This will be the fourth season in a row that I've done the season ratings for Juventus' group of goalkeepers. Every time I do so, I know it's going to be centered around Gigi Buffon. And because you all are smart, you know it will be centered around Gigi Buffon. It's inevitable. It's the unique position where one guy plays the vast majority of the games and absolutely nobody has any kind of objection to it.
Buffon is No. 1 on the roster, and, for a lot of us, also No. 1 in our hearts.
That's just how it is, how it's been and how it will continue to be.
This season didn't start out with all the Buffon celebrations we've become so accustomed to over the years. Without a doubt, it was a struggle. Yet, when things clicked, things really did click. And come the end of the season, when we look at the final stats, they resemble just about every other season he's had over this current five-year title run. The route to get there was one we hope that Juventus never go down for quite some time, but thanks to a historic shutout streak and more of his age-defying works of goalkeeping art, Buffon had another Buffon-like season.
He continued to work wonders just when you thought we might be cursing at our televisions and/or laptops because it seemed like Juventus might be allowing another goal.
It was, well, just another chapter in this storied career Buffon is having. And knowing that he's planning on retiring come the end of the 2017-18 season, we need to cherish them for as long as we can.
Gianluigi Buffon - 9.0
BREAKING NEWS: Gigi Buffon has nicknames like 'Superman' and 'God' because he is very good at what he does. And this season was no different. He was brilliant even when his team wasn't. Then when Juve did figure its collective s--- out in Serie A come the start of November, Buffon only continued to provide big save after big save even when he pretty much stood around with nothing to do for the other 85 or so minutes during any given Serie A match. It allowed him rack up shutouts at a crazy rate. And it allowed him to become the guy who set the record for consecutive minutes without allowing a league goal.
It was great. All of it. Just because nobody deserves it more.
First, some stats (Serie A only), because stats are cool.
Games played: 35
Shots faced: 88
Shots saved: 72
Save percentage: 81.8
Clean sheets: 21
Pretty good, you know? Makes you want to celebrate a little bit...
I'll just go ahead and give you more context to those numbers above right here: Six of those 16 Serie A goals Buffon allowed this season came in his first six starts. That means, for the next 29 league games he played in, Buffon allowed all of 10 goals. TEN GOAL, PEOPLE, TEN FLIPPIN' GOALS. Only one of those 21 clean sheets came during that six-game stretch to open Buffon's season, too. So what does all of this mean?
It means two things that we have come to know very well.
- Juventus' defense was an absolute mess in the first two months of the season.
- If it weren't for Buffon's saves — especially early in the season as Juve's defense searched for any kind of groove and semblance of form — those numbers could have been a lot, lot worse.
Outside of maybe — and that's a decently-sized maybe — Paulo Dybala, I don't think there was one Juventus player who was as incredibly good from the first game of the season to the last like Buffon was. Hell, name me more than a couple games in the last two or three seasons where Buffon wasn't at his best. It's one thing to be a consistent producer, it's another to be consistently amazing like Buffon was once again this past season. That's nothing new to us, obviously. We've been seeing it for the better part of the last 13 or 14 years.
But it's still remarkable to think that at the age of 38, Buffon is still one of the most important players on the Juventus roster. Before he announced that 2018 will be his last go of it, Buffon always maintained that he will only continue to play on if he felt like he was physically able to do so.
Gosh-dang I love this guy. He's so freaking awesome.
Neto - 7.0
Like I always used to say when it came to Marco Storari, it's hard to truly measure the value of the backup goalkeeper because we really do see so little of them on the field. It was no different for Neto this season. He made his first official Juventus appearance on Sept. 23 and the didn't appear in a game for another three months. Thus is the life of the backup goalkeeper, folks. You know exactly what you're getting into when you sign up for the job — especially when it comes to being the understudy to somebody like Buffon.
How do we evaluate Neto's first year with Juve? It was good. Really solid, actually. He wasn't spectacular, but mainly because he wasn't needed to do such things. He made some good saves, sure, but would you put his performances on Buffon level? Probably not.
You look at the six goals he allowed in his eight appearances in all competitions this season, and five of them came in two games — the 3-0 loss to Inter in the Coppa Italia and the 2-1 defeat at the hands of Hellas Verona when the Scudetto was already clinched. Other than that, it was next to nothing getting past Neto — and that's exactly what you want from your backup.
Definitely a good first season as Juve's backup goalkeeper. And considering there's bound to be more rumors about his status at the club this summer, we'll see if there's a second season with Juve come the close of the summer transfer window.
Rubinho - s/v
Another season of winning more titles than appearances in games. Not a bad gig for a guy to have year-in and year-out, ya know.
Emil Audero - s/v
Called up for a relatively decent portion of the season to be Juve's No. 3 goalkeeper in either Neto's or Rubinho's respective absences. He obviously wasn't needed or even came close to actually playing, but to see him included in the Scudetto celebration after the season finale was cool to see.
Depending on Juventus' situation with homegrown players on the roster next season, maybe the 19-year-old Audero becomes the regular No. 3 goalkeeper. If that's not the case, maybe a loan spell is on the horizon. It does seem like the club thinks highly of him. And it sure would be nice to see a couple of players come through the youth system and become a full-time senior squad member, that's for sure.