If you are a Juventus supporter, there might not be a single thing more enjoyable than watching Gianluigi Buffon celebrate his teammates doing something great. He is, at the age of 37 years old, still the same old cat playing the position at the highest of ability. World-class ability, I might add, and he does so with the same kind of energy and passion he did a decade or two ago.
Based on what we know and how the 2014-15 season played out, Buffon had plenty of reasons to celebrate. Take, say, the moments after Juventus advanced to the Champions League final with a 1-1 draw against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu. That's Buffon Celebration Level at about 100 out of 10 right there.
Of course, Juventus' defense — led at the back by the ever-stalwart Buffon — was a big reason for European success and a fourth straight Serie A title.
In the past three seasons, Juventus has allowed 24, 23 and 24 goals in Serie A, respectively. Even with a change in manager, change in formation and plenty of potential issues along the way, that's damn good consistency for a unit that still struggled with the simple things from time to time. Was Juventus' defense better than it was a season or two ago? The stats say they were pretty much equal to one another, but the eye test might not tell you the same thing.
No matter how you or I feel about how Juventus' defense played throughout the season, I feel safe in saying this: The man wearing the No. 1 jersey was just as good as ever. Yes, still one of the best as he hits his late-30s. That's no joke.
That's the way it's been for years and, until further notice, how it will continue to be. When you've got one of the best to ever play the game still producing at the highest level at this age, you throw logic right out the window.
Gianluigi Buffon - 8.5
When I wrote last season's ratings, I threw some stats at you. The main one, as you will see if you click the link, was how many saves Buffon made in his three seasons with Antonio Conte as Juventus' manager. He played in pretty much the same amount of games, and it provided a pretty good representation of how Juventus' defense took a bit of a step back one season ago.
This season, however, Buffon made all of 63 saves in 33 Serie A starts. That's an average of just about two per game, and far from a blistering rate or anything close to it. Nicola Leali, on loan at Cesena from Juventus, made 90 saves in 28 games, Mattia Perin made 120 saves in 32 games played. And they weren't even close to the league leader, Atalanta's Marco Sportiello, who made an astonishing 152 saves (an average of over four per game).
Buffon was never going to make as many saves as those three goalkeepers because he was never going to face as many shots as them. We're talking about the best defense in the league compared to a couple of the worst. For all the injuries (Andrea Barzagli, Martin Cáceres, etc.) and players out of form for most of the season (Giorgio Chiellini), Buffon only faced 83 shots on target all season long. Sportiello, on the other hand, faced 208.
And just like last season, the consistent force was Buffon.
The amount of saves Buffon did make will make it seem like he didn't have much to do. But when you look at the quality of saves he had to make — both in Serie A and the Champions League — it's hard to say anything other than he was one of Juventus' best players once again this season. And in the rare case where he was needed to carry the defense more than usual, like in the latter stages of the Champions League, he was up to the task.
Not that it's much of a surprise, really. This is Gigi Buffon we're talking about here.
Marco Storari - 7
It's hard to appreciate a backup goalkeeper sometimes because we see so little of them when everything goes according to plan, but Marco Storari certainly does deserve some appreciation. That's simply because when he's played, he's done as well as anybody could really ask of him.
Just like about every other year outside of his first season at Juventus, Storari was basically the official Coppa Italia goalkeeper and sparingly used in Serie A. He appeared in five Serie A games this season — most of which came when Allegri rested Buffon after Juventus wrapped up the Scudetto with plenty of time to spare. (And yes, that includes in the Derby d'Italia where he pulled off this crazy double save against Inter.)
And that's the beauty of Storari being Juve's backup goalkeeper. He's reliable as can be despite not appearing in games for weeks or months at a time.
I hope he comes back for a sixth season with Juventus. But if Storari, who turned 38 in January, decides to go elsewhere, I won't be mad at all. He's earned the right to go wherever he wants and do whatever he wants to do.
Rubinho - s/v
We saw even less of Juventus' famed unibrow. That's probably a good thing.
With Neto expected to be arriving on a free transfer this summer and Storari's contract status for next season still relatively uncertain at this point, who knows if Rubinho will return to Juventus for another no-appearance-yet-win-a-Scudetto tour of duty. If he doesn't, we'll always have the good times, my friend.