Goalkeeping icon Gianluigi Buffon this morning confirmed in a press conference that he has decided to call time on his Juventus career.
Buffon, now 40, is regarded by many to be the greatest goalkeeper of all-time, with his near-unrivaled combination of lightning-quick reflexes, shot-stopping ability, command of his area and, crucially, longevity, having set the veteran apart from so many of the finest to ever strap on a pair of goalkeeper gloves.
After coming up through the youth ranks at former Italian giants Parma, Buffon eventually broke into the Crociati’s first-team in 1995, as an inexperienced but prodigious teen.
Following 3 years at the Stadio Ennio Tardini, during which he clinched the Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana and the UEFA Cup, Buffon made the move to Juventus for a then-world-record 52 million Euro in 2001, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Buffon has since gone on to establish himself as undoubtedly the greatest to ever step between the posts over the course of the storied history of the Bianconeri, and has racked up an incredible 11 Serie A titles (including the last 7), 1 Serie B, 4 Coppa Italias and 5 Supercoppa Italianas in Turin.
Perhaps the gesture that will stand out the most to fans of the Old Lady will always be the fact that Buffon stayed loyal to the club despite their relegation to the second-tier of Italian football in 2006 following the Calciopoli scandal, despite the Italian legend having had massive offers on the table from some of European football’s other heavyweights.
In total, Buffon has pulled on the Bianconeri jersey on 655 occasions over the last 17 years, keeping exactly 300 clean sheets over that span, and has spent more time on the pitch as a Juventus player than any other in the history of the club.
In addition, Buffon’s international career has also been record-breaking, with the Azzurri legend having racked up a staggering 176 caps for his country, a full 40 more than 2nd-placed Fabio Cannavaro on the all-time Italy list.
His undoubted crowning achievement with the Azzurri was of course the country’s 2006 World Cup win, a tournament during which Buffon formed a near-impenetrable defensive unit alongside the likes of Ballon D’Or winner Cannavaro, Gialnluca Zambrotta and the ageless Marco Materazzi.
However, despite many being of the opinion that Buffon could undoubtedly still prolong his playing days with both Juventus and Italy, the 40-year-old, after much deliberation, confirmed in a press conference this morning that he is set to call time on both his Juventus and international careers imminently.
The 40-year-old spoke with typical class and pose alongside captain-to-be Giorgio Chiellini and some of the club’s other key members of staff in Turin this morning, affirming that his final appearance in a Juventus jersey will come versus Hellas Verona this weekend, a fixture which, fittingly, will also see Buffon lift the Serie A title for the final time.
‘It’s the conclusion of a wonderful journey I’ve been fortunate enough to share with people who truly cared for me. I felt that, day after day, and because of that love I fought and tried to do my best.’
‘Saturday will be my last game with Juventus. I think it’s the best way to end this wonderful adventure, to end it with another two victories, which are truly important, and to end it with the closeness and accompaniment of Andrea and the whole Juventus populace.’
‘My fear was to reach the end of the Juve adventure as someone who people just put up with or a player who had lost it.’
‘I can say that’s not the case and I am truly proud that to the age of 30, up to Saturday, I’ve been able to express not perhaps my best, but performances to the level of my name and of Juventus.’
‘That is the greatest gratification and why I reach this salute as a happy man, because it’s by no means to be taken for granted for a sportsman to reach this point and age performing to this level.’
‘I want to thank the Juventus family. In 2001, they signed an extraordinary talent – I’m probably biased in saying that – but I have to say that if this talent was transformed into a champion, it’s because Juve ensured that happened.’
‘They allowed me to take another step forwards in conviction, mentality and performance. I believe that if I am still here at the age of 40 performing to this level, it is thanks to Juventus, whose approach to work is totally different to everyone else in the world.’
‘I made this philosophy my own too and am sure I’ll use it in future, in my life after football, as it’s the only way I know to reach results and to get there with the joy of having worked hard, driven yourself to the limit and given your all.’
‘Aside from trophies, that is the greatest gift I have received from Juventus and I will forever be grateful.’
‘Proposals and exciting challenges’
Unsurprisingly, Buffon was subsequently questioned on whether or not the announcement of his departure from Juventus means that he has called an end to his playing days as a whole.
However, the Italian veteran refused to confirm as much, revealing that he has received multiple offers to prolong his career on the pitch:
‘Up until 15 days ago, it was certain and well-known that I would stop playing.’
‘Now I have received some proposals and exciting challenges, both on the field and off it. The most important for staying on the pitch was proposed to me by (Juventus President Andrea) Agnelli.’
‘Over the next three days, full of emotion, I will after two or three days of reflection make a definitive decision. I’ll try to follow whatever calls to my soul and my nature.’
‘A return to Parma is a romantic childhood dream, but nothing more than that, no. I feel great gratitude. I am grateful to feel the club so close to me, my former teammates and everyone.’
‘I am probably a bit dim, but I don’t feel fear. Moderate fear, as is understandable when going into a change of lifestyle and habits, but little more than that.’
‘I live to get out of my comfort zone and test myself in more complicated situations that I don’t know. That’s a way of seeing what you’re made of and I have never been afraid of a challenge – quite the opposite.’
‘It’s about feelings, the importance you can have in a project, the motivation you could have and my physical fitness too. There are many things I need to consider without letting myself get caught up in the moment.’
‘I am certainly not someone who, as I said a while back, thinks it is right to end my career in who knows what third or fourth level division, as I am a competitive animal and I wouldn’t be able to live or feel at ease in that situation.’
Premier League bound?
Buffon was also drawn on the rumours that he could even make a shock switch to England this summer, amid links with Champions League finalists Liverpool:
‘The Premier League? I said that I received a few proposals, very interesting ones, both for on the field and off it. Next week, once everything has calmed down a little bit, I will decide what I think is best for me.’
‘There’s no point now betting on where I could go. If I were to continue, I’d want to challenge for big honours, because that’s what I live for and in a way it’s my limitation too.’
Whatever the case may be, on behalf of Juventus fans the world over, best of luck with your future endeavours, and thanks for the countless memories, Gigi.
There will never be anyone like @GianluigiBuffon.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) May 17, 2018