Buffon moved to Juventus in 2001 for a world record fee but, as Adam Digby explains, he has more than repaid the investment.
A glimpse behind the curtain here at Football Italia. When one of the editors reached out with the assignment “What does Gigi Buffon mean to Juventus?” this writer was sorely tempted to open a new document, simply type “Everything.” onto the blank page and then submit it for publication. However, after noting that the advised length for the contribution was 500-700 words, he reconsidered, sat down and thought about the original question a little more deeply.
When writing about truly great players who have made a genuine impact at the club we support, it is very easy to overstate their importance, but as the Bianconeri Captain turns 40 such a feat becomes impossible. Having already established himself as a proven commodity between the posts both in Serie A and with Italy, Buffon arrived in Turin over 15 years ago and he has been almost flawless ever since.
From his incredible debut for Parma against an all-conquering Milan to a lengthy list of honours with Juve – plus his magnificent performances at the 2006 World Cup – Buffon’s accomplishments do not need retelling here. There is not really even a need to discuss his continued ability to make vital interventions even as retirement beckons as, despite clearly not the sprightly athlete he was a decade ago, the Carrara native still pulls off some truly unbelievable saves.
Instead, what matters to fans of Juventus is what he represents. One of the few top players to remain when the club were relegated in the aftermath of the Calciopoli scandal, he has outlasted Pavel Nedved, David Trezeguet, Mauro Camoranesi and even Alessandro Del Piero. Inheriting the captain’s armband from the latter, it is now Buffon who best symbolises just what the Old Lady means to her most loyal supporters.
Always classy, well-spoken and professional, his words for an out-of-form team-mate or when the side is struggling for results strike the ideal tone each and every time. The way he speaks about Juventus and what the club has grown to mean to him resonate deeply not only because they echo the feelings of those on the Curva Sud, but because his actions since that world record transfer back in 2001 prove he is not merely paying lip service to the crowd who chant his name.
No, this is not a man pandering to his audience or faking affection in order to endear himself to anyone, but instead a truly iconic star who will be remembered forever as a club legend. Debate will rage forever about his standing in the pantheon of great goalkeepers, but those who have walked up the hill and through the turnstiles at Juventus Stadium to witness Buffon know they are fortunate to be watching the best of all time.
A fanbase blessed to see Gianpiero Boniperti, Gaetano Scirea, Beppe Furino and yes, Del Piero, cannot fail to recognise a great leader, or a player who more perfectly embodies the very ethos of the club he represents. The idea of him calling time on his career this summer is simply too jarring for most to accept and there is really no better way to explain what Gigi Buffon means to Juventus than the fact that the idea of one without the other remains unthinkable.
Well there is, but somehow “Everything.” still just isn’t enough.