Mauro’s proclamation was hardly original – it has been stated for some time now by numerous experts that when Buffon eventually hangs up his gloves he will be remembered as the greatest goalkeeper that ever lived. But, what all this fuss did prove is that, following a stunning start to the season, the Juventus glovesman is most certainly back to his legendary best.
For non-spectators on the outside, Saturday’s 2-0 triumph over Livorno will have been seen as a routine victory for a Scudetto-challenger over a relegation-candidate. In reality the opposite could not have been truer as Buffon produced seven top-class saves, including two one-on-one stops and another two absolute miracles.
This followed the 1-1 Champions League home draw last midweek against Bordeaux where the ex-Parma man almost singlehandedly earned the Bianconeri a point by denying Fernando Menegazzo and Yoann Gourcuff when they were clean through on goal.
“Buffon stopped us with some stunning saves,” lamented Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc after the game.
“He is a great goalkeeper back to his old self and showed again he is among the best in the world.”
Buffon has been decisive in almost every game he has played this season for Juventus. During the trips to the Eternal City, the 31-year-old performed world class stops at crucial times on Lazio’s Aleksandar Kolarov and Roma’s Francesco Totti to prevent both capital clubs from taking the lead. Juve would go on to win both matches in the second half to ensure they now have a maximum 12 points from their first four Serie A games.
Buffon after the Totti wonder-save
It is not only at club level that Buffon has been excelling. Internationally, the Carrara-born giant was even more impressive as Italy put one foot in next summer’s World Cup with successive 2-0 wins over Georgia and Bulgaria at the beginning of this month. During both of these games Buffon defied gravity with contenders for save of the season; the first a point-blank one-handed maul from a Vladimir Dvalishvili header and the second a superman flying claw from Stilian Petrov’s top corner bound effort.
“I am in a good period of form and hope to continue like this, as it’s right to always try to do your best and be at the top,” said a modest Buffon at the weekend.
“I’m not doing anything special. It’s just that when you are coming off eight months of constant torture from injuries and suddenly you feel fine, it gives you back that joy and desire to play that before you didn’t have.”
Buffon is back to his 2006 brilliance
Some people questioned whether Buffon’s career was on a downward slide during a 2008/09 season ravaged by injury and indifferent form. Constant back and shoulder problems restricted the Italy No.1 to just 23 Serie A appearances last term, and many felt that club backup Alex Manninger performed better when filling in.
Buffon is now healthy again, and the results are clear to see. In eight games between club and country this campaign, he has conceded just two goals – one of which was clearly offside. ‘Gigi’ has already made three Goal.com Teams of the Week, and he will surely be a candidate later today when Goal.com announce their World Player of the Week.
With just over eight months to go until the World Cup kicks off in South Africa, it must be of great relief to Marcello Lippi that his star man is back firing on all cylinders. Buffon is in his best form since the 2006 World Cup, and at this moment in time there is not a more in-form player in world football.
What are your views on this topic? Is Gianluigi Buffon back to his best? Is he the most in-form player in world football? Will he eventually go down as the best goalkeeper of all time? Goal.com wants to know what YOU think…
Carlo Garganese, Goal.com