Life In 280 Characters: Buffon To Secure Ballon d’Or

Gianluigi Buffon, alongside Italian counterpart, Andrea Barzagli, sat out Juventus’ recent 3-2 Serie A defeat to Sampdoria due to the pair’s struggles at moving on from Italy’s failure to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia – the Russians will have to put polonium into someones else’s pasta, now.

The outcry over the absence of the Italians, and Buffon in particular, given that in the last two World Cups, the Azzuri have managed a total of five points, six goals and not one escape from the group stages, is all a bit over the top.

But football is a game that is now so much more than the 90 minutes on the pitch; it’s now about brands, it’s about social media and it’s about making sure your ‘retweet to tweet’ ratio is greater than your goals to game?.

Buffon is a master of this, and has capitalised on a generation that blindly wanders down a corridor of heroes and brand awareness – fair play to Ivan Rakitic and Jordi Alba for successfully jumping in the Italian giant’s slipstream.

For all cynicism around whether Buffon really is this suave, loveable and affable chap he portrays himself as, there’s no denying that for two decades, the Juventus favourite has been one hell of a goalkeeper.

The former Parma shot-stopper finds himself as one of the three goalkeepers on the Ballon d’Or shortlist – alongside Atletico Madrid’s, Jan Oblak, and Manchester United’s, David de Gea – and given the fanfare around the ‘brand’ Buffon, it could be the year that the recently retired Italian No.1 becomes the first goalkeeper since Lev Yashin in 1963 to win the award.

Social media is now how we gauge perception of all things from politics to television, and tracking mentions over the last month for the three goalkeeping candidates came back exactly as you’d expect – disclaimer: strictly when their full name was mentioned – Twitter is firmly behind Gianluigi Buffon as the greatest goalkeeper for the year of 2017.

With all its developments and statistical insight, it feels somewhat backwards that the beautiful game still views great goalscorers and creative midfielders as a cut above the players who take a defensive role in a side – N’Golo Kante’s influence on the Premier League is greater than that of Patrick Vieira, Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, and yet the Chelsea defensive-midfielder will never enter discussions for the best ever XI.

It’s viewed as messy to run a lot, it’s deemed unattractive to be intercepting on a regular basis and football fans, journalists and pundits rarely fail to appreciate that the likes of Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas are able to thrive thanks to the N’Golo Kantes of this world.

Buffon may well be the highest-placed goalkeeper on the Ballon d’Or list, but to think the goalkeeping great will be anywhere inside the top 10 would be foolish – and if Buffon, a man with the footballing talent and brand, can’t break the monopoly that the strikers’ have, then what chance does someone like David de Gea, a better goalkeeper, but with no real affinity with the social media generation, have?!

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