Italy’s 2-0 World Cup qualifying win against Albania on the 24th of March 2017 marked another remarkable milestone in the career of goalkeeping legend Gianluigi Buffon. The 39-year-old Italian joined an elite band of 20 other footballers who have made at least 1000 professional appearances, including greats such as Paolo Maldini, Javier Zanetti, Raul, Xavi, Ryan Giggs and Peter Shilton.
It was fitting that his 1000th match for club and country resulted in yet another clean sheet for his side, giving him an astonishing 426 shutouts, at a rate of almost 43% during his 22-year career. He has conceded just 799 goals in that time, at a miserly average of under 0.8 goals per game.
Buffon made his senior debut in 1995 aged just 17, appearing for Serie A club Parma against eventual league champions AC Milan. He made an indelible impression that November afternoon, keeping his first clean sheet in a 0-0 draw, and making key saves from Roberto Baggio and George Weah.
The legend went on to make 220 appearances for Parma, winning the UEFA Cup, the Coppa Italia and the Italian Super Cup along the way. It was during his 6-year stint at Parma that he earned his first cap for the Italian senior team as a 19-year-old in 1997.
In 2001, Buffon moved from Parma to Juventus for a transfer fee of €53 million, making him the most expensive goalkeeper of all time. The fee soon proved to be a bargain for Juventus, as he became an influential leader of the club, winning seven Serie A Championships, two Coppa Italia titles, five Italian Super Cups, and twice reaching the final of the UEFA Champions League. He has now played more Serie A minutes than any other player in the club’s 120-year history.
In his 612 appearances for Juve he has broken innumerable Italian football records, including the most number of Serie A clean sheets ever (280), most consecutive clean sheets in a season (10), and the longest run without conceding a goal in a single season (974 minutes). He has won the most Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year awards (11), and in 2003 he became the only goalkeeper to ever win the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year Award.
For his national side, Buffon has made a European record 168 appearances, being part of the squad for five World Cups between 1998 and 2014. His greatest success on the international stage came in 2006, when Italy lifted the World Cup in Germany.
During the tournament he kept a record five clean sheets and conceded just two goals in seven matches, receiving the Yashin award for the best goalkeeper. Having been named captain of the side in 2011, he is showing no signs of slowing down and is expected to continue in the role, at least until the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Images: espnfc.com, wikipedia.org