Gianluigi Buffon At 45: Italy’s Elder Statesman Remains Young At Heart

Gianluigi Buffon At 45: Italy’s Elder Statesman Remains Young At Heart

Gianluigi Buffon’s career seemed to be coming to an end as early as 2010. At the age of 32, chronic back problems were keeping him longer and longer.

Juventus have had to resort to the likes of Alex Manninger and Marco Storari with worrying regularity, and at half-time in the opening game of Italy’s miserable 2010 World Cup season, Buffon was replaced by Federico Marchetti after a herniated disc had plagued his career.

Goalkeepers and back problems don’t usually go well together, and such persistent problems can often spell the end of goalkeepers. But Buffon is a very different type of goalkeeper, with a very different mentality.


After returning from that World Cup injury seven months later, he has added a further 397 career appearances to his résumé in the 12 years since then. During that time, he picked up 19 other winners’ medals, including nine league titles with Juve and Paris Saint-Germain.

He is back with his first club Parma these days, recently returning after a spell with hamstring problems. He turns 45 on Saturday, but there is still no end in sight to his incredible career.

Buffon has made more than 1,100 senior appearances since making his Serie A debut for the Gialloblu as a 17-year-old against reigning champions AC Milan, while his first appearance for his country at the Bel Paese is legendary. The then 19-year-old, who came on after half an hour into Russia’s World Cup qualifying play-off away game in freezing, snowy conditions in Moscow, put in a fantastic performance to help the Azzurri claim first place . first leg before winning the second leg and qualifying for the 1998 finals in France.

The best thing about Buffon and what has given him the ability to continue playing into his mid-40s is his attention to detail. He has a tremendous work pace for a goalkeeper and has been the king for decades, capable of making decisive intervention after a period of inactivity.

That quality was particularly important in his first of two spells at Juventus, joining from Parma in 2001 for €52m, which would remain a world record for a goalkeeper until Alisson Becker joined Liverpool in 2018.

Juve got their money’s worth. He was the constant at a time when the Old Lady regularly won league titles, reached a Champions League final and then suffered the shame of relegation in the wake of the Calciopoli scandal. After their immediate return but subsequent struggle for Serie A challenge, Antonio Conte arrived to lead a revamped Juve at a brand new stadium for the first of nine consecutive Scudetti. And yet Buffon was at the forefront. As Alessandro Del Piero, David Trezeguet and Mauro Camoranesi gradually stepped aside, Buffon became Mr Juventus.

For a goalkeeper to be shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or ten times is special and Gigi even finished second to Azzurri teammate Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 after they won the World Cup together. Finishing fourth eleven years later, still a regular at Juventus, a Champions League finalist again and just as important as ever in the Italy national team, speaks to his professionalism over the years.

He could go on forever. His current contract with Parma runs until the summer of 2024 and he has indicated he would like to play until his mid-50s.

“I had 10 years at Parma in my early days, then 20 at Juventus, one at Paris and two more at Juve and now I’m coming full circle with Parma,” he told Alfredo Pedulla last summer. “And I’m not 100 yet! Can I retire at 55? More or less. For 10 years I’ve been thinking about when I could retire, but then I just keep going.”

Gianluigi Buffon has devoted his life to football for the past three decades, but we could see a lot more of him for some time to come.

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