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Three goalkeepers that define Juventus

On Nov. 1, Juventus turned 121-years old. The Old Lady was initially founded as Sport-Club Juventus in 1897 by students from the Massimo D’Azeglio Lyceum school in Turin. They would join the Italian Football Championship three years later. Since then, Juventus have accumulated an embarrassment of trophies, including a record amount of Serie A titles (34), Coppa Italias (13), and Supercoppa Italianas (7).

With 121 years of rich history, it’s no surprise that Juventus boasted some quality goalkeeping talent throughout its existence. But while many of them were great ‘keepers, only a handful of them can call themselves club icons. There are some Juventus goalkeepers that did so much for the club that they can be recognized as not just club players, but also club builders. Here are three of those goalkeepers that defined Juventus, organized by date.

Gianpiero Combi (1921-1934)

History hasn’t been kind to Gianpiero Combi. Although it’s well-known that he’s the first goalkeeper to captain his nation to World Cup glory, his position in Juventus lore deserves more recognition than a simple trivia answer. Born in Turin in 1902, Combi spent his entire 13-year career with Juventus, amassing over 360 appearances. Combi was small, standing at just under six feet, but looked big in goal thanks to his agility and commanding presence. He was nicknamed Uomo di Gomma (the Rubber Man) for his carefree but secure saves, and it was this playing style that helped him Italy clinch an Olympic Bronze Medal and the 1934 World Cup.

Juventus was around 24-years old when Combi made his debut, but they had yet to build any sort of reputation for themselves as a top tier Italian club. They only had one trophy to their name and they were still recovering from a split that saw President Alfred Dick and some players create their own club, FBC Torino (now known as Torino FC). Combi’s arrival changed that. With him in goal the Old Lady won five Serie A titles, including four-straight between 1930 and 1934. He was the first goalkeeper to win four-straight Italian league championships, and during the 1925/1926 season, he kept a clean sheet in 934 consecutive minutes, a record in Italian league football until it was bettered by Gianluigi Buffon during the 2015/2016 season. Combi helped set the foundation for Juventus to grow into the dominant Italian side it is today and it was through Combi that they got their first taste of consistent success.

Dino Zoff (1972-1983)

Where to start when talking about Dino Zoff? He’s the oldest ever winner of the World Cup, which he won in 1982 at the age of 40 years, 4 months and 13 days, he was only the second goalkeeper to captain his national team to World Cup glory, and he’s the only Italian to have won both the World Cup and the European Championship. Individually speaking, he holds the record for the longest playing time without allowing a goal in international tournaments (1142 minutes), placed second in the 1973 Ballon d’Or, and was named the third greatest goalkeeper of the 20th century by the IFFHS. Zoff is a man synonymous with success, most of which he achieved with Juventus.

Traditional but effective, Zoff built upon the achievements Gianpiero Combi set during his time with Juventus. He overtook Combi’s record for most appearances by a Juventus goalkeeper (476 to Combi’s 370) and won six league titles with the Old Lady, one more than Combi managed. Dino Zoff also left his mark continentally, something most Juve goalkeepers have failed to do. At the age of 35, he backstopped the Old lady to its first European trophy through the 1977 UEFA Cup. Zoff lifted a steady stream of silverware during his 11 seasons in Turin and he’s still the yardstick some fans use to measure today’s Italian goalkeepers.

Gianluigi Buffon (2001-2018)

656 appearances. 19 trophies. 17 seasons. One Juventus icon. Gianluigi Buffon may be the greatest goalkeeper in football history, let alone Juve’s history. There’s a reason why Juventus paid Parma nearly €52 million, a record for a goalkeeper in 2001, when he was just 23-years old. Composed and respected, Buffon is often cited as the archetype of the modern goalkeeper. He backstopped Juventus to nine Serie A titles (excluding the two that were revoked due to the Calciopoli Scandal), including seven-straight from 2011 to 2018. He’s also a four-time Coppa Italia champion with Juventus and won the Supercoppa Italiana five times. To top it all off, he backstopped Italy to the 2006 World Cup.

Although he now plies his trade with Paris Saint-Germain, Buffon is synonymous with Juventus and vice-versa. Multiple generations of us have grown up watching Buffon work his magic with Juve, and to many of us, myself included, he’s the first player we picture when he think of Juventus. He’s the Old Lady’s all-time minutes played holder (58,773) and he’s played more Champions League games than any other Juventus player, past or present (115). These include three Champions League finals. Buffon displayed consistent all-round brilliance and impeccable longevity during his 17 seasons in Turin, and it’s hard to imagine what Juventus would be like today without his past services.