Gianluigi Buffon has defied his advancing years with consistent form that has dragged Juventus right back into the Serie A title mix.
The 37-year-old goalkeeper made his top-flight debut two decades ago for Parma against AC Milan on November 19, 1995, consequently giving an indication of the success that was to follow with a clean sheet.
Buffon has gone on to enjoy an amazing career when forming the cornerstone of six Scudetti, one UEFA Cup and two Coppa Italia trophies at club level.
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Additionally, the veteran stopper has featured at five separate World Cup finals – winning the 2006 edition – and is widely recognised as one of the finest protagonists of his art.
He’s a ‘keeper that all others wish to emulate, including heir apparent Gianluigi Donnarumma, who recently made his AC Milan bow aged 16 to much fanfare.
But, Donnarumma and company will be made to wait for their coronation on current evidence, as Buffon’s powers show little sign of diminishing.
Following four successive Serie A title triumphs, it was a brutal beginning to 2015-16 for all concerned at Juventus.
Injuries, lack of form and a mass exodus of big names during the summer left coach Massimiliano Allegri scrambling around for new signings and a suitable formation.
It simply wasn’t working out, with Juve languishing in the bottom half of the league table until the tenth round of fixtures.
However, five domestic league wins on the trot, alongside a hugely satisfactory Champions League campaign to date, have put the Bianconeri back in the hunt.
Club captain Buffon has been instrumental in the turnaround, despite his earlier form having mirrored that of his inconsistent team-mates.
A massively disappointing 1-0 reverse at upstarts Sassuolo on October 28 seemingly represented a nadir in Juventus’ season, with many stars forced to accept an assortment of home truths being flung at them from all quarters.
Questions were raised suggesting it was the end of an era for this golden generation: had the Old Lady’s dominance of Italian football finally concluded? Were they too old, too slow, over the hill?
It was high-time for the Turin giants to stand up and be counted – or it was going to be curtains for their championship hopes.
BACK ON TRACK
Juventus have responded admirably; they’re currently seven matches unbeaten in all competitions, with Buffon’s displays improving steadily with four consecutive shut-outs.
His recent showing against European foes Manchester City was right out of the top drawer, as the Italian international produced a series of key saves to thwart the visitors.
It was vintage Buffon, and his peers also stepped up to the plate to ensure their spot in the Champions League last 16 with one game to spare.
Meanwhile, the reigning league champions are six points away from the Serie A pinnacle, but with almost two-thirds of the campaign left to contest.
Momentum is building rapidly, and it’d be no surprise to witness Juve usurping their various rivals in the not-too-distant future.
And, at the base of any success that last year’s beaten Champions League finalists may achieve will be the evergreen Buffon, who remains integral to Juventus’ cause.
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