Gigi Buffon on leadership, legacy, and the future of Italian football


Legendary former Juventus goalkeeper Gigi Buffon talked about his new role in the Italy delegation and his own experiences at the 2006 World Cup. Speaking with Tuttosport, Buffon recounted the tumultuous period during the Azzurri’s World Cup victory, which included Calciopoli, with Juventus, Milan and Fiorentina facing severe penalties:

Buffon began by reminiscing about the influence of Gigi Riva, the iconic Italian forward:

“The experiences we live are perceived more strongly if they are linked to memories of the past and if they were somehow ‘introduced’ to us when we were young. I owe my introduction to Riva to my father, who explained this man’s choices to me. Difficult, unconventional choices, not convenient ones that helped create the myth: a champion who showed the conviction to do what he believed was right. I remember the first time I arrived at Coverciano, he came up to me and hugged me, as he did with everyone. I was petrified. It was like being embraced by a deity.”

Buffon also discussed the tumultuous period of Calciopoli and the 2006 World Cup, highlighting Riva’s critical role during that time:

“For us Azzurri, he was a reference point and a friend you knew you could count on. His ‘silence,’ for instance: he didn’t gossip. During Germany 2006, when we were in the midst of Calciopoli, we found a pillar in him. Without him, I don’t know if we could have won. The world was shaking, and you could cling to him.”

Buffon shared the unique bond he had with Riva, reflecting on how their relationship developed:

“He took me to heart. I was 18, exuberant, and chaotic. He liked that, and we built an empathy. I could joke with him and even mock him about sensitive things, even in the group. For example, he was very nervous before matches and had a ‘treasure chest’ with anxiolytics. We lightened this with humor, and at the end of the World Cup, he said: I’ll have a lot of debts with all the pills you made me take! He did it on purpose to create a sense of unity.”

Discussing his role as head of delegation, Buffon expressed his respect for those who came before him, like Riva and Vialli:

“After Riva and Vialli… Two of the four or five people in the world of football I respected the most. I reflected on the fact that my role couldn’t be to compete with them because their stature and impact are unmatched. I don’t feel up to their level. I must give my best without trying to outdo Vialli or Riva.”

Buffon talked about his current involvement with the team and how he interacts with the players:

“I’m having fun, the coach involves me, and the directors consult with me. And the guys look for me. I let myself be teased; I need to drop to a high level of immaturity to then convey certain messages when I want to be serious. This way, they understand that when I say certain things, I’m not trying to be the old man or explain life. I do it for a reason.”

Finally, Buffon expressed his optimistic outlook for the Italian national team’s future:

“We are an excellent team, underrated. This is good, knowing the Italian spirit. We have four individuals of great caliber and an added value: the coach with his staff. He has instilled passion, dedication, seriousness, and responsibility. I’m not saying we will win, but we will not fail. This means always trying to win, playing the matches, being brave.”


Serie A obsessive.