3 Potential Long-Term Replacements for Gigi Buffon at Juventus
Having stuck with them through their hellish adventure in the Serie B, Gigi has played 430 competitive matches with the Bianconeri and at 35 years old, has another three years in the tank before he sails off into the sunset.
However, the moment will come when Juventus cannot rely anymore on Buffon's sure-handed grip between the pipes, and the time to think ahead starts now. He is a beloved figure among the Bianconeri faithful, and also a catalyst on the Italian national team who can be looked at as one of the main reasons why Italy won the World Cup in 2006.
It'll be up to Juventus to groom the ultimate prodigy who can instantly slot in and start a legacy of his own. Here are three prospects who can realistically take over for the unimaginable day when Gianluigi Buffon will retire.
The 20-year-old Nicola Leali is the most realistic name to take over for Buffon on this list, as he was actually compared to the legend during his Brescia days two years ago.
The daunting task of replacing a legend like Buffon is enough to frighten even the cockiest of youngsters, but the young goalkeeper has drawn praise for having poise well beyond his years.
Juventus knew they had to pull the trigger and signed Leali, sending him to Serie B-side Lanciano for this season where he could get consistent playing time and continue improving his craft. Leali has shown improvement, as his vision on the pitch and timing on corners has continued to get stronger.
Although still relatively inexperienced, the former Brescia youth product Nicola Leali should be brought back to Juventus for next season, where he will most likely serve as the second choice goalkeeper.
Another 20-year-old phenom coming through the Italian ranks, Mattia Perin has the edge over Leali as he already has had his Serie A experience this season with Pescara.
Even though the Delfini have benched him to avoid paying an appearance bonus, the Genoa-owned Perin has already stolen the spotlight a few times this season. His moment of glory came when he set the new record for saves against Fiorentina in any of the top European leagues this season.
Perin has already drawn the eye of other Italian giants such as Milan, and will be an absolute pearl for any team to pick up. His main attribute are his reflexes, and the video posted above shows just what a game-changer the youngster can be when he's in the groove. However, Mattia has been caught out with poor positioning several times, but that is a normal deficiency for such a young keeper.
The Atalanta man, Consigli, will be right in his prime when Gianluigi Buffon should realistically retire, even though people like Marco Ballotta have taught us that a keeper can continue to play competitively into his early forties with the right training.
Although there haven't been any noteworthy links between Juventus and Consigli, he's one to watch as he has impressed in the past few years with Bergamo-side Atalanta.
Known for his one-on-one ability, Consigli has also drawn the eye of Italian national team coach Cesare Prandelli and was called up to the Azzurri last year as a reserve.