There is no denying that a goalkeeper faces the most wrath in football. If he makes 10 marvelous saves, no one blinks an eye. But if he makes one blunder, the world jumps onto them. Being a goalkeeper in this modern attacking football game is tough.
But there is one, who made the art of goalkeeping look easy. And it wasn't for a brief period, but for nearly 17 years. Yes, this player may never receive the kind of headline Andres Iniesta received when he announced departure from Barcelona, or a kind of reception Arsene Wenger got when he announced to leave Arsenal. Yet, Gianluigi Buffon is an all-time legend in his own rights, and doesn't need any limelight to highlight his already glistened career.
The Italian legend is set to leave Juventus after 17 long years. Over the course of his time at the 'Old Lady', he has been the undisputed No.1 in front the goalpost. His rock-like figure was at times unbreakable.
'Gigi', as he is widely called, holds special place in the hearts of Juventus fans, given he stayed on with the team when they were relegated to Seria B in 2006. His love and passion for the club meant he was there when the club fell, picked itself up, and then rose back from ashes.
He won a host number of trophies and accolades during his stay at Juventus. While he will regret to never have won the UEFA Champions League, he will have proud to achieved the following things:
1. UEFA Club Footballer of the Year: "Goalkeepers don't win awards, only the outfield players do." Buffon quashed away this norm, and shut the mouths of people who believed this by winning the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year award in 2003. He conceded a mere 23 goals in 32 Seria A matches, helping his side win the league.
2. Ballon'd'Or second place: 2006 was a mixed year for Buffon, who saw his club Juventus getting relegated after being involved in betting scandal. But other than that, it was a fruitful season for the Italian, who won the Seria A with Juventus (it was stripped off), won the FIFA World Cup 2006 with Italy, and finished runners-up in the Ballon'd'Or.
3. Seven consecutive Seria A titles: Buffon is set to sign off his Juventus career with another Seria A title. It will be his and Juventus' seventh consecutive Scudetto. The goalkeeper has been consistent figure in each of the seven seasons, and has been the captain in each of the last six season.
4. Invincibles in 2011/12: This was the season of resurgence of Juventus. After a few of years of struggle, Juventus returned to the top and how. Over the course of the season, they did not lose even a single game. Buffon was unbeatable at times, conceding a mere 20 goals in 35 matches.
5. Clean-sheet record: Buffon did not need this record to prove his greatness to the world. Yet, this was special. The Italian went 974 minutes without conceding a goal, and thus broke the record for the most number of minutes without conceding a goal, previously held by Sebastiano Rossi.
The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi make headlines for their unbelievable athleticism and goal scoring ability. The fans consider them gods for making the difference, and winning their side matches. Well, being a goalkeeper, Buffon did that endless number of times for Juventus, without ever receiving the praise he deserved.
Safe to say, players loyal to their clubs is a rarity in modern game, and with Buffon's departure from Juventus, it seems like the final nail in the coffin. As for Juventus, they have not just lost a player, but lost a leader and a 'once in a generation' talent.
ADIOS BUFFON! Juventus can never ever replace you.