On 19 November 1995, Parma played Milan and the world was introduced to the best goalkeeper of all time, who back then was an unknown, fresh-faced 17-year-old.
Fast forward nearly six years to 26 August 2001, and the youngster had grown into a man, earning a deserved move to Juventus and making his debut against Venezia.
On 11 October 2013, Italy faced Denmark and standing between the posts on that evening was the captain and a man who had just become his country’s highest capped footballer.
Barely a month later, on 23 November 2013, the one-time young pretender is now a veteran, still playing for Juventus and has just crossed the landmark of 500 Serie A appearances, 332 of which have come in the black and white stripes.
The man, of course, is Bianconeri captain Gigi Buffon, who was understandably emotional when looking back on his first ever top-flight outing for the Gialloblu over 18 years ago.
Speaking in Tuscany, the 35-year-old reflected: “It was the first building block, and since then we’ve placed another 499 and 37 in Serie B. At that time I just thought about wanting to be a key player as well as showing the world that I was on the scene. I don’t know if I’m the best, but what I do know is that I always need to show it.
“At my age, though, you can’t allow yourself the luxury of slipping up. I feel stronger than I did when I was a youngster and when I’m focused it’s rare for me to get things wrong. But I need to keep showing that, otherwise it’s probably best to call it a day.”
Buffon celebrated the milestone in style by keeping a clean sheet in this afternoon’s 2-0 victory over Livorno, the team’s fifth consecutive domestic success.
“After the sackload of goals we conceded in 15 minutes against Fiorentina, we needed these five games. We’ve been alert, cut down on individual errors and we’re expressing ourselves very well. It’s an excellent platform for us ahead of Wednesday’s return to Champions League action.”
Today’s 500th Serie A outing takes the 35-year-old goalkeeper to 12th place in the list of all-time top-flight appearances, level with fellow Juventus hero Ciro Ferrara. Of all the players currently active in the Italian league championship, only Javier Zanetti and Francesco Totti have played more times than him.
Explaining the secret behind his longevity, Buffon added: “You need to be a little bit daft, along with having quality, the right mentality and the desire to live a steady life. I was an adolescent when I started playing, I didn’t have much of a beard. Now my beard’s thicker and features a few more white hairs, but I’ve kept a bit of that positive craziness that has helped me over the years.”