Buffon to leave Juventus at end of the season
Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has announced that he will leave the club at the end of the season.
Saturday’s Serie A home clash with Verona will, therefore, be his last for the Turin giants having helped them win the Scudetto and Coppa Italia this season.
It was expected that he would also announce that he is retiring from the game despite some reports linking him with Boca Juniors.
But Buffon has revealed he has a series of offers that he is now weighing up, suggesting he may look to continue his playing career elsewhere.
“Over the next three days, full of emotion, I will, after two or three days of reflection, make a definitive decision,” he said. “I’ll try to follow whatever calls to my soul and my nature.
“On Saturday I will play a game and that is the only certainty I have. I’m having a continual discussion with [Juventus president] Andrea Agnelli, who knows what is happening around me and is a counsellor I don’t want to lose.”
He did, however, exclude for playing for another Italian club, even resurgent Parma, who may play top-flight football next term after bankruptcy in 2015.
“A return to Parma is a romantic childhood dream, but nothing more than that,” he said.
Juve president Agnelli has confirmed the keeper is considering offers from other clubs.
“Any choice he makes, he’ll have my full support. He has received many bids, both as player and off-pitch,” he said.
“He knows that he has my full support for the future. I wish for him to enjoy Saturday at Allianz Stadium. I’d just like to say a massive ‘thank you’ to Gigi.”
Over a career spanning 23 years, the shot-stopper has so far turned out for just two clubs, starting at Parma before Juventus signed him for €52 million (£32.6m/$44m) in 2001, making him the most expensive goalkeeper ever – a title that he holds to this day.
The 40-year-old is regarded as an iconic figure of the world game, having won nine Serie A titles and the 1998-99 UEFA Cup among other prizes. However, his greatest achievement came in 2006, when he helped Italy win the World Cup.
On a personal level, he set numerous landmarks, even in the latter stages of his career. For example, in 2015-16, he set a new mark for the long consecutive period during a single Serie A season without conceding a goal at 974 minutes.
He admitted that his back operation in 2010 marked something of a crossroads in his life, at which point he decided to knuckle down further.
“That was the turning point for me,” he said. “The moment when everyone – quite rightly, let’s be fair – thought Buffon was at the end of the road. I found within myself, also thanks to them, the strength to say I want this great career to become a unique one.
“It meant working hard, suffering, sweating, even improving although I was 32 years old and had won the World Cup.
“Now eight years later, we have many more trophies and much more satisfaction compared to eight years ago. That was unthinkable back then, even for me.
“I am a person who is nourished by challenges and dreams. It’s not about achieving it, the essence of the sportsman and of life, in general, is to fight for that dream.”
Buffon’s Juventus career came to a frustrating end over the last 12 months. Not only did Champions League success elude him in controversial style, Italy also missed out on the 2018 World Cup, eliminated by Sweden after a playoff.
That loss to the Swedes caused the keeper additional strain.
“It was truly tiring and stressful this year,” he admitted. “Usually, seasons are most stressful from March onwards, but many of us in November had to carry the enormous failure of not going to the World Cup.”
He has played 176 times for his national team and 875 club matches, including 655 for Juve.