As a World Cup winner and two-time Serie A champion, Gianluigi Buffon could be forgiven if his competitive fire no longer burned as fiercely. Adored by Juventus supporters for his loyalty during the Calciopoli scandal in 2006, the Italian’s reputation as a club legend is safe regardless of how the remainder of his career pans out. In short, it is a scenario that invites him to enter cruise control.

But Buffon is doing no such thing – instead, he casts a highly motivated figure. Rather than dwelling on former glories with club and country, he is already targeting more silverware. There is also understandable frustration over recent barren years which have seen the Turin side slip from the bracket of European elite back into the pack of also-rans.

After all, Juventus have not won the Scudetto since 2003 – the 2004/05 and 2005/06 titles were rescinded after the Calciopoli scandal – and finished a distant seventh last season, meaning no Champions League or Europa League football this term. The Italian number one will have taken no pleasure in Juventus’ dire defensive record in 2010/11 – a whopping 47 goals conceded, only two fewer than relegated Sampdoria.

However, Buffon’s crystal clear focus should not be attributed solely to remedying last year’s woes. As Juventus team-mate Luca Toni explained, the motivation is always there for the team’s senior players. “This is our life. We love this sport. Players like us who love this sport have no problem with motivation to play year after year.” Alessandro Del Piero also chimed in on the topic, stating his determination to win trophies this year.

There is no question that a top class goalkeeper can save a team upwards of 20 points a season – and Juventus have witnessed this time and again with Buffon between the sticks over the years. Now 33, his performances seem to be unaffected by the ageing process. He will have wasted little time developing an understanding with new signings Reto Ziegler and Stephan Lichtsteiner, who are both expected to be part of new boss Antonio Conte’s first choice back four.

A 2-1 loss to Sporting Lisbon at Toronto’s BMO Field this weekend – part of World Football Challenge 2011 – confirmed that Buffon and his team-mates have hard work ahead. Juventus fielded four new recruits but were overrun by a quicker, stronger Sporting side. Del Piero and Toni only joined the action in the second half but, despite a sublime finish from the former late on in Toronto, the lack of cutting edge is a concern. Inevitably, this piles more pressure on the backline to produce their very best week in, week out.

But Buffon is comfortable with the burden of this pressure and is the ideal role model for his younger team-mates, who will need guidance and support in the face of the high expectations of the Juventus faithful. He is backing himself to lead by example, but also called for patience as the rebuilding process continues. Buffon knows that it may take several seasons before the Bianconeri are back as serious contenders though in many ways driving Juventus’ surge back to prominence would be among his most impressive career achievements.

“In all new projects, whenever you begin, there is the enthusiasm of everyone,” the Italian said in Toronto. “But we’re only at the beginning of this project right now with the new team.

“We have to look at our objective, which is to become an important team again. We have to overcome the obstacles that we will encounter. We really need to look at this for a full year before you can make decisions on how the team is doing.”

Buffon has been around long enough to know that only so much can be gauged from pre-season form – and he looked typically relaxed and worry-free in Canada despite conceding two goals. More important is the fact that the Italian stopper remains as committed and focused as ever, knowing that the clock is ticking. With that in mind, do not bet against him leading Juventus back into the top three by next May.