The shadow of Gigi Buffon is an unenviable one to have over you, one that takes skill and persistence to escape. But Francesco Toldo managed to cast his own shadow.
When Toldo decided to retire from rootball in 2010, Italy lost one of its greats; the towering presence’s accomplishments in Serie A and on the international stage, live on in the annals of Italian, and world, football.
Toldo experienced a frustrated start at AC Milan, which included three loan spells at Hellas Verona, Trentino Calcio and Ravenna Calcio. But after these seasons away from the San Siro, Toldo finally got the move he was after; Fiorentina in 1993.
“At Milan they never really believed in me, They loaned me out to Verona, Trente and Ravenne before Fiorentina stepped in. I never had the chance to prove what I could do but at Fiorentina I was given the opportunity”
Francesco Toldo – 2000
Aged only 22, the keeper would go on to make 266 appearances for the Italian side, spanning eight seasons and winning the Coppa Italia in 1996 and 2001. He also won the Supercoppa Italia and was named the Serie A goalkeeper of the year in 2000.
His desire to make a name for himself was clear at this point; combined with his natural talent and dedication to his footballing career. The summer of 2000 would then elevate him to international stardom.
In Dino Zoff’s Italian squad for Euro 2000, Toldo was third-choice goalkeeper, behind both Buffon and Peruzzi. Due to circumstances that saw Buffon break a finger and Peruzzi’s arrogant refusal to be a back-up, Toldo’s time had come.
He conceded only six goals in 13 matches, a remarkable feat as he faced the potent strikeforces of France, Turkey and Romania. Not forgetting a career-defining performance against the Netherlands in the semi-final.
Toldo saved not one, not two, but four penalties in the game – two saves in normal time and two in the shootout, propelling Italy into the final. Though they would later lose to France, thanks to a 93rd minute goal from Trezeguet, his fame was cemented.
“I want to say a big thank you to Toldo. He did a great job.”
After these performances, the Italian was in demand in Serie A; Toldo’s refusal to move to Parma, predicated around his desire not to be a replacement, meant he travelled west instead. Inter Milan, his next destination, would be where he would remain for the last nine years of his career.
— Francesco Toldo (@ToldoFrancesco) September 26, 2015
Often referred to by fans and pundits alike as one of the great Italian keepers; heralded for an amazing performance at Euro 2000, Toldo was then unused in subsequent tournaments. Losing his place to none other than Gigi Buffon – he later retired from international football in 2004.
Its undeniable that Francesco Toldo deserved a better chance at international level for Italy; the performance against Holland, that brought awe and adulation for the Italian keeper, would forever go down in the memory books as one of the greatest performances on the European stage.