On Thursday, January 28th, Gianluigi Buffon turned 38. Even by the standards of goalkeepers-who typically have longer careers than other footballers-the Italian legend is reaching the twilight years of his professional career. Not too surprisingly, then, the week of Buffon's birthday also brought the news that the Juventus captain's retirement is imminent-if still a few years away. "If I can push myself up to the 2018 World Cup then I'll go on," Buffon told reporters. After the World Cup, he plans to "close the door and stop playing football."

An Italian Legend

Of course, the 2018 World Cup is still two years away, and there is no guarantee that Buffon-who will be 40 when the event rolls around-will be chosen as part of Italy's squad. With that said, Gianluigi is currently the captain of the Italy team and the most-capped player in national team history. He's recorded 154 appearances for Italy since 1997, 18 more than any other person. The next most-capped active player is Andrea Pirlo, who trails Buffon by 48 appearances.

Needless to say, Gianluigi Buffon is an Italian football legend. He is also fully expected to be Italy's first-choice goalkeeper for the 2016 European Championship in France-a rather astounding accomplishment, considering his age.

More Statistics and Records

Gigi has left no less of a mark in club football. He began his senior career in 1995/96 when he recorded nine regular season appearances with Parma. Then he transferred to Juventus in 2001 on a £32.5 million fee-still the most expensive fee ever paid for a goalkeeper-and has been with the Italian heavyweights ever since.

Buffon's statistics at Juventus defy comparison, and back up the claim that he is one of the greatest-if not the greatest-goalkeeper in soccer history. In October 2014, he made his 500th appearance for Juventus. Throughout his senior career, he's played in just shy of 800 games across all competitions. He is one of the top-five players ever in terms of Serie A appearances. He's kept over 250 clean sheets in the Serie A and 62 for Italy-both records.

With Juventus, Gigi has won six Serie A titles and will help the soccer club shoot for a seventh in 2016. He captained the Zebras to a Coppa Italia victory last season and has been a part of five Supercoppa Italiana victories since his arrival at Juventus. He also played a role in two runner-up finishes for the Zebras in the Champions League, first in 2003 and then again last year.

The Most Decorated Goalkeeper Ever?

Add one UEFA Cup, one Coppa Italia, and one Supercoppa Italiana with Parma (as well as a Serie B victory in 2007, after Juve's relegation from the top-flight due to scandal involvement), and few goalkeepers are as decorated as Gianluigi Buffon. He also won the World Cup with Italy in 2006, was runner-up for the Ballon d'Or the same year, and has been showered with countless other honors and awards over the years. A few highlights include:

    • The UEFA Club Goalkeeper and Footballer of the Year prizes in 2002/03


    • The Best European Goalkeeper honor in 2003


    • The FIFA World Cup All-Star Team in 2006


    • Several awards from IHHSS, including four "World's Best Goalkeeper" awards and the "Best Goalkeeper of the Decade" honor for 2000 2010


    • Fourth place for the inaugural UEFA Best Player in Europe Award in 2015


    • The Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year Award (10 separate occasions)

Continued Importance

Undoubtedly, when Buffon calls it quits after the 2018 World Cup, he will be missed. Even this season, in his late 30s, Gigi has continued to be a vital part of the Juventus soccer squad. In a season where the Zebras lost key players like Carlos Tevez, Arturo Vidal, and Andrea Pirlo, Buffon's leadership has held Juventus together. With Gigi in the net, Juve were able to recover from an early-season slump and become a top contender yet again. He has even remained one of the top goalkeepers in the league in terms of clean sheets.

Celebrate this remarkable football legend today, by stopping by Soccer Box to pick up a new Juventus jersey.