Celebrating the Extraordinariness of Juventus and Italy Icon Gianluigi Buffon
Considered one of the finest players ever to stand between the posts, GianluigiÂ Buffon is many things. A Juventus legend who has won almost every honour the game has to offer, a man with more caps than anyone in the history of the Italy national team, an established leader and considerate captain of both club and country.He speaks with an air of authority, and his words are both respected and respectful, with Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane happy to praise the Bianconeri skipper in a recent interview with the official UEFA website:"I think it's about what he has achieved. He's a born leader. He has been an extraordinary player throughout his career."He's a leader on the pitch and a great captain. In terms of everything he has said about players that he has met, he has always looked out for his fellow professionals. That shows you the sort of person he is, besides being a great goalkeeper and leader."The Frenchman is, of course, well placed to make such a judgement, playing against Buffon many times and now preparing his team to go up against the 39-year-old in the UEFA Champions League final.Azzurra Brasil @azzurrabrasilDefesa inesquecĂvel de Gigi #Buffon na finalizaĂ§ĂŁo de #Zidane! #9luglio2006 #ITA 8:14:58 PMHowever, there is another side to the Italian icon, one that has been seen less and less frequently in recent years but is occasionally still there, even if only fleetingly. Buffon is, seemingly like all the best goalkeepers, a little different to the rest of us."I like to think that I am a buffoon, a clown, entrusted with the task of entertaining people, playing a very stupid role," he once told Cabinet Magazine. "Many people don't like the way I play; they think I am overacting, screaming too much, trying to win the attention of the cameras, but I do that intentionally to maintain the link between sport and the notion that it is truly just a circus."That fits well with a famous quote from Lev Yashin, who many view as the greatest ever to play the position. "What kind of a goalkeeper is the one who is not tormented by the goal he has allowed?" the Russian great once said, per BBC Sport. "He must be tormented! And if he is calm, that means the end. No matter what he had in the past, he has no future."Earlier in his career, nobody could accuse Buffon of being tranquil, as can be seen in the video below (seven minute, 11 second mark). Playing for Parma, he saved a penalty from Ronaldo, thenâwith the ball still in play!âleapt over the advertising hoardings to celebrate with fans.The man himself certainly believes it is down to the role he plays. "You have to be a real masochist to do this as a job," Buffon said in an interview with FourFourTwo. "And a bit perverse. Think about it: you're playing a game where everyone uses their feet, but you want to use your handsâŚ"He only began to wear the gloves when he was inspired by the performance of Cameroon in the opening game of the Italia '90 World Cup. The African side shocked holders Argentina at San Siro, prompting an impressionable youngster to move back from his previous role in midfield."I was 12 years old and did not fall in love with Diego Maradona or Gary Lineker, nor even Roger Milla, but with Thomas N'Kono," Buffon toldÂ Corriere dello Sport (h/t Football Italia). "The Cameroon goalkeeper was already 34 at the time, but he became a dream for me and changed my life."Khaledalnouss @khaledalnouss1Buffon with his idol Thomas N'Kono. [Instagram] 6:42:45 PMIt was the eccentric approach of N'Kono that caught Buffon's eye, explaining in that same interview that his style was made up of "things we weren't used to seeing." So enamoured was Buffon that, many years later, he named his first child Louis Thomas in honour of his footballing idol.Perhaps it is also worth mentioning here that his second son was named in honour of Van Halen singer David Lee Roth, but also a hint into the wandering mind of the Juventus captain.That too is evident during matches. "If the three points are at stake, your thoughts are always on the action, predicting almost geometrically where the dangers will come from," Buffon revealed to the Corriere dello Sport (h/t Football Italia). "However, when the result is locked down or the game less important, your mind does wander to everyday life issues or you often look at the crowd."James Horncastle @JamesHorncastleFrom last night. Gigi Buffon. Minute 89. 6:42:27 AMAs can be seen above, that comes in even the most prestigious of fixtures, kneeling outside his area as time ticked away during Juve's Champions League semi-final victory over AS Monaco.