He might have celebrated his 38th birthday earlier this year, but Gianluigi Buffon is showing no signs of slowing down. The long-serving Juventus and Azzurri shot-stopper has written his name in Serie A’s history books thanks to heroics with the Bianconeri this season.
First, of course, those amazing 974 minutes without conceding a goal – a run eventually snapped by Torino during La Vecchia Signora’s 4-1 win in the Derby della Mole. And secondly, to go 10 consecutive games without having one’s goal breached is certainly no easy feat – despite having the best defensive trio of Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli, and Giorgio Chiellini keeping most of the league’s strikers frustrated and quiet.
However, Buffon is 38, meaning that his glittering career will be nearing its conclusion within the next couple of years. The thought of the Bianconeri and Azzurri skipper hanging up his gloves surely sends shivers down the spines of his fans worldwide, as they cannot imagine a Juventus nor Italy side without his steady and confident presence between the posts.
Indeed, it is that quiet leadership that he provides both for his club and country that will be sorely missed both in future Serie A campaigns and international tournaments, and one will have to search far and wide to think of any possible disadvantages at having him remain as the No. 1 man for Italy at Euro 2016.
The last edition of Europe’s quadrennial tournament was a bittersweet moment for the Azzurri. Then under the guidance of Cesare Prandelli, Italy were not viewed as tournament favourites, yet made it all the way to the Final – before being humiliated 4-0 by Spain.
The Azzurri are hardly setting the Euro 2016 odds alight either, especially after a 4-1 friendly defeat to Germany, but we all know Italy are a tournament team.
And in the 2014 World Cup – which was his fourth – Buffon experienced further disappointment. Despite putting in a solid shift, including a Man of the Match performance against Uruguay, he was unable to prevent the Azzurri from crashing out at the group stage for the second WC running.
There are those who may have wanted to see current Coach Antonio Conte start to ease in some younger faces in goal. However, who exactly would they be? Salvatore Sirigu has proven to be a decent, but not spectacular, deputy when called upon. And despite the buzz surrounding Milan’s teenage wunderkind Gianluigi Donnarumma he is, despite his mammoth frame, only 17 years old – surely not by any means ready for a jump to the senior squad.
So, with that in mind, it should be unanimous. Gianluigi Buffon is the one to retain his spot between the posts, both for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup. Beyond that, who knows what will happen, but as for the event in France kicking off in about two months’ time, he will be the one to lead the team out onto the pitch.
Italy may well be few peoples’ Euro 2016 tips for triumph, but few can argue they are not stronger with Buffon in goal.
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