Gianluigi Buffon returns home 20 years later. The overtaking of Nista and Bucci, the dispute between Sacchi and Maldini: this is how the legend was born in Parma

Gianluigi Buffon returns home 20 years later. The overtaking of Nista and Bucci, the dispute between Sacchi and Maldini: this is how the legend was born in Parma
Gianluigi Buffon returns home 20 years later. The overtaking of Nista and Bucci, the dispute between Sacchi and Maldini: this is how the legend was born in Parma

Nobody knows how the dog got free. And the matter begins to create some embarrassment. Why in the emergency room of Parma a photographer has just been transported. He stood behind one of the two doors of the Tardini when he saw that coming upon him german shepherd. It all happened in a split second. His heart pounding in the center of his chest, the pain sinking his teeth into his left thigh, the excitement that deflates his muscles. He didn’t even have time to be afraid that everything was already over. The owner called the dog back, then went over to help him. And here the story has taken on surreal contours. Because at that moment the photographer realized that he had been bitten by a police dog. The doctors at the hospital cheered him up. The wound is superficial, the injection of antirabies a simple precaution. He has only one regret left: not being able to photograph the Parma goalkeeper.

Is called Gianluigi Buffon and has not yet turned 18. Except that boy looks like a vampire, he can escape the cameras anyway. It also happened early in the game. He did not notice that his teammates were posing in midfield and went to take possession of his new goal. Click. No souvenir photos, no relics to pass on to future generations. Yet on that afternoon of November 19, 1995 no one seems to have eyes for the little boy. Also because he, on that lawn, didn’t even have to be there. The owner should have played, Luca Bucci. Except that the story took an unexpected turn a couple of weeks ago. Parma plays the second leg of the second round of Cup Winners’ Cup. The first leg ended 3-0 for theHalmstad. And now the yellow and blue are winning 4-0 at the Tardini. A few minutes from the end Bucci comes out and collides with Couto e Vougt. The vice-world champion goalkeeper ends up on the ground. He knows the situation is not easy. But he also knows that time is on his side. She still has a few minutes before the pain really starts to kick in. So it stays on the pitch. At the end of the game the diagnosis is merciless: fracture of the right clavicle. It means forty days off. It means saying goodbye to the championship match against Milan scheduled three weeks later.

At the beginning Nevio Scala relies on Alessandro Nista. In his last season atAncona he hasn’t played even a minute. Yet Parma chose him as the second goalkeeper. And after a life spent in the shade, now the boy has a chance to take revenge. Against those who did not believe in him. Against bad luck. “I was stopped for a year, until August 1995, for the” cleaning “of a scar, inherited from a herniated disc – he says – Problems that, after a promising start, also made me do the emigrant in England, among the reserves of Leeds. I hope fate changes ”. The debut against the Cremonese it’s positive. Parma does not concede a goal. And he scores two. Bucci seems to have left the door in good hands. Nista is ready to sew her new chevrons onto her uniform. Except that the stop for the Nationals causes another short circuit. Scala adds the goalkeeper to the first team Spring. For a whole week. He tells his attackers to target the door. Except that no one can pierce him. Then she watches him kick the ball. He always manages to find a mate. Both when he throws long and when he unloads short. Doubt creeps into the head of the coach. It is in one of those afternoons that Buffon learns a role that he will play throughout his career. That of the cannibal.

The first goalkeeper to be swallowed up is Alessandro Nista. Because after a week of torment, Scala has decided. Buffon will be playing against Milan. The choice is risky. And that’s why it’s brilliant. The boy is wearing the number jersey 12 and makes its debut in A league. It is the future that is grafted onto the present. Buffon saves everything. In the true sense of the word. Defuse Eranio, takes away from the head of Roberto Baggio the ball of the Rossoneri advantage, walls Marco Simone. The match ends 0-0. And from that moment everyone wants a piece of the goalkeeper. Many ring the boy’s uncle. Is called Lorenzo Buffon, is 66 years old, and was a top-tier goalkeeper between the 1950s and 1960s, when he won four league titles with Milan and one with Inter. A deity that marriage with Edy Campagnoli, the valley of Double or fold, has turned into a pop icon. Lorenzo, however, has not yet finished with football. Indeed, Milan has hired him as osservatore. And five years earlier he had proposed his nephew to the Devil. “I reported him when he was 12 – he tells the newspapers – But he is Tuscan and the family preferred that he stay close to home to study. This did not stop him from breaking through ”. A few days later Gianluigi also speaks. Confirm uncle’s version. And he claims his choice. Milan would have intimidated him. And then he would surely send him out to play on loan.

Parma is different. It is a city that is in no hurry, an intruder among the big ones, a suburb that dreams of becoming the center. And for this it can wait for it, it can make it grow. In that year Buffon took the field nine times. It does not always work miracles, but on the other hand it is impossible to transform the extraordinary into everyday life. In January 1996 Sepp Blatter proposes to widen the doors. Just a few centimeters, just to increase the show. The goalkeepers rebel. Because that idea can only be a joke. “For me it would be a disaster – says Buffon – I already score many goals now. The idea seems to me simply scandalous ”. His character is overflowing, his qualities are off the charts. Getting him to sit on the bench becomes more and more difficult. Someone in the company is starting to think about selling it in loan. But you have to move carefully. We need to think about our own choices, but also on the basis of those of others. Because Buffon cannibalizes another goalkeeper in the summer. Cesare Maldini is knocking down the rose of Olympic National ahead of the 1996 Atlanta Games. And he has a great doubt. The Under 21 goalkeeper, Angelo Pagotto, experiences a period of fogging. In May it had dragged the Azzurrini to the victory of the European category, saving the penalties of Raul e Of the penalty in the final against Spain. Now the situation is different. Pagotto finds himself without a team. So Maldini makes his choice. Inside Buffon. And the overdue Gianluca Pagliuca. “I prefer Buffon to go to Atlanta. I’ll take my holidays – says Pagotto – I hope some team wants me. Sampdoria was wrong, it can happen, I was offered a four-year contract at very low figures without even arguing, so I refused. Then they took Ferron: if they had made that proposal to me, I would have stayed ”.

Gigi’s race is unstoppable. In October he receives a double call: from the Under 21 and from the senior national team. Except that Maldini learns about it from the journalists. It’s a tug of war. Sacchi wants to keep the boy with the “grown-ups” because of Bucci’s injury. Him again. Buffon is realistic: “His injuries always pave the way for me. In blue as in Parma “. It is the last time that competition is created between the two. Why in the meantime Carlo Ancelotti he sat on the Parma bench. And he has pretty clear ideas. Coexistence between the two goalkeepers is difficult. We need a solution. Which is made explicit at the end of October. Buffon is tried among the owners. And Bucci goes on a rampage. “Ancelotti spoke to me on Wednesday and told me he doesn’t even think about taking me off. I trust”. Except that others don’t seem to trust many. “I know, but it is not new – says Bucci – On me we are exaggerating. I’ve always been self-critical but they are giving me excessive blame. When I do well it is obvious, at the first half uncertainty I am attacked. Maybe I’m unpleasant ”. On the other hand, the relationship with the fans never took off. “I don’t want to be a victim – he unleashes – but for me it’s been like this for 4 years, always difficult. There are fans that they never put up with me. Those for which I remained a “Reggiano bastardo”, as they shouted at me in Parma-Perugia ”.

Two days later, in the home match against Fiorentina, the owner is Buffon. “Bucci took it very badly,” says Ancelotti. But there is no turning back. Buffon has swallowed the third goalkeeper in just over a year. On January 6, Gigi’s Parma beat the Juventus at the end of a tense match with 4 expulsions. Marcello Lippi says the ducals were favored by the referee. Buffon listens and then introduces himself in front of the cameras. “Well done us, their donkeys,” he says. It is the first of many sentences that will turn into controversy. Gigi apologizes, but the road is marked. Slowly Parma begins to hold on to him. It remains there until 2001, putting one on the bulletin board Italian Cup, a Super Cup it’s a Uefa Cup. Buffon offers extraordinary saves and some gaffes. As in September 1999, when after the match against the Lazio shows up in front of the cameras. Except that on his shirt he wrote, with a marker, “Executioner who gives up”. It is a fascist motto. It is a phrase that causes controversy to explode. “I don’t know anything about politics – he swears – I am ignorant of these things, we came from a blow and I just wanted to say not to give up. Other than fascism: I’m sorry if I created confusion, but I just wanted to encourage my comrades. I thought that writing was appreciated “. A year later we start all over again. In the preseason he chooses the number 88. Explain that he did this because the number consists of four balls. It is a symbolic number. For him, who sees the hope of rebirth after theinjury which prevented him from participating in the European Championship. But above all for the others, who see the Hitlerian salute that is gaining ground in the neo-Nazi sphere. Still controversy. Apologies again. Another hiccup. In 2001 the offer from Juve arrives. And Buffon leaves Parma. The circle breaks, at least for 20 years. Because now Gigi has chosen to start over right where it all started.

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