Juventus’ Gianluigi Buffon gestures to the fans at the end of the match. (Source: Reuters)
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 they host Verona in Serie A on Saturday.
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 on Thursday.
Buffon, 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,” he said.
“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,” he said.
Buffon 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 them even after they were relegated to Serie B in 2006 over the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal, which also saw them stripped of a further two Serie A titles.
Buffon 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, their fourth in a row, but also suffered a bitter Champions League quarter-final exit against Real Madrid, who 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 faces disciplinary action from UEFA.
“It has been a season with some shocking and unexpected lows but also incredible highs and, yet again, we gave an incredible response,” said Buffon, who won the World Cup in 2006 but has never collected a Champions League winners medal.