One hushed failing of the FIFA Ballon d’Or ceremony was the absence of Gianlugi Buffon.
Buffon, who has been an impenetrable fortress for both Juventus and Italy was left off of the October listing, placed behind Manuel Neuer, Iker Casillas, Thibaut Courtois, Claudio Bravo, and David Ospina.
The fact is, Buffon is one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, and even at 37 he deserves to be on the list well in front of Courtois, Bravo, and Ospina. Here’s a snapshot of Buffon’s resume:
- Most capped player of the Italian national team (154)
- Named on of the world’s greatest living players (2004)
- Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year (10 times)
- Only goalkeeper to win UEFA Club Footballer of the Year 2003
- IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper four times
- Called up for 5 World Cups
- Amassed titles: 2 Coppa Italia, UEFA Cup, 6 Supercoppa Italiana, 6 Serie A titles
The list goes on, but you get the point. There’s no identifiable reason that Buffon should be excluded given not only his prestige, but the fact that he helped lead Juventus to a Champion’s League Final last year.
Even more evidence Buffon finished second in the votes for the actual Ballon d’Or in 2006. For those all-around sport heads that’s like a college football kicker finishing second in the running for the Heisman trophy.
The Italian Football Federation requested that Buffon and his coach Antonio Conte boycott the Ballon d’Or vote to vocalize their discontent with FIFA’s decision to leave the legend off the October list.
Buffon and coach both withheld their votes for the ceremony, but the Italian media still cast theirs.
If none of that convinces you, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who never compliments anyone, ever, had this to say about Gianluigi Buffon,
“The best goalkeeper I have ever faced was Buffon. When I was at Juventus, it was already difficult to get past Cannavaro and Thuram in defense during training sessions. If I managed to get past them, then I would find Buffon, and it was almost impossible to beat him!”
It’s an anomaly that speaks to a greater problem within the FIFA structure, snubbing legendary players simply because they’re 37 years old cheapens the award ceremony as a whole.
It doesn’t matter if Gianluigi is playing in his fifties, if he’s dominant he deserves to be on that stage in January.
FIFA would do good to recognize and rectify that for next year.