Superman. San Gigi. Those are just a few of the nicknames that Gianluigi Buffon, the world's best ever goalkeeper, has earned over his illustrious career.
At 37 (!!!!) years of age, he's still the undisputed No. 1 keeper in the world. Nobody has ever played at such a high level for such a long time. Nobody commands and organizes his rearguard like Gigi. Nobody commands such respect and awe the way Gigi does.
You see it in the tunnel before matches, elite players and opposing keepers clamoring to shake Buffon's hand before the match, perhaps hoping some of his magic will rub off on them.
You see it when Buffon meets another captain before the match.
The handshake and embrace is not dissimilar to a child meeting his lifelong hero. Never have I ever seen a player so universally respected in any sport since perhaps Wayne Gretzky. When Petr Cech or Iker Casillas meet Buffon before a match, Gigi greets them like an old friend. They then greet him as though they were meeting God himself.
Gigi even has the power to turn fans from angry to supportive. Some players like Mats Hummels go meet their fans when the team is not doing well to apologize and promise better results. When Juve were faltering, Gigi turned to the fans not to apologize to them like a disobedient child, but turned to them like a father figure and asked or perhaps commanded them to support the team rather than whistle and jeer them. it worked as Juve finally came together and salvaged a point versus Chievo with the fans behind them in the second half.
There's something about seeing an attacker bearing down on the Juve goal that keeps everyone calm, that something is actually a someone named Gianluigi Buffon.
Going back to that otherworldly, miraculous double save from Tuesday night on Raheem Sterling and David Silva, I remember after the first save not even being worried that the second save wouldn't come. And sure enough, Gigi made everyone's jaws drop ... again.
Water also remains wet.
Then came the 88th minute curling strike for the top right corner from Yaya Toure. This was a shot that would've been a Puskas award candidate; it was absolutely beautiful. Then, something more beautiful happened, SuperGigi flew across the face of goal, billowing cape and all (allegedly), and punched that Puskas award out of Toure's hands. And again every non-Juventino watching the match were left dumbstruck. Juventini, however, are used to this sort of thing.
Buffon has been doing it in a Juventus jersey for almost 16 years now. We are every bit as spoiled as Real Madrid fans are with Cristiano Ronaldo or FC Barcelona fans are with Leo Messi. Gigi is on their level. As far as this writer is concerned, Messi, Ronaldo and Buffon are the three best players in the solar system. Manuel Neuer, Petr Cech, Thibaut Courtois, David De Gea, Hugo Lloris, Tim Howard, they all can take a seat behind the immortal Gigi Buffon.
Buffon is Juventus, Buffon is football, and we're lucky to have him.