Superman to Play With Pain: Is Gianluigi Buffon Making the Right Choice?

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Superman to Play With Pain: Is Gianluigi Buffon Making the Right Choice?
(Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

The injury bug, not the one that stung Fabio Cannavaro and caused the whole doping controversy this past week, is making it's annual tour through the Juventus squad.

First, it was the big summer signing, Diego, fighting muscle strains in the pre-season, and then just two games into the season. Then it was Cannavaro himself going down with a thigh injury in the middle of September. Friday morning brought the news that midfielder Claudio Marchisio needed surgery to repair a meniscus problem in his right knee.

And now, a day after his country qualifies for the 2010 World Cup, news comes out that goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, like Marchisio, will need surgery on his knee because of a meniscus problem.

The difference between Marchisio and Buffon is that the former had surgery over the weekend, and will be out in around six weeks, while the latter will try to tough it out until the Derby d'Italia on Dec. 5. However, it's not a lock that he will make it that far, and he admitted that when he revealed the news about needing surgery.

Oh, what a little predicament we have on our hands.

At first glance, you see a player saying they want to play through an injury, and you have the fear that it could get even worse. If Juve were to lose Buffon for an extended period of time, the impact would be huge.

Every save Buffon will make from now until he goes under the knife, you’re going to be thinking that’s the save that might be the one that makes the pain unbearable. Just one bad landing on a cross could cause his knee to buckle, and things would get worse than before.

So, is putting off surgery the right move for a player that is so vital to Juve's cause?

In terms of the attempt to put it off until after the match against Inter, it’s a very smart choice. With the surgery being put off until the first weekend in December, Buffon won’t miss a large chunk of the schedule, instead just the two remaining matches against Bari and Cantania before the winter break begins.

However, having the surgery after the Inter match does mean he will miss a potentially crucial Champions League match against Bayern Munich that could determine Juve’s fait in Europe. Backup Alex Manninger, who did a great job filling in for Buffon for almost the entire first half of the season, will take his place.

This is no dig at Manninger whatsoever, but nobody is better than Buffon.

What’s ironic is that we learned that Buffon has been playing with this injury for quite some time according to Italy team doctor Enrico Castellaci, who revealed the information after the Azzurri's 2-2 draw against Ireland on Saturday. That means, despite the knee injury, he's back on his best form after a injury plagued 2008-09 campaign.

Some of the saves we have seen the 31-year-old Buffon make this season are some of the best we have seen in quite some time. His saves have not only kept Juve in games, they have also won Juve games. He has been the one constant force in an otherwise still-questionable defensive group.

Any sign of his now-public knee injury hasn't been noticeable at all. Buffon has been simply incredible this season. Simple as that.

You don't want to see him further injure himself, but if he thinks that he can't get any worse and wants to keep playing, there is no reason to stop him. He has earned the right to say when he can play.

The man has devoted himself to this club through thick and thin. He is one of the most honest and loyal players in the entire world. He wouldn't dare to do anything that would hurt the Juve product on the field.

While playing injured sounds worrisome, remember who is the one that's injured.

In the end, athletes know their body the best. If Buffon wants to, and thinks he can play through the pain, who is to stop the best at their respective position from doing so?

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