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 Post subject: Buffon still leading by example at Juventus
#1PostPosted: 29. Jan 2016, 12:52 
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For some players, age chases them, catches up and makes fool of them. For others, it simply adds to their veneration.

Juventus‘ captain Gianluigi Buffon enjoyed his 38th birthday on Thursday, and celebrated in his own way.

The morning was spent at Vinovo, the club’s training centre just outside Turin, where his departure was greeted with fans holding banners and greetings cards. The goalkeeper arrived by car, signed a few autographs and posed for selfies, then set about training.

Yet he has shown time and again that, while he is well able to keep up with the demands of top-level goalkeeping, his position as captain requires more than just goalkeeping drills and fitness. One must listen to teammates, understand their experiences, and be able to intervene when they need it.

His influence in even this, his 21st year in Serie A, is undimmed. His saves have been crucial, but his words perhaps more so. After defeat to Sassuolo in October, he spoke up to remind the players of their responsibilities. They listened. He spoke openly to Alvaro Morata recently, and since then the Spanish striker has returned to form.

None of this would happen if he didn’t come from a position of strength within the team. Buffon took the lead in the Bianconeri’s revival after a rocky start, demonstrating, first with saves from Raheem Sterling and Yaya Toure against Manchester City that fully exemplified how he earned his ‘San Gigi’ sobriquet, that there was light at the end of that tunnel.

He repeated the performance in the return against the Citizens and Borussia Monchengladbach, but still couldn’t inspire the side to their expected levels in Serie A. The defeat in Reggio Emilia was the last straw.

Buffon castigated his teammates in an interview after the loss, and his words carried gravitas. He told them in the dressing room the day afterwards that there was no time for excuses – it was sink or swim. They swam, and have racked up 11 wins in a row since.

The veteran gloveman realised, too, that Morata needed help. He took the Spaniard aside, into a room on his own and told him to stop feeling sorry for himself and to react against his poor form and his critics. Morata responded and there has been a marked improvement since then.

There have been more examples of ‘San Gigi’ intervening when he was needed most. A face-off between Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini looked in danger of boiling over. Buffon stepped in and calmed the situation. Even from the bench, he spoke to Simone Zaza during a Coppa Italia win over Lazio to ease the mood of the emotional striker.

As one of the greatest goalkeepers ever, he has made hundreds of spectacular saves. In his role of captain, he has saved Juventus’ season – and that might be the most impressive feat of all.


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