Twenty two years ago, 17-year old Gianluigi Buffon was resting in a hotel camped by Parma a day to a classic showdown with AC Milan.
The Crociati had just finalized the training for the day and in the process, lost chief goalkeeper Luca Bucci to injury.
Coach Nevio Scala was said to have visited little Gianluigi later that night and informed the teenager he would be thrown into the starting line-up. With the very composure that Gigi will later come to be known for, he succeeded in shutting out an AC Milan attack boasting of Roberto Baggio and George Weah, keeping a clean sheet and effectivelyannouncing his name to Italian football.
Years on, and none could be more symbolic nor popular than the Tuscany-born as far as Italian football goalies go. Gianluigi has become a legend and not just any legend but the type that are lucky and good enough to be viewed from a decentralized template.
Just like Totti and to some extent Andrea Pirlo, Buffon is the kind of player whose reverence thrives above rivalry, tribe or language. There are some players whose substitution even during a derby compels every spectator both for and against to register a standing ovation. Gigi is one of such.
His trophy count stands almost as tall as his illustrious career: 10Scudetti, 4Coppa Italias, a World Cup but zero Champions League titles. Right there is the dent lurking behind his personal stats ready to rob him of an ultimate legend status.
Prior to the Cardiff final, Buffon appeared in 2 Champions League finals – the first against Milan in 2003while the second, two years ago against Barcelona – and was on the losing side in both cases.
Last Saturday’s final against Real Madrid offered him the opportunity to correct that defect unfortunatelythe same old sad story refused to go. A legend still.