Gianluigi Buffon: You have to be a real masochist to play in goal – and a bit perverse
Ryan Stone, via email
Ben Driver, via email
A good goalkeeper is vital for a good team, just as valuable as a good striker"
Who were your heroes as a kid – and who would you say is the best goalkeeper ever?
Fiona Makepeace, via email
Oh, I had lots of heroes, but none were particularly conventional. There was N’Kono, but also his team-mate, Roger Milla. I really loved to watch Cameroon – they were my second team after Italy. I was a big tennis fan as well and I always liked [Ivan] Lendl, [Stefan] Edberg and [Pat] Rafter.
I heard that your professional debut for Parma saw you face Milan – and Weah, Baggio and Savicevic. Is that right? Were you as confident and vocal then as you are now?
Massimo Robinson, via email
It was a beautiful day, a beautiful experience – the realisation of a dream I’d worked towards for years. And I had a good game. I didn’t let in any goals [the match finished 0-0]. I was confident, and where I wanted to be. Did I have a shout at the defenders? I think so. I hope so. It’s what goalkeepers do.
Much was made of your €45 million transfer fee when you joined Juventus in 2001. How blown away were you when you heard that fee? What would you say to someone who believes no keeper is worth that much?
Leon Adams, via email
It was a big satisfaction for me. I really didn’t have any problems with it at all. In that sort of transfer market, I was seen as... we could say a phenomenon of sorts, but that was down to the price tag more than anything else. Juventus went to see me play, thought “f***, this Buffon really is a phenomenon” and paid a lot of money for me. If they had paid five million rather than 45 then it wouldn’t have made such a big splash. But the market determines the price. A good goalkeeper is vital for a good team, just as valuable as a good striker. And sometimes just as expensive. Would I have signed for Juve for five million? Yeah, I would. I’m not sure Parma would have been too happy, though...
You suffered from depression 10 years ago and even reached the point where you were afraid to walk onto the pitch. Who knew about it, and why didn’t you take a break?
Graham Dowling, via email
Who knew about it? I knew about it. And I had to keep it to myself because, at the beginning at least, I didn’t really have the opportunities to be open about it; I didn’t know if I could talk about it to anyone. But then, very gradually, I would chat about it to friends, to team-mates, people really close to me, and I began to understand I had a problem and that it was something that could be dealt with and cured. I didn’t take a break because I felt this great responsibility to my team-mates and to people who relied on me; I didn’t want to let them down. And I didn’t feel like I could stop playing: I didn’t think that would be seen as an acceptable way of doing things, not with that responsibility. I had a European Championship to play in. [FFT: Has that attitude within the game changed towards depression?] I think so. I hope so. It helped to see a psychologist, but as I said, the support of friends and team-mates was a big thing for me.
How devastating was it to see Juventus’s titles stripped because of the 2006 Calciopoli scandal? It seemed to inspire Italy to glory at the World Cup; do you think you still would have won the tournament if it wasn’t for that scandal?
John Kerridge, Kent
On a professional level, as a player, to have all that success taken away from you like that was devastating, yes. It deprived me of future successes and it deprived me of two successes from the past [laughs bitterly]. We certainly arrived at the World Cup in Germany as the centre of attention and with the conviction that – in what was a delicate moment – we had to do something big on the pitch to respond to everything that had been going on. We were in determined mood, but then I never really thought we were going to win the tournament, so I’m not sure if it [Calciopoli] had much to do with it.
I didn’t really have the opportunities to be open about my depression; I didn’t know if I could talk about it to anyone"
What’s the best save you’ve ever made? It has to be that one-handed save from Zidane in extra-time in the 2006 World Cup Final, right?
Dominic Howe, via Twitter
The best? Er… hmmm… the one against Zidane? Yeah, that was probably the most important save of my career, but I’m not sure if it was really the best… [frowns] Oh, I don’t know. But yes, it was absolutely the most important.
Was it an easy choice to stay with Juventus when they were demoted to Serie B? What did you make of the likes of Patrick Vieira and Zlatan Ibrahimovic walking away from the club? And how much did you enjoy playing in the second tier?
Ollie, via Twitter
[Laughs] Of course it was easy, because they threw a load of money at me! No, no, I’m just kidding, of course! It was the opposite... no, playing in Serie B wasn’t a logical choice, but it was one of those made by the heart. Other players in the squad made other choices. That was up to them. The choices you make in life can be tough, they might not make your life any easier, but they make you the person that you are. Serie B was certainly an experience, but I have mixed feelings about it. To say I enjoyed it wouldn’t be the right word, but yes, that season was an experience...
To say I enjoyed Serie B wouldn’t be the right word, but that season was an experience"
You don’t look like you fear anyone, but which player do or did you least like to face in one-on-ones?
Evanesce Insomniac, via Twitter
The absolute best player I’ve ever had to face was Ronaldo, the Brazilian, who was a champion without equal – an incredible player. An Italian? It would have to be a player who was the most grande expression of Italian football: Roberto Baggio.
David Robinson, Bromley
Andrea Pirlo recently proclaimed his locker space at Juventus to be “the most dangerous spot in Turin”, because of its proximity to the door that Conte often storms through to deliver a half-time rant. Is Conte the most fired-up boss you’ve had? Surely Capello was worse?
Liam Towney, via email
He’s a coach who really likes to transmit his energy to the players. [Pauses, as if a little guarded] If he’s angry about something that has happened on the pitch then he lets you know, yes. Capello was worse? No... Conte, maybe because he’s a younger man, a younger coach, lives the whole 90 minutes – he really puts all his energy into it. A coach like Capello, with all that experience, can sometimes be a little more distant.
Tim Bradley, via email
Is it right that Mario Balotelli blamed the Juventus players for losing the Euro 2012 final against Spain – and you angrily wrestled him to the floor in the changing room after the game? Who won the fight?!
Trevor Jenkins, via email
He did what? Wrestling?! No, no, that’s not true. [Laughs] Anyway, he couldn’t really say that, could he? There were quite a few Juve players in that team! [Six started the game]
Luca Antonoli, via email
Bryan Henderson, via email
Steve Mason, Facebook
If you hadn’t made it in football, what do you think you would you be doing now?
H Silva, via Twitter
Pffffft... I have no idea. I have no idea because, from when I was a kid, I’ve followed this dream of being a footballer and I never thought it wouldn’t happen. There was never a moment when I thought of doing anything else.
Seb Moore, via email
Neil Hendon, via email
Pacino? No, I’ve never met him. Scarface is the best. Definitely"
Italian sides have struggled in the Champions League of late. Why would you say this is? And how far do you think Serie A lags behind La Liga and the Premier League right now?
Jan Fairless, via email
Yes, yes, it’s true... Italy is having a very tough time economically, and so Italian football suffers as well.
There isn’t the sort of money in the game that there was 10 years ago, 20 years ago and yes, we’ve fallen behind, but we [Juventus] came close to success in Europe last season. Will Serie A come good again? I know it will, because these things go around in circles. They do.
Goalkeepers seem to be playing to a later age these days. What would you say is the peak age for a keeper, and how long do you think you can go on for? Are you targeting 150 caps for Italy?
Lenny Goodhall, via email
Maybe up until you’re 28, 29, 30, it’s about your physicality, your agility, but after that things change a little and your experience as a keeper begins to kick in. You know how to approach the important games, the sort of thing you only know from experience. And to have that kind of experience, I think you need to be over 30. But there’s a pay-off to that, because you can’t do the same things you could do as a young man. So I don’t know if we can really say there is a peak age, as the two ages can be just as important, for different reasons. Good goalkeepers improve all the time, though. Yes, 150 caps would be a great achievement. Let’s see.
You and Iker Casillas have been the best two keepers in world football for the last decade. Who would you say are the next two on that list?
BenIsAinDom, via Twitter
I like Joe Hart: he’s still young and he can become a great keeper. Among the other young keepers I really like the Belgian, [Thibaut] Courtois.
Jerry JD Redwine, via Twitter
Hassan Assad, via email