3. pro 2007.

Gianluigi "Gigi" Buffon, Cavaliere Ufficiale OMRI[1][2], (born January 28, 1978 in Carrara) is an Italian FIFA World Cup-winning goalkeeper who currently plays for Italian Serie A club Juventus F.C. and the Italian national team.

Early life and family

Gianluigi Buffon was born into a sporting family. His mother, Maria Stella, was a discus thrower, his father, Adriano, a weightlifter, his two sisters Veronica and Guendalina played volleyball and his uncle, Angelo Masocco, played basketball. He is also a nephew of goalkeeping legend Lorenzo Buffon (a cousin of Gianluigi's grandfather). Buffon is engaged to Czech model Alena Seredova; the couple are expecting a son in February of 2008.

[edit] Club career

In 1995, at the age of 17, Buffon was signed by Parma A.C., and made his Serie A debut against A.C. Milan. In his fourth season with the club, he won the UEFA Cup. He transferred from Parma to Juventus F.C. in 2001, for a world-record goalkeeper's fee of €52 million. In 2003, he received the UEFA Most Valuable Player and Best Goalkeeper awards, and was named by Pelé as one of the top 125 greatest living footballers in March 2004. During the annual Luigi Berlusconi Trophy match against Milan in August 2005, Buffon collided with Milan midfielder Kaká while chasing a loose ball, and suffered a dislocated shoulder that required surgery. His operation was successful and he returned to the pitch in November, but played only once as another injury returned him to the sidelines until January. He recovered in time to help lead Juventus to their second consecutive Scudetto and his fourth overall with the club.

On May 12, 2006, Buffon, along with former Juventus goalkeeper Antonio Chimenti and many other players, were implicated as participants in illegal betting on Serie A matches while with Parma. The following day, he voluntarily allowed himself to be questioned by Turin magistrates in an attempt to clear his name. While admitting that he did bet on sports (until regulations went into effect in late 2005, banning players from doing so), he vehemently denied placing wagers on Italian football matches. Fears arose that he had jeopardized his chance of playing in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, but he was officially named Italy's starting goalkeeper on May 15. The players were cleared of all charges by the FIGC on June 27, 2007. [3]

Juventus were relegated to Serie B on July 14, 2006, and deducted thirty points as part of the verdict of the Italian match-fixing scandal; the deduction was later reduced to 17 and then to 9 under appeal, but their last two Scudetti were erased from the record books. Rumors about a transfer for Buffon subsequently spread, and many teams became interested in his services.[4] However, no deals ever materialized as Buffon elected to remain with Juventus; his agent said, "Serie B is a division he has never won and he wants to try to do this." A.C. Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani stated in April 2007 that Buffon's decision to stay proved a catalyst in re-signing incumbent Dida.[1]

After Juventus won the Cadetti and were promoted back into the top flight, Buffon signed a contract extension that will keep him at the club until 2012.[2]

On September 21, 2007, Football Italia reported that Buffon nearly signed with A.S. Roma in 2001 following his departure from Parma, but team president Franco Sensi instead opted for Atalanta B.C. keeper Ivan Pelizzoli, who averaged less than fifteen appearances in five seasons with Roma. Buffon also claimed that he wouldn't have signed with Roma had he left Juventus in 2006. “That was never a possibility really...I don’t think that Roma had the finances to make an investment of such a nature.”[3]

[edit] International career

Buffon was awarded his first cap for Italy when he was only 19 years old, as an injury replacement for Gianluca Pagliuca during a 1998 FIFA World Cup play-off against Russia. He was called up for the 1998 World Cup finals, but did not play a single game as Pagliuca remained first choice. He was a member of the Italy squad at the 1996 Summer Olympics, the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004.

He kept seven clean sheets in addition to a 453-minute scoreless streak during the 2006 World Cup finals; the only goals conceded were an own goal from teammate Cristian Zaccardo against the United States, and a Zinedine Zidane penalty in the final against France, which ended scoreless in extra time and led to a penalty shootout in which neither Buffon or Fabien Barthez could make a save. The lone miss was David Trezeguet's effort that clanged off the bottom of the crossbar and failed to cross the line, which enabled Italy to emerge victorious. Buffon received the Yashin Award for his accomplishments throughout the competition.