Juventus: 4 Possible Replacements for Gianluigi Buffon's Eventual Retirement

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2013

Juventus: 4 Possible Replacements for Gianluigi Buffon's Eventual Retirement

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    How exactly do you replace a legend?

    For over a decade now, Gianluigi Buffon has been the man between the pipes for Juventus and the Italian national team.

    Officially the most expensive goalkeeper in the history of the game and the top stopper of the 21st century, it's safe to say you can't just replace the former World Cup winner.

    But sooner rather than later, the Bianconeri will have to. At the age of 34, Buffon still has maybe two or three good years left in him.

    In this article, we'll take a look at four potential routes Juventus could take.


Option 1: The Future Is Already Here

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    If the Juventus staff decide to go with a player already on the roster, it would be Nicola Leali.

    Leali is a promising young prospect with a lot of potential, but at this stage in his career he's little more then that.

    While at Brescia, he was one of the most sought-after prospects at his position, and Juventus were lucky to emerge victorious from the Leali sweepstakes.

    Every young Italian stopper who shows a little promise is called "The New Buffon" these days, but when Buffon was at Leali's age, he was already the full-time starter for Parma and well on his way to becoming the dominant player we know today.

    Nonetheless, the potential is there for Leali. He has good size, surprising vision for such a young player and does an excellent job at commanding his area. His reflexes are top notch, and he's been doing a good job of correcting his flaws while on loan at Lanciano.

    Six months ago, he had a lot of problems with the way he punched out shots. At the highest level, it isn't enough to just stop a shot; you have to make sure you take away the opportunity for strikers to jump on the rebound.

    But Leali has been doing a nice job of working on this facet of his game, and if you take a good look at the video, you can see he does a nice job of limiting the opportunities the opposing strikers get.

    Leali is a nice long-term project who could be ready to start for Juventus by the time Buffon decides to hang up his boots, provided he can continue his development.

Option 2: Bringing in the Biggest Talent in Italy

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    If Leali doesn't develop into the player Juventus hope he could become, the team could always take the same route it did with Buffon: buy the best young stopper Italy has to offer.

    Currently on loan at Pescara, Genoa's Mattia Perin has already been capped at the senior level at the young age of 20.

    Perrin is a very similar player to Leali in terms of physical ability and carries a similar potential, but he is already much further in his development.

    Pescara as a team is in above its head playing in the Serie A, and as a result, Perrin has had to do a lot more work than most stoppers around Italy. His statistics this season might not be all that impressive, but you can blame that on the ineptitude of his defenders.

    Perrin has the look of a future star at the position, but comparing him to Buffon is unfair. The current Juventus keeper is a once-in-a-lifetime type of player who has set the benchmark for all to follow.

    Still, if Leali doesn't pan out the way the coaching staff had hoped, Perrin could be a relatively safe option.

Option 3: Look Outside of Italy for a Future Star

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    There are a handful of young goalkeepers out there at the moment who are already impressing at a very young age, and for this article I'm going to take Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois as an example.

    Sure, Chelsea would be foolish to let a talent like Courtois depart for Juventus, but for the sake of debate, let's pretend Juve could make a deal for the youngster.

    A former volleyball player, Courtois is a giant stopper with tremendous reflexes and incredible vision for a kid that doesn't even shave yet.

    At the age of 20, he's the starting keeper for his country and has already won the Europa League with Atletico Madrid.

    Courtois isn't without faults. He's not the most vocal stopper and doesn't take full advantage of his size on crosses and corner kicks,but these are things a young player can work on.

    But if Juventus are truly looking for someone who could be the next Buffon, you're not going to get much closer than Courtois. He'd be more than ready to start in two or three years and would be able to mind the Bianconeri net for more than a decade.

Option 4: Get a Veteran Stopper

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    When talking about goalkeepers, it doesn't hurt to "buy safe." Bringing in a veteran stopper who has proven his abilities at the highest stage often is the smart move to make.

    Igor Akinfeev could be that guy.

    Not only does he have one of the coolest names in world football, the guy knows how to stop a ball.

    Akinfeev has spent the majority of his career with CSKA Moscow, becoming the team's first-choice stopper at the young age of 17.

    He had his ups and downs but has developed into a great goalkeeper along the way.

    Akinfeev is another highly athletic player with good reflexes and vision. He has an excellent command of the box and does a good job communicating with his defense. He is very fast for a goalkeeper and has solved his issues on low-body shots that plagued him during the early part of his career.

    He's 26 at the time of this article and could be ready for a foreign adventure by the time Buffon calls it quits.

    The Russian international would make for a solid immediate solution should the team be looking for a new first-choice stopper.

    So, which option would you prefer the Bianconeri take? Is Nicola Leali the future of this team, or should coach Antonio Conte take a good look at Mattia Perrin?

    Could Thibaut Courtois really come to Turin, or would you rather have Igor Akinfeev mind the net? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!