Why You'll Like Him
Point-blank stops; The ability to single-handedly win a match; Saves that may very well make you scream in astonishment. Simply put, if you like watching one of the generation's best keepers in action, you'll like Buffon.
Why You'll Hate Him
He is the keeper of Italy's national team, which often doesn't earn many supporters. Also, he is married to Alena Šeredová, a Czech model whose last name literally translates to "ugly person." Oh, how very ironic, Mr. and Mrs. Buffon.
Club Teams: Juventus (2001-present), Parma A.C. (1995-2001)
National Team Debut: U-21 in 1995, capped for full Italian squad on October 29, 1997.
World Cup(s): 1998, 2002, 2006.
"Gigi" made his debut with Parma A.C., a team in Serie A, Italy's top-level of club football, in 1995, at the young age of just 17. In just his second full season with Ducali, Buffon was named the starting keeper and in 1999, he led the Yellow-Blues to the UEFA Cup title. This caught the eye of the most successful club in Italian football, Juventus, who promptly snatched him up in 2001. Buffon has been with The Old Lady ever since.
In 2003, Buffon was named the UEFA MVP and Best Goalkeeper, and with Gigi, Juve won both the Serie A and Supercoppa Italiana twice, and the Serie B once, in 2006-07. Ah yes, Serie B. No discussion of Buffon's club career is complete without mention of the Serie A match fixing scandal that rocked Italian soccer in 2006.
Buffon was implicated, and while he voluntarily admitted to betting on sports, he denied ever wagering on Italian football matches, and was eventually cleared of all charges the following year.
Buffon made his first appearance with the Azzurri in 1997, when he was just 19 years old, as an injury replacement in a 1998 World Cup play-off qualifier against Russia. He was on the roster the 1996 Olympics, 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004, but he didn't really shine until the Cup in 2006.
It was there that Buffon produced one clean sheet after another and produced five shutouts in the tournament, and held a scoreless-streak of over 450 minutes. When it was all said and done and Italy hoisted the World Cup trophy, Buffon had allowed only two goals in seven matches: an own goal in the group stage and a penalty by Zidane in the final. Not surprisingly, he was awarded the Lev Yashin Award, given to the best goalkeeper of the tournament.
And while he did allow a PK to Zidane in regulation, he also did this to the Frenchman in extra time, a save which is still talked about as one of the best ever.
What to Look For
Simply, outstanding saves and otherworldly quickness. After all, this is Buffon, a Serie A goalkeeper of the season seven times and a four time world keeper of the year. As he goes, so too does Italy. But at age 32, and with injuries beginning to nag ... well, even Superman had his kryptonite.
Ryan Hudson is an editor at SB Nation who will be covering the 2010 South Africa World Cup.
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