Gianluigi Buffon has been named as the best goalkeeper for the past 23 years by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics. He now officially holds the position of the best goalkeeper in the past two decades. The International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) released its result yesterday and the Italian shot stopper finished miles ahead of second placed Iker Casillas of Real Madrid and ex-Manchester United custodian Peter Schmeichel. The title will come as little comfort for the Italian looking at Juventus’ current form, but it reaffirms once again that when it comes to keeping the ball out there is no one better than him. Walter Zenga and Francesco Toldo also finished in the Top 20 list featuring in 7th and 20th positions respectively.
Buffon has been widely regarded by many as one of the greatest keepers in the history of the game. His name goes right up there with the likes of Lev Yashin, Gordon Banks and Dino Zoff. His performances for la Nazionale at the last World Cup were a driving force for the team’s success and it would not be wrong to suggest that he was one of the predominant reasons for the Bianconeri’s success before Calciopoli. Gigi stuck with the Old Lady even after they were relegated to the second division as punishment, and this reveals yet another facet of the Buffon’s personality – he has always been one of the nicest people on the pitch but he is fiercely competitive. Buffon does not like to lose and his heroic displays have saved his side innumerable times.
One of the striking aspects of Buffon’s career was that he started playing in the Parma team at the very young age of 17. For Italians, and especially in the position of a goalkeeper, such a feat is unthinkable and highly unlikely to be ever repeated again. After six successful seasons with the Ducali, Gigi won the UEFA Cup before transferring to Juventus in 2001 for a world record fee of £32m. One of the few criticisms of Buffon’s skills remains his inability to stop penalties. Even in the World Cup final four years ago, Buffon was unable to save a spot kick and it was through David Trezeguet’s miss (his penalty hit the crossbar) that Italy brought the trophy home.
His status as the top keeper is being called into question recently, even within Italian circles. The ‘Calcio Oscars’ picked Júlio César of Inter as the best keeper for last season. More recently, Gigi is struggling with back injuries which have seen him miss some of Juve’s games. What remains slightly worrying for Italians is that there seem to be very few young talented goal keepers out there. Federico Marchetti of Cagliari springs to mind but the boy is already 26 and needs to do a lot more to confirm himself as Buffon’s successor. But then again it may turn out to be a scenario wherein, like Gigi, some young 17-year-old announces himself as the next best keeper in the Calcio.