Childhood & Early Life
Gianluigi Buffon was born in Carrara, Italy, on January 28, 1978, into a family of national level athletes. His father, Adriano, was a weightlifter, while his mother, Maria, was a discus thrower. Buffon grew up among two sisters, who were also inclined toward sports since childhood.
For Buffon, his parents remained an inspiration, throughout his childhood, and the athletic genes that he possessed made him hit the field at the age of 5. His father started working as a PE teacher, once he retired from professional sports, and both his parents concentrated on making their children world-level athletes.
He is said to have struggled initially to find the best sport to follow, and eventually found football to be the one. When he was six years of age, his parents enrolled him in a football training school, where he had a smooth career, beginning as a midfielder. This early training turned out to be great for Buffon and his skills started improving by the year.
Buffon was always a great midfielder but around the time he attained teenage, his interest started shifting from being a striker to a keeper. This was mostly due to Thomas N’Kono, Buffon’s idol, who was a keeper from Cameroon.
The biggest turning point of his career came in the year 1992, when he joined ‘Parma F.C.’ for their youth system. For the next few years, he showed excellent sportsmanship and mesmerized everyone with his electric performance as a goalkeeper.
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After being with the club for a few years, he finally joined them as a senior in 1995 and played a major role in Parma qualifying for the ‘UEFA U-21 Championship’ in the same year. Most of the matches that he played in, as a goalkeeper, were because of the injuries faced by the regular goalkeepers, and by the year 1997, he became a regular starter.
In the next few years, Buffon showed his critics how, given the right chance, he could prove that he was all set for greatness. He safeguarded the net against many teams and played a major role in earning his team the ‘Italian Cup,’ the ‘Italian Supercup’ and the ‘UEFA Cup’ in the late 90s.
He also went through some ups and downs during this time. He played for the national Italian team, in the ‘World Cup’ qualifier tournament in 1997, but was dropped for the tournament, which was slated to take place a year later. The 2000 ‘European Championship’ had a similar story, but this time, a broken hand was the culprit behind his ouster from the tournament.
Despite these slight hitches, his skills were never questioned, and he was signed on by ‘Juventus FC’ in 2001 for 45 million dollars, which was a new record, as far as goalkeepers were concerned.
The decision of buying him for such a hefty sum was met with a lot of backlash, but he proved his worth by aiding his team in winning the next four league titles in a row. He also helped his team win two ‘Italian Supercups’ and earned the ‘UEFA Club Footballer of the Year Award’ in 2003. The 2002 ‘FIFA World Cup’ brought his immense talents of goalkeeping among the international crowd.
In the year 2006, he faced a major setback in his career, due to betting charges, in the scandal which is infamously known as the ‘Calciopoli Scandal.’ This controversy threatened to halt his superbly growing career, and his performances too faltered during this time. His club performed way below its abilities and lost two league titles.
With the mounting pressure of firing Buffon, even after he was cleared of the charges, ‘Juventus’ decided on retaining him. He went on to lead his team for the 2006 ‘FIFA World Cup.’ He performed marvelously and gave away just two goals. By the end of the year, he was named the ‘IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper’ and earned the ‘Yashin Award.’
The same year, he narrowly missed the ‘Ballon d’Or.
He aimed to carry on his magnificent performance during the 2010 ‘FIFA World Cup,’ but a back pain kept him from representing his team in the biggest international sporting event of the year. He performed greatly during the ‘European Championships’ and found himself a place in the World teams of 2008 and 2012.
Meanwhile, his highly successful run with ‘Juventus’ continued, and his performance led the team to secure back-to-back first division titles in 2012 and 2013. While facing the issues that come with age, he kept proving his critics wrong, and his game only improved as the years passed.
In the 2013 ‘Italian Supercup’ final match, he gave away no goals and ensured his team a major victory. He had broken many records by then, and he was already hailed as the greatest goalkeeper of the twenty-first century, with many soccer scholars calling him the greatest goalkeeper of all times.
In the 2014 ‘World Cup,’ Buffon represented his team as the captain, and although the team managed to perform poorly overall, Buffon received praises for his style and technique.
In October 2016, Buffon made his 126th appearance for his national team and was heartbroken by the team’s poor performance on international grounds. He had expressed his wish to retire after the ‘FIFA World Cup’ 2018, but when his team failed to qualify for the tournament, he retired immediately. He continues to play for Juventus though.
Gianluigi Buffon is known to be quite a hot-headed goalkeeper on the ground and in the dressing room. While most of his teammates loathe this eccentric behavior, some call it the right attitude. He had once publicly said that this was his style of motivating his team and he would keep doing it.
Buffon met Alena Seredova in 2005 and they started dating right away. Alena, a supermodel, is from the Czech Republic. The couple got married in the year 2011. They had a son in 2007, and another in 2009. Unfortunately, in 2014, they announced that they had separated.
After his divorce with Alena, Buffon started a relationship with TV presenter Ilaria D’Amico. Buffon and Ilaria had a son in 2016, and the couple announced their engagement in 2017.
During the season of 2003–2004, Buffon had faced bouts of intense depression, and he later claimed in interviews that he was contemplating suicide at one point. He refused to take any medicine and recovered all by himself.