Buffon calls time on 17-year Juve stint
Italy's talismanic goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, considered by many to be the greatest-ever in his position, will play his last match for Juventus after 17 years at the club when it hosts Hellas Verona in Serie A tomorrow.
Yet the 40-year-old, who has won nine Serie A titles with Juventus, including the last seven in a row, stopped short of announcing his retirement from the sport in a news conference yesterday.
The 2006 World Cup winner, close to tears at times, said that until two weeks ago he had been set to end his playing career, but changed his mind after receiving “very interesting” proposals.
“Saturday will be my last game for Juventus. I think it’s the best way to end this wonderful adventure,” said Buffon, who has kept 300 clean sheets in his 655 appearances for the Turin side in all competitions. “For now, I only know that Saturday I will play a game. Until a few days ago it was certain that I would stop playing. Now there are some very interesting proposals.”
Buffon, who made his professional debut for Parma in 1995 before joining Juventus in 2001, had planned to end his career at the 2018 World Cup, which would have been his sixth, but Italy astonishingly failed to qualify for the first time since 1958.
The ‘keeper has remained remarkably loyal to the Turin side, refusing to leave even after it was relegated to Serie B in 2006 over the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal, which also saw Juventus stripped of a further two Serie A titles.
Buffon, who set a fashion trend during his career by becoming one of the first goalkeepers to wear short-sleeved shirts, said he would not consider playing for a lower league team.
“I am certainly not someone who thinks it is right to end my career in the third or fourth level division. I am a competitive animal and I wouldn’t be able to live or feel at ease in that situation,” he said.
Juventus won a league and cup double this season, its fourth in a row, but also suffered a bitter UEFA Champions League quarterfinal exit against Real Madrid, which won with a stoppage-time penalty.
Buffon was sent off for protesting the decision and then launched a furious tirade against referee Michael Oliver and said that UEFA was right to open a disciplinary case against him.
“I stepped over the line and I am extremely disappointed. If I had seen him (the referee) two days later, I would have embraced him and asked for forgiveness.”
That defeat ensured Buffon would not leave Juventus with an UCL winners’ medal, the only major title he has never won in his career. “It has been a season with some shocking and unexpected lows but also incredible highs and, yet again, we gave an incredible response,” he said.
Buffon has been linked with a move to Liverpool, which could offer the former Italy captain the chance to win the elusive UCL title. He’s appeared in three UCL finals and lost them all.