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Buffon, the accidental making of an icon

Publish on 26/08/2018 at 22:00

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Gianluigi Buffon might not have ever become one of the game's all-time great goalkeepers but for a quirk of destiny as a youngster, the Paris Saint-Germain newcomer has told This is Paris on beIN SPORTS.

When Buffon arrived at the Parc des Princes from Juventus this summer, the Italian icon needed no introduction having established himself as one of football's top goalkeepers during a fairytale career that is currently in its 23rd year.

But he might never have become a legend had necessity not forced him to go between the posts.

"I started playing as a goalkeeper because one day the goalkeeper in the youth team I played in was absent, so I volunteered to fill in for him, because sometimes I had gone in goal playing with my friends and I had enjoyed it," explained the Italian. "That day I said to myself: 'I'll go in goal, why not? It will be a new experience, a bit of fun.' I realised, or rather, the coach realised, that I was actually pretty special in goal. I was 12."

"Pretty special" is an understatement. His career has seen him collect an outrageous amount of silverware, including the Serie A title in each of the last seven years with Juve, the 2006 FIFA World Cup with the Azzurri and the 2018 Trophée des Champions already with PSG.

He is held up as a role model for younger 'keepers, and — thanks to his past as an outfield player — he helped change the way the position is played with the advent of the 'sweeper 'keeper'.

"It's incredible, but I think it really helped me when I finally became a goalkeeper. It helped me understand a lot about the game and the positions, because the sweeper, or libero position is a bit like how goalkeepers play these days, so it was a great advantage," he explained.

"At the start of the 1990s, I was already passing the football with my feet when other 'keepers were using their hands. I was used to it because I started as an outfield player. In recent years, we have seen that the game is built from the back with the goalkeeper and the defenders… it all starts with the goalkeeper… I think it has been an improvement for football and also for goalkeepers."

WATCH: Buffon gets a clean sheet on winning Ligue 1 debut

At 40, Buffon is at an age when most professionals have the prefix 'ex-' in front of their profession, and the closest they get to the pitch is on its fringes as TV pundits. But the fire that has always fuelled the former Parma man still burns bright.

"I still feel very competitive. I think I can still offer something to PSG, to my teammates, to the team, that I can still help with my experience, my enthusiasm for the game… I can help… I have realised that, in sport, you win when you can all strive for a common goal… together, you can create a real unified team… and if you have a unified team you can beat anyone and win anything," he said.

"Today I trained really well for an hour with the goalkeeping coach. Then we played a little game and it was really tough because they were shooting from very close… I didn't make a single save and I conceded three goals… and I got angry… I hate losing, especially when I think I have the chance of winning… When I lose, I can be depressed for days because I keep thinking that I should have done better, that my teammates should have done better, and that if I'd said something, or made another save, we could all have done better."

 

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