Friday September 8 2017
Don't blame Buffon

Italy supporters’ excessive criticism of Gianluigi Buffon is unfair, argues Matthew Santangelo.

One week after winning UEFA’s goalkeeper of the year award, Gianluigi Buffon notched his 170th appearance for Italy last Saturday at the Santiago Bernabeu versus Spain, a feat deserving to be honoured. However, a whirling buzz-saw Spanish side spoiled the party, fleecing the Italians 3-0 in a rout which theoretically rules out a Group G victory in World Cup qualifying.

Coach Giampiero Ventura’s tactical gamble to field a 4-2-4 formation backfired, and ‘La Roja’ exposed him for it, capitalising on numerical superiority in the midfield and leaving Buffon to stop the bleeding as the last line of defence. Ventura became the unanimous scapegoat by supporters on social media for his decisions to start Marco Verratti-Daniele De Rossi in a double-pivot that got over-run and outplayed by a Spanish assault lead by Isco.

Yet, in a match that saw even the most consistent of the Nazionale performers - Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci - struggle for pace and fail to maintain position, Buffon uncharacteristically became a subject of criticism too.

Early in proceedings, most were quick to attack Buffon’s noticeably slow reaction to Isco’s curling effort from a free-kick 20 yards out; myself included. Undoubtedly, it was an attempt you’d come to expect the former Parma man to snuff out, but after a second glance, this was more an instructional mistake than anything else physical.

By placing six men in the wall, Buffon appeared to be positioned slightly further to his left, thus unable to reach the precisely struck free kick. A smaller, more condensed wall would’ve put him more central, ultimately increasing his odds of keeping the first of three out.

Additionally, caught up in the criticism of Italy, many forgot to credit Spain’s attacking trident of Isco, Marco Asensio and David Silva for their constant pressing of the ball-carrier and forcing Italy to reset often.

Simple back-passes from Verratti were at a higher-grade of difficulty. Buffon, over the course of his career, has developed a known reputation of being customarily sharp with his feet and composed on the ball, which is why the few he fluffed were brought to our attention. Those claiming Gianluigi Donnarumma would’ve done better might want to remember how he dealt with Gabriel Paletta’s own goal in Pescara.

Pushing 40, Buffon has given Italy the luxury of goalkeeping royalty spanning two decades; a luxury unrivaled by any other top footballing nation. Obviously Buffon’s leadership and body of work over the years - for both club and country - cannot be praised enough; after all, he may go down as the greatest of his kind.

However, much like several individuals of the old guard, the 2006 World Cup winner isn’t getting any younger and supporters are beginning to come to grips with the fact that 2017-18 will likely be his final year donning Azzurro.

For the first time in two decades, the search for a new number one is on. Milan wonderkid Gianluigi Donnarumma is the consensus favorite to take up the helm, with Mattia Perin and SPAL loanee Alex Meret looming in the shadows. At a time where Italian calcio fans are on edge due to the previous two World Cup showings, nobody is free from flak: even Buffon.

Nevertheless, though there is room for debate over whether or not Gigi is slipping, the heavy criticism received in the aftermath is unwarranted and should be kept to a minimum.

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Have your say...
The reality is that Buffon must just step retire from the National Team.

He gave everything and now his body cannot replicate the amazing things he once did on a regular basis. Every player reaches the pinnacle of their career and one day they must just step aside for the young generation.

Italy has decent GK's for WC 2018 - if they make it.

Only he can make such a choice as Ventura is clueless as coach and will not make the logical choice.

I am a huge Buffon fan and hate what Ive seen
on the 13th September, 2017 at 2:05am
I wonder how many nut jobs comment on football italia because the comments never seem to match the topics. Especially when the juve haters come out it gets crazy here sometimes lol.
on the 11th September, 2017 at 6:15pm
I thought this thread was about Buffon u half wit???
Bonucci blah blah blah.... you're friggin a nut job!
on the 11th September, 2017 at 1:45am
Hahhahahahhaa 4-1 and 3 goals for immobile, a star is reborn hahahah loved the commentary for this game. Ohhhh its immobile one on one with bonucci ohhhhhh he skips past him hahahhaha. It has to be the players that were playing alongside bonucci he seems so exposed. Not my words, not my player, not my problem hahaha leo b is lammmeeeeeee hahahaha
on the 10th September, 2017 at 4:50pm
Buffon provided me with the only highlight of the match with his singing of the national anthem. I'd give him 10 out 10 for that at least. Yes u could Blame him but where does it end. U could blame Bonucci for giving away such a dangerous set piece just after they'd got away with one from Ramos. U could blame Ventura for what seemed a ridiculous formation. In Gigi's defense I don't think even he trusted the formation as he was uncharacteristically nervous throughout n it affected his performance
on the 10th September, 2017 at 10:02am
Ppl entire lives have changed since milan last won something important hahahq and im not talking about the little trophy juve gave yall because they could not play against themselves. Hats off to you vic you are really a true milan fan. You have been somewhat there since the supreme sucking days right up to the sucking days . Cheers to a true liverpo i mean milan fan
on the 10th September, 2017 at 2:25am
Hahaha biased juve fan ? Keep on keeping on cheering for a 1 trophy every 15 yrs team . Your great and so is liverpool and arsenal. One day you will get there , one day hahahah dont worry napoli is right up there with you and maradonna the footballing genious is cheering you gus on hahahdhsjjshajjajhahahaj
on the 10th September, 2017 at 2:14am
Very sorry to see milan fans in love with this nobody. Carried by juve and now we will see if romagnoli can help. All in all you paid 40 mil for a plauer that is not worth 10mil . Ok maybe 1100 and thats pushing it lol dont worry bonucci is jist a tad bit worse than nesta and you will get back to cl and win because he will do his special back kick move and his other special which is run up to the attacker and then stand still. Hahahaj forza leo b best defemder ever .hahahahhaahhajajajjsja
on the 10th September, 2017 at 2:02am
Hahahhah are u on drugs ? Who said bonucci was the heir to maldini. He is not even 1/4 as good as maldini , nesta or cannavaro. He is a shadow . Chiellini is the only one who has a clue on how to defend and those are not my words. Anyways whatever makes you feel better about your mediocre team. You have won one trophy in 12 yrs . 1 . 60 plus trophies pls before you comment . Hahahhahah boy shut up just shut up.
on the 10th September, 2017 at 1:53am

Side note: a Juve fan calling him heir to Maldini doesn't mean all of us did. You can only use that statement against someone you know made it.

As for me, I'm not going to miss Bonucci that much. Fact is he was a firebrand, and his presence did mean we developed a dependence on him. That still is the case now with Dybala but with the new wingers there might be a solution, while Bonucci allows for 343 which limits offense too much.

He went to Milan and that's that.
on the 10th September, 2017 at 12:20am
Captain of Juve? After Buffon, there's Marchisio first then Chiellini. He may have captained a couple of matches but there hardly ever was a time where he showed any qualities of leadership.
No need to deny or make up qualities just for switching teams. He's one of if not the best playmaking centerbacks in the game right now, but the best classic defender always was Chiellini.

Anonymous107 has a point, you need a great defender next to Bonucci or he'll be exposed e.g. like w/Benatia
on the 10th September, 2017 at 12:12am

He's both.

So wait ,Bonucci goes to Milan, the transfer of the season, all of a sudden he is mediocre, the one to blame, etc and 3 month ago, he was suppose to be the heir to maldini, the captain of Juve and the first Italian to walk on mars.... Make up your mind.
on the 9th September, 2017 at 8:32pm
It's time to move past these 'senatori'; Hanging onto these players has been detrimental to the development of Italian youth. Pirlo played well passed his best before date for the Azzurri and so has De Rossi. The real problem is in attack, we are plentiful in options, but we denigrated ourselves by selecting the worst of the lot. Fact of the matter is Giovinco has been great and a Balotelli at 5% is better then the lot that has been selected in attack since the 2014 world cup. Ventura must go!
on the 9th September, 2017 at 5:44pm
if bonucci is italys best defender or milans best defender you are both in for some trouble
on the 9th September, 2017 at 12:07pm

There there biased Juve fan, you'll find a replacement sooner or later. As of today he is the best defender we have, and you know it, it just hurts to admit it. It quiete evident.
on the 9th September, 2017 at 10:59am
Donnarumma has made more mistakes in the past year than Buffon has. Did you see his U21 display this summer? i say this as a Milan fan.
Italy is one of the only nations who's had a WC GK for over a decade and to screw with the only consistently good thing in this Nazionale would be insane. Drop Gigi for Gigio in the WC18 and Gigio makes a mistake? well now you've disgraced a legend and tarnished a young talent.
Rummenigge said Buffon was a pensioner for 1 mistake in 2013 CL... it's 2017.
on the 9th September, 2017 at 3:12am
@PrimoCalcio. Russia 2018? The more you look at the situation, the more you'll sweat in dread that it looks more likely we won't be there than otherwise. Finishing 2nd could have Italy face one of France, Portugal, Wales, Slovakia, Bosnia / Greece, Iceland / Turkey / Ukraine. As it stands right now and with all the confidence I could muster, I do not fancy us against any of those sides. I feel the transformation overseen by Ventura has all been too quick and too soon! It is looking very scary.
on the 9th September, 2017 at 1:04am
@Anonymous11. The first part of your statement is absolutely spot on. Buffon is almost unquestionably picked because he is buffon, he is the captain and his apparent leadership qualities. The goalkeeping part of what makes him buffon has almost been put into the background, such is status in the game. History always shows that it always ends in tears. Toldo and peruzzi were ruthlessly pushed aside to put him the team. being ruthless is what is needed. we need to turn the page.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 9:56pm
@PrimoCalcio. The majority didn't question zubi either. Buffon was dropping clangers in the Euro 16 qualifiers (1 stand out mistake vs perisic) and also at fault for at least 1 goal in the champ league final vs Whilst still a good keeper, you really would have to be his personal sponsor and agent to say that he isn't past his best. That Isco free kick, Donnarumma would've never let that ball past him. Practically in the center of the goal. It is definitely time he moved aside.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 9:52pm
@Anon11 I too thought Buffon's comments about possession were silly. That said, it was one of the only times I've disagreed with Gigi.
His utility is found in leadership and not physical attributes... and he's adapted his game perfectly because of that. Having Gigi between the sticks reassures the whole team's mentality on the pitch. Ask any Italian player who they want behind them when the going gets tough. The answer is Gigi Buffon.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 9:31pm
Gigo would never say he should start over Gigi, hell even Riola wouldn't dare.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 8:50pm
BLAME BONUCCI fouls for free kick
BLAME BONUCCI for creating awkward atmosphere surrounding Italian back defenders
on the 8th September, 2017 at 6:19pm
@PrimoCalcio, The fact that Buffon is the oldest means his utility is found in leadership not physical attributes anymore. For instance, his comments about Italians not liking possession futbol were ridiculous. They don't like a team that just aimlessly passes the ball and can't score and shows no passion. Most of us know this already and so him trying to justify Italy's bad performances are enraging and disheartening. He shld be pushing his team to do better not protecting garbage displays.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 6:07pm
In my opinion, Italy is risking for not even reaching the World Cup for number of faults mainly by Ventura. 1st calling Spinazzola, who boycotting his team since the beginning of August, to play a decisive match against Spain. 2nd Barzagli shouldn't start again as he is struggling to find a spot in Juve's squad. 3rd calling Bernardischi despite not playing single minute in Serie A. 4th calling another player who is struggling to find a spot in his team which is Darmian.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 5:28pm
I would like to see how pinsoglio would do as a starting gk for another team in serie a.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 4:42pm
@Rosario Here's the problem with your argument. Buffon is not Zubizarreta, nor is he "clearly past it" We are talking about a guy who just won UEFA GK of the Year.
Donnarumma is on the bench and ready to step in if need be. Buffon is Italy's leader and Captain, the team reveres him and trusts him. He is the clear choice to start for Italy until his retirement after Russia 2018.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 4:10pm
The issue here isn't so much with Buffon, his current level of form or his ability. The issue is that Donnarumma is ready to deservedly take the position. Remember when Spain stuck by Zubi in 98, even though he was clearly past it? He dropped a massive clanger vs Nigeria. If there is a ready made, fresher, much younger and qualified keeper to take over, we need to turn the page. Buffon came into the national team at a young age as well. He should stand aside so that the team can progress.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 2:54pm
Gigi Buffon is the best goalkeeper ever, on a level with Dino Zoff, but in this instance he is at fault.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 2:30pm
Lets just all agree that Gianluigi Donnarumma is the heir to Buffon even tho buffon still got it.

Anything else then Gigo is just nonense.
on the 8th September, 2017 at 10:35am

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