Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon celebrates with Kylian Mbappe, Caen v PSG, 02 March 2019

A ridiculous Xl of Gigi Buffon’s team-mates who were born after his debut

At 45 years old, and with over 1,000 career appearances to his name, Gianluigi Buffon has announced his retirement. 

Buffon made his Serie A debut for Parma at the age of 17, keeping a clean sheet in a 0–0 home draw against AC Milan in November 1995 and is still going strong over 28 years later.

After a glittering career that saw him win countless trophies for club and country, he saw out the final years of his career, back where it all began at Parma.

We’ve compiled an Xl of Buffon’s former team-mates who were born after he made his professional debut.

GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma

Widely regarded as Buffon’s heir, Donnarumma made his international debut against France in September 2016, becoming the youngest goalkeeper to ever play for Italy aged 17 years and 189 days.

“A goalkeeper to follow me? At the moment the most interesting is Donnarumma,” Buffon told COPA90 in 2017.

“At a European level he’s the youngest and it’s normal that there’s curiosity surrounding him. He’s a lad with extraordinary skills.”

It proved a good call – Donnarumma has proven himself Buffon’s undisputed heir, and even followed in his footsteps by lifting silverware with the Azzurri at Euro 2020.

RB: Thilo Kehrer

Like Buffon, Kehrer joined PSG in 2018, but it’s fair to say they were at slightly different stages of their careers.

The Germany international moved to West Ham last summer and gradually improved as the season progressed. He appeared as a substitute in their Europa Conference League final victory over Fiorentina.

CB: Matthijs de Ligt

Buffon had already gone to a World Cup and made over 100 senior appearances for Parma before De Ligt was born in August 1999.

The goalkeeper returned to Juventus for a second spell in 2019 and De Ligt followed him through the door a few days later. He’s now turning out for German giants Bayern Munich.

Considering the 21-year age gap between the pair, we doubt they had too much in common off the pitch.

CB: Martin Demiral

Having primarily played with the likes of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini during his first spell at Juventus, Buffon ended his second stint with the Old Lady alongside some fresher faces.

Demiral didn’t make his senior debut until February 2017, by which point Buffon had already won seven Serie A titles and three Italian Cups.

LB: Gianluca Frabotta

A relatively unknown name, Frabotta has spent the majority of his career in Serie C but made his Serie A debut for Juventus in August 2020.

CM: Arthur

Arthur joined Barcelona in 2018 and was initially regarded as the heir to Xavi, a player who made his senior debut three years after Buffon.

The Brazil international moved to Juventus in 2020 but struggled for minutes with the Old Lady. A loan move to Liverpool was marred by a constant stream of injuries.

CM: Rodrigo Bentancur

A product of the Boca Juniors youth academy, Bentacur made his senior debut in April 2015 and became a Juventus player two years later.

“On my first day, Buffon received me in this incredible way. He surprised me, as he knew who I was, he knew my name,” Bentancur told Sport 890 in 2017. “He’s a phenomenon and always gives me advice. Buffon is on another level.”

The Uruguay international is now at Tottenham, where he continues to shine despite the club’s turmoil.

RW: Federico Chiesa

Chiesa was born in October 1997, at a time when his father Enrico was team-mates with Buffon at Parma.

The winger then made his Serie A debut for Fiorentina against Buffon’s Juventus in 2016 before moving to the Allianz Stadium four years later.

“The first time I faced Chiesa, I was disoriented. It was my first time playing against the son of a former team-mate and I thought it might be time to retire,” Buffon told Eurosport in 2019.

“However, I’ve taken on a few now and consider it a gift from life, something to be happy about.”

CAM: Christopher Nkunku

Nkunku joined local club PSG at the age of 13 and made his professional debut for the club in December 2015.

He failed to establish himself as a first-team regular and moved to Bundesliga side RB Leipzig in 2019. His goals and impressive performances earnt him the dubious honour of moving to Chelsea, where he should start the season as Mauricio Pochettino’s first choice striker.

LW: Kingsley Coman

Coman joined Juventus in 2014 but famously scored against Buffon while on loan at Bayern Munich in 2015-16 before completing a permanent move to the Bundesliga side.

The 27-year-old has lifted the Champions League trophy that always agonisingly eluded Buffon, having scored the winning goal in the 2020 final against PSG.

READ: A brilliant XI of players not to win the Champions League: Ronaldo, Buffon…

ST: Kylian Mbappe

Mbappe’s senior debut came 20 years almost to the day after Buffon’s, becoming Monaco’s youngest-ever first-team player aged 16 years and 347 days.

The France international joined PSG in 2017 and built an excellent relationship with Buffon during their solitary season together.

“It’s only normal that Kylian, who is 20, thinks of me as a father figure or even a grandpa. But I think that’s nice,” Buffon told CNN in 2019.

“I’ve experienced so many wonderful things in my career. Firstly as a young, adolescent, cocky player who was surrounded by older players and my mission then was to be accepted by them.

“Then as a young man, and lastly as an older man who meets a young man who was just like me when I was the same age.

“This is all part of the difficulties of life, and you understand how different people’s opinions are, and by changing your point of view over time you see how things can be different. But I must say it’s all part of the rich fabric of life.

“And when I joke about with Kylian, we have a friendly rapport and it feels like we’re the same age. The way I see it, we have to find common ground and I have to act in a younger way and he has to think along the lines of someone slightly older perhaps.”

Subs: Alex Meret, Giovani Lo Celso, Weston McKennie, Dejan Kulusevski, Moussa Diaby, Timothy Weah, Moise Kean.

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