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 By Adam Hurrey

Gianluigi Buffon: 40 reasons to love the Juve, Italy legend at age 40

Gianluigi Buffon turns 40 on Sunday so what better way to celebrate the Italy and Juventus goalkeeping legend than with 40 things to love about him? Adam Hurrey digs in.

1. His debut for Italy

It was the perfect footballing example of being thrown in at the deep end. After half an hour of a high-stakes World Cup qualifying playoff in the driving October snow of Moscow in 1997, the teenage Buffon was summoned from the bench to replace the injured Gianluca Pagliuca. The rest has gone into Italian football folklore.

2. Because goalkeeping captains are always cool

Why does the captain's armband look better on a goalkeeper? A mystery for the ages.

3. His first Panini sticker

It's a welcome reminder that even the most suave footballers were once awkward, fresh-faced novices.

4. His debut for Parma

Two years before his Italy bow, a 17-year-old Buffon was drafted in to face the mighty Milan, featuring George Weah and Roberto Baggio up front, and he kept a masterful clean sheet. Italian goalkeeping great Dino Zoff said he had "never seen a debut like his for the personality and quality he showed."

5. His teenage words to Parma manager Nevio Scala

Buffon's former Parma teammate Luigi Apolloni recalled the young goalkeeper's fearless approach.

"I remember him arriving, this teenager, to speak to our manager, Nevio Scala. Right away he said: 'Listen, boss, in a normal month I train really well for 29 days. But one day a month you need to accept that I'm not going to be myself, because I'll be having a bad day. And you need not to get angry about that.'"

6. He named his son after legendary Cameroon goalkeeper Thomas N'Kono

"It was Thomas N'Kono and his spectacular saves that made me fall in love with the position. He quickly became my hero, and I called my son Louis Thomas in his honor. After he was born, N'Kono called to congratulate me."

7. Sticking it out with Juventus in Serie B

In the wake of the Calciopoli scandal, after which Juventus were stripped of two Serie A titles and demoted to the second tier, Buffon was among a small group of their elite players who refused to join the exodus.

"In the end it was a simple choice for me," said Buffon. "If Juve had to go down to B then I had to go with them. I didn't really need to think about it. Juve helped me become a world champion and therefore I owed them a huge debt."

Buffon won the World Cup in 2006 but is still seeking his first-ever European Cup.

8. Taking criticism in the best way possible

After a rare Buffon slip had let a speculative David Alaba shot past him in the Champions League quarterfinal against Bayern Munich in 2013, Franz Beckenbauer remarked that he had "gone down like a pensioner."

Buffon responded by appearing on satirical Italian TV show "Striscia la Notizia" to receive a blanket, dressing gown and a pair of slippers.

9. His rallying cry before Juventus' 2015-16 title challenge

A 1-0 defeat to Sassuolo had left the reigning champions with just 12 points from 10 games. Buffon decided some stern words were needed.

"We need to have a profound examination of conscience. As captain I cannot permit us to go on playing this way. We need to start showing some humility, otherwise we're going to waste a season making an embarrassment of ourselves. At 38 years old, I really don't have any interest in it."

Juventus won 25 of their next 26 games to retain the title.

10. Celebrating a Serie A goalkeeping record by thanking each of his teammates individually

It required the longest Facebook status in football history, but when Buffon broke Sebastiano Rossi's 22-year-old record for the longest stretch without conceding (more than 16 hours), he made sure that each of his Juventus colleagues got a share of the credit.

11. Joining in with a kick-about while on holiday after Euro 2016

You know how it is: you're a player short, nobody wants to go in goal, and then one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time happens to be nearby.

12. His reaction to Italy fans booing the Swedish national anthem

Perhaps recognising an acute case of pride-before-fall, Buffon clapped his way through the opposition anthem before Italy fell at the final hurdle of World Cup qualifying...

13. The way he belted out the Italian national anthem

... not that he ever held back when it was his turn, of course.

14. His interview after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup

He still cares, after all these years.

15. Ivan Rakitic's response to a Buffon-less World Cup

"I would like to tell Buffon to go in my place because what he's done for football is incredible, simply unique. When a child writes out his ideal lineup, Buffon is always in there. When you saw him crying in the interview at the end of the match [against Sweden], you wanted to cry with him."

16. He's one of the very few players from Championship Manager 97/98 still playing

Cherish him while you still can, if only for that reason.

Buffon was first featured in video game form roughly two decades ago. Remarkable.

17. He singlehandedly saved a business from going bust

Between 2009-2015, Buffon invested £15 million of his own money in Zucchi, an historic Italian textile company, to save it from closure. "I blew €20m; it went up in smoke," he said, "but I safeguarded the livelihoods of 1,200 families."

18. This save in the 2003 Champions League final

It is generally regarded as one of the more tedious finals in recent history, thanks in part to the rock-solid goalkeeping of Buffon. Filippo Inzaghi struggles to fathom what's just happened while Buffon celebrates as if he's just scored a goal himself.

19. This save against Germany at Euro 2016

First Mario Gomez attempts a back-heel, then it looks like Italy are about to concede a comical own goal. Buffon makes sure neither are successful.

20. This save in the 2015 Champions League final

Twelve years after his (ultimately in-vain) heroics against Milan, Buffon was back on the biggest stage to try and thwart Barcelona. He couldn't stop the Spanish giants winning the game, but he did pull off this remarkable stop.

21. He has launched his own brand of red wine

Fairly apt for a player who has only improved with age...

22. His solid 4/10 knitwear

Distracting us from the fact that he's drinking a glass of a wine named after himself, let's all enjoy Gianluigi's very cosy-looking jumper.

23. He somehow makes even anti-dandruff shampoo seem cool

Not entirely sure where all of his fictional teammates are here, but at least he's dandruff-free.

24. His Facebook poem to the goal behind him

I was 12 when I turned my back on you. I renounced my past to guarantee you a secure future.

A choice of heart. A choice of instinct. On the very day when I stopped looking at your face, however, I began to love you. To protect you. To be your first and last defense tool. I promised myself that I would do everything I could to avoid crossing your gaze. Or to do it as little as possible. But every occasion was a pain, I had to turn around to realize I had disappointed you.

Again. One more time.

We have always been opposite and complementary, like the Moon and the Sun. Forced to live side by side without ever being able to touch. Life companions who are denied contact.

Over 25 years ago I made my vow: I swore to protect you and guide. I made a shield against your enemies. I've always thought of your own good. And all the times I've turned to look at you, I've been trying to support your disappointed face, but feeling guilty.

I was 12 when I turned my back on my goal. And I'll keep doing it. As long as legs, head and heart hold.

It's brilliant.

25. Doing his bit for the Goalkeepers' Union

"[Is a big save as important as a goal?] I honestly think it is. Goalkeepers know that it's hard for them to make up for any mistakes they might commit. It's a position that demands total concentration. You can never afford to relax."

26. His favourite save came in a World Cup final

"[What's the most important save you've ever made in your career?] It's very hard to pick one out in particular. Luckily, I've had quite a few, though I think one I made from Zinedine Zidane in the final at the 2006 World Cup in Germany was probably the most decisive."

27. He can turn aspiring strikers and midfielders into goalkeepers just by saying "hello"

That's Italy's next generation of goalkeepers sorted.

28. He somehow made goalkeeping analogous to mattresses

Both involve being horizontal at some point, in fairness.

29. He seduced a 50-foot-tall female terrorist to apparently save the world

Buffon's most peculiar commercial work of all, in which he becomes the world's last resort -- after heavy artillery has failed -- to tame a giant, scantily-clad woman with laser eyes.

30. His left wrist somehow survived a Roberto Carlos free kick

Unorthodox, and slightly dangerous, but ultimately effective.

31. This absolutely preposterous save

A 1998 World Cup warm-up match against Paraguay demonstrated Italy's incredible goalkeeping strength in depth. When your third-choice keeper can do this, you're probably alright in that department...

32. This save against Inter in 2000

The full-stretch dive is impressive enough: the reaction from Roberto Baggio on the sideline is just the icing on the cake.

33. This other save against Inter in 1997

"Miracolo" exclaims the commentator, which is about right.

34. He has worn some of the most questionable goalkeeper shirts in history

This is a seriously dubious shirt. This one looks like bad wrapping paper, while this one has a combination of stripes and colours that just shouldn't be together.

35. He moved to Juventus 17 years ago, and the transfer fee is still huge

It cost £33m in 2001 to prise Buffon away from Parma, a fee that remained the highest-ever for a goalkeeper until last summer when Manchester City signed Ederson. Allowing for inflation, though, Buffon's fee would be around £60m today.

36. He wore Italy's new outfield shirt in goal

Who better to model the brand new Azzurri kit than the goalkeeper who will never actually wear it?

37. Even referees find him irresistible

Bless him.

38. His acting skills are better than those of the average footballer

There's a slight Wes Anderson-esque quality to his performance here, perhaps.

39. This save against Georgia in 2009

It's one of those saves that makes a striker wonder if it perhaps isn't their day.

40. Buffon has no time for your modern technology

"We were told it would be used sparingly, in a fair and logical manner. Instead, it's like we're playing water polo. It's making the game ugly."

Buffon is no fan of VAR and chalked one up for the humans by saving the first-ever Serie A penalty awarded by a video referee back in August.

Adam Hurrey analyses the language of football. You can follow him on Twitter: @FootballCliches.


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