In the days leading up to the start of the 2016-17 season, PUMA released a product to commemorate an anniversary. It was a product that one of their most prominent footballing endorsers, Gianluigi Buffon, used during one of the best four-week runs of goalkeeping that we will probably ever see. It was a pair of gloves used during an Italian triumph at the 2006 World Cup in Germany that put Buffon close to winning the biggest individual award, the Ballon d’Or, that this game knows.
The 10th anniversary of the Buffon V-Konstrukt gloves are just like the ones Buffon wore as he hoisted the World Cup trophy above his head in Berlin 10 1⁄2 years ago. The timing was fitting, seeing as Buffon was just about to start yet another year in goal for Juventus and probably hit another handful of milestones along the way. That’s just how it works when it comes to Buffon. He can’t help but make history at this point. (He just overtook Giampiero Boniperti as Juventus’ leader for minutes in Serie A and will need just two more appearances to become Serie A’s second-highest capped player, trailing only Milan legend Paolo Maldini.)
Friday night, another one of the milestones he entered the season within reach of will officially be etched into Buffon’s lore. Here’s a hint as to what we might be getting at...
Juventus appearances: 612
Parma appearances: 220
Italian national team appearances: 167
I’ll save you the time of trying to do the math in your head or going to look for your phone or a calculator. Those three figures above add up to 999.
That means when Buffon leads Italy out of the tunnel against Albania in Palermo, he will hit yet another milestone — career appearance No. 1,000. Think about that for a second. One-thousand appearances for somebody who has now played two decades worth of football at the highest level both personally, at the club level and internationally. It’s a club that signifies both how well you’ve played over your career and also that you’ve been fortunate to stay incredibly healthy (for the most part) along the way. Buffon’s former teammate, Maldini, is part of the 1,000-appearance club. That’s no shocker knowing what his career was like for both club and country.
Milestones coming and going on a game-by-game basis seems like it’s the norm for Buffon these days. When you play as long as he has, accomplished as much as he has and been on a team that wins as much as Juventus has and currently does, it’s only natural that you’re going to have quite a lengthy list of career achievements.
But it just is different with Buffon. Maybe that’s my goalkeeper bias or long-standing fandom of that GOAT. Maybe that’s because he’s been with Juventus for so long and been at the center of so much of what the club has done since he arrived in the summer of 2001. Or maybe it’s because when we see that he’s 39 years old and previously stated that his career could very well come to a close at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. (Buffon has always been of the standing that his form and how he feels will dictate how long he plays, not simply his age.)
Or maybe it’s just because he can just casually give you a quite like this:
"It's a huge pleasure," Buffon said on Thursday about reaching the landmark, before joking, "I can tell you there will be another thousand."
"I'm just thinking about the next matches," he said when asked about retiring in 2018.
"In life we have objectives: It's important to win, (but) when you want to win big there's a risk of being burned. We'll think about things calmly."
(Source: The Associated Press)
We have seen Buffon deal with a serious injury that kept him out for quite some time (most notably after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa). We have seen get to the highest level of European club competition — twice — only to come up short in the Champions League final. That’s the one prize that has eluded Buffon his entire career — which makes these next two seasons, if they are his last, just that much more important and why Juve stating their European desires before the year make so much sense.
We can write all we want about what Buffon means to us personally or what he has meant to the club and it will all be true. If you play as long as he has and can still be considered one of the best around when your 40th birthday looms in the distance, you deserve every word of praise that you will get. Buffon has been a transcendent performer through one of Italy’s greatest generations of teams in 2006 and he’s now captaining what looks to be the start of a squad that is built around young talent.
The biggest thing when it comes to career appearance No. 1,000 will be Italy gets three points and move even closer to qualifying for Buffon’s sixth World Cup. Maybe a couple of saves will be in there. But what we know is that Buffon is about to add another milestone to the list of things few have accomplished in this game. Just another day in the life of San Gigi, I guess.