is another one of the high-profile colleagues of Buffon’s who voiced their support of the Italian goalkeeper.
“Juventus will win the Champions League and therefore Gigi Buffon the Ballon d’Or,” Griezmann told Cadena Ser’s El Larguero.
Should Bianconeri beat Real Madrid to the European crown, there is no doubt that Buffon would become a serious contender for the Ballon d’Or.
A vocal organiser of the defence, a key presence in the dressing room and a leader with fantastic shot-stopping abilities – just like the famous Russian – would therefore complete the final piece of the puzzle and earn the last thing that is currently separating him from the Russian legend Lev Yashin.
The two icons who marked different periods in football history should not be compared however and Buffon should not require the Ballon d’Or to measure up to Yashin. The Italian shot stopper is a remarkable player in his own being and a widely-recognised identity whose glory and stature will not soon be matched.
And a personal accolade or the lack of it will never be able to change it.
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