Buffon a true custodian of Juve’s reputation

Buffon a true custodian of Juve’s reputation

Juventus fans might be worried about their club's future after the resignation of head coach Antonio Conte, who led the Italian giants to three straight Serie A titles.

But if there is one person who refuses to be rattled, it is club captain Gianluigi Buffon.

In an e-mail interview with The Straits Times, the 36-year- old veteran goalkeeper said: "It is true that one top-class manager has left but, at the same time, another one has arrived.

"Massimiliano Allegri is a very intelligent and talented coach, and the group strongly believes that we can win a fourth straight league title."

Next Saturday, Singaporeans can watch Allegri prove his credentials when Juventus play a Singapore Selection side at the new 55,000-seat National Stadium, the first football match to be played at the Grand Old Dame.

Buffon is certainly one of the star attractions of the defending Italian champions - a World Cup winner, five-time Serie A victor and an icon for Juventus after an illustrious 13-year stint following a move from Parma in 2001.

He is Italy's most capped player, with 142 appearances, and is still the most expensive goalkeeper in transfer history - £32 million (S$67 million), back in 2001.

With almost every major footballing honour in his bag, the Bianconeri captain made it clear where his club's priorities lie next season.

He said: "After claiming three successive Serie A titles, we are determined to do our very best against the top clubs in Europe.

"We came very close to winning the Champions League when we reached the final in 2003 (losing to AC Milan on penalties) and, as a club, we feel motivated to succeed on the European stage."

Even if Buffon does not add the elusive Champions League winners' medal to his crowded trophy cabinet, he has all but cemented his place in the international pantheon of goalkeeping greats.

He was voted the Serie A's best goalkeeper eight times, and in 2006, when he won the World Cup with Italy, he was also named the tournament's best custodian.

In 2012, the International Federation of Football History and Statistics declared Buffon the world's best goalkeeper in the last 25 years - no mean feat, considering the rest of the top five reads like a modern who's who - Iker Casillas, Peter Schmeichel, Oliver Kahn and Edwin van der Sar.

As a club icon, he is revered for sticking with them following the match-fixing scandal of 2006, when Juventus were stripped of their 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles, and were relegated to the second-tier Serie B.

Many expected Buffon, who had just won the World Cup, to follow the likes of Fabio Cannavaro, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Patrick Vieira out of the door - but he did not.

Playing down his actions, Buffon said: "The relegation was a terrible moment for everyone associated with the club but I think I did the right thing to stay here and help get Juventus promoted immediately to Serie A.

"Since then, it has been upwards and onwards."

Things certainly looked brighter after he helped guide Juventus straight back to the Serie A in 2007. The club then finished third, second, seventh and seventh, before moving to a new stadium in 2011.

The move, which coincided with Conte's appointment, ushered in a new era of success for the club, including an impressive 2011-12 season which saw the club lift the Scudetto without losing a single game, while boasting Serie A's best-ever defensive record, conceding only 20 goals.

Buffon, though, is just focusing on the job ahead.

He said: "Juventus is the most successful club in Italy and it is my job to help continue this winning tradition."


This article was first published on August 05, 2014.
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