Another season has come and gone. While we search for something to do to occupy our minds for the next couple of months until Juventus return for preseason training and go on their trip to Mexico and the United States, it’s customary for those of us who keep this blog running on a daily basis to provide you with a look back at the 2016-17 season that was.
So, when you do a post about goalkeeper ratings for Juventus, it’s going to center around the 39-year-old force of nature known as Gianluigi Buffon. You think there’s any other way around it? No, there’s not.
Buffon is Buffon. He’s Juventus’ captain, their leader in at the back of the defense and the man responsible for so much of what the club has achieved over the nearly two decades he’s been in Turin. That’s what we’ve known for years now, but it’s always quite nice to be reminded of it whenever possible.
Luckily for us, Buffon does that in the vast majority of the games he plays in. Even when it’s not necessary for him to make age-defying saves and remind us why he’s the greatest goalkeeper there is and ever has been in the world of football, Buffon’s importance to Juventus can never be denied.
By all accounts, this recently-completed season will be the second-to-last one where we see Buffon wearing Juventus’ captain’s armband and playing in goal in Turin. I don’t want to imagine a Juventus world without Buffon manning the goal for our beloved Bianconeri. So for now, we won’t.
Gianluigi Buffon — 9
What can you say about the guy that you haven’t already?
As much as some marvel that he is still doing some of the things he does at the age of 39, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised at this point. Why’s that? Because he’s done it when was 35, when he was 36, when he was 37 and when he was 38.
He’s still a difference maker. He’s still the gold standard. He still can win Juventus games simply by making one or two saves that will keep his team in the lead.
And he did that again this past season.
A lot of the time with Buffon, you know that he’s not going to face as many shots as any other goalkeeper playing in Serie A simply because Juve’s defense is better than anybody else’s in the league. There were 17 different keepers in Italy’s top flight that had 100 or more shots put on frame when they played. Buffon was not one of them. That alone shows just how little Buffon was called into action in a good number of the games he appeared in — something that is not a surprise and basically has been a constant during Juventus’ current six-year run of winning the league title.
His stats (Serie A only) from the 2016-17 season are as follows:
Games played: 30
Minutes played: 2,655
Shots faced: 91
Shots saved: 66
Save percentage: 72.5
Clean sheets: 12
You look at all of those numbers and they’re not as impressive as last season’s tally. If you had to pick, which number is more noticeably down compared to last season, the number of clean sheets or the overall save percentage?
Sure, statistically-speaking, Buffon’s 2016-17 season isn’t as good as the one before.
But the moments in which Buffon made saves is why he’s getting this rating. If he doesn’t stop Andres Iniesta, who knows how things against Barcelona go. If he doesn’t make the save from the penalty spot on Alexandre Lacazette, who knows how Juve’s trip to Lyon plays out. I can go on and on and on — especially when it comes to some of the saves Buffon made in the Champions League.
Fact is, Juventus wouldn’t have had their incredibly long shutout streak in Europe this season if not for some of the saves Buffon made. How many times over the past three or four years worth of post-game threads that Buffon made one or two saves and said stops were quite fantastic? Well, this season was no different.
Those one or two saves helped Juventus win games. And while the overall stats might not have been as glamorous as last season’s totals — remember that long shutout streak in Serie A that seemed to last six months? — Buffon was just as important as he’s ever been.
And just for the record, Lionel Messi still hasn’t scored on Buffon.
I love him. I will forever love him. And even though we know that Buffon’s career is in its final stages, I really can’t wait for him to be making saves that some goalkeepers only dream of when he’s wearing a Juventus or Italy keeper kit and his age reads “40.”
Neto — 6.5
I’ve said it once and I will say it again: One of the hardest jobs in the world of football is that of the backup goalkeeper simply because you don’t know when your next appearance may be.
For Neto, though, he has gotten a lot more playing time than most No. 2 goalkeepers because of 1) Juventus winning the Coppa Italia during both of his season in Turin, meaning that he’s played every possible game in the tournament; and 2) Allegri made sure to give Buffon plenty of rest this season as he gets closer and closer to being 40 years old.
Outside of that one absolute stinker in the Coppa Italia against Napoli, Neto was a relatively stable and consistent performer when Allegri did turn to him in the starting lineup. That’s pretty much what we’ve come to expect with Neto over his two seasons with Juventus. He’s capable of making some really good saves while not doing much wrong a very large portion of the time.
Basically, Neto did what Neto was expected to do.
And thus, the job of the backup goalkeeper has been fulfilled.
With Juventus likely to sign Wojciech Szczesny to be Buffon’s backup next season — and likely successor come the 2018-19 season — Neto’s two-year stay in Turin is probably not going to see a third year. He might not have been always-impressive like the guy he followed up, he might not be as good as the guy who is coming in to replace him, but he was
Emil Audero — 6
I think it was quite the classy move of Allegri to give Audero a start before the season came to a close. The game didn’t mean anything when it came to the standings nor did it really play any kind of part in how Juventus did the next week in Cardiff. But to hand a 20-year-old goalkeeper his debut during what was another domestic double-winning season, it had to be quite a thrill for Audero just to step onto the field for once.
Who knows where Audero fits into the long-term picture at Juventus. With Neto (probably) moving on and Szczesny (probably) coming in, he could very well be Juve’s No. 3 goalkeeper for another season. And knowing that Juve are unlikely to promote anybody from the primavera or have many other homegrown options come back to Turin next season, he could very well be a quite useful asset when it comes to Champions League squad selections.