Buffon To Make Decision On PSG Within Week

Juventus’ Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon                               

Juventus’ Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon                                                         JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Juventus legend Gianluigi Buffon said Monday that he will make a decision this week on whether he will be joining Paris Saint-Germain.

Buffon, 40, played his final game for the Italian giants in a 2-1 win over Verona on Saturday, capping a 17-year career in Turin that harvested seven consecutive Serie A titles.

“PSG? I need a week to be calm and analyse everything. These aren’t simple choices. At 40, you can’t make decisions in the heat of the moment,” Buffon told Sky Sports Italia after playing in former Italy team-mate Andrea Pirlo’s testimonial at the San Siro on Monday.

“Do I speak French? No,” he added.

Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi earlier in the day poured cold water on suggestions Buffon could step in to replace the French club’s number one goalkeeper, Alphonse Areola.

Al-Khelaifi told L’Equipe sports daily: “He (Buffon) is a fantastic goalkeeper, he’s very charismatic and is a true gentleman. I’m sure all the clubs want him.”

AFP

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Juventus legend Gigi Buffon set for PSG

According to reports in both Italy and France, departing Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is all set for a move to

According to reports in both Italy and France, departing Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is all set for a move to Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain.

Legend

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.

Domestic dominance

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 (9 official) 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 pulled on the Bianconeri jersey on 656 occasions over the last 17 years, keeping exactly 301 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.

Emotional farewell

But, in an announcement that had long been predicted, Buffon confirmed in a press conference last Thursday that he was set to bring his spell with the Italian champions to an end this summer, with the shot-stopper having lined out in the black and white of the Old Lady for the final time during Juve’s 2-1 Serie A victory over Hellas Verona on Saturday.

France bound

However, while Buffon confirmed his Juventus departure, the veteran refused to confirm his retirement, with rumours having since been rife in the media that he is now set to begin a new adventure at another club.

The Chinese Super League was initially suggested, along with both the MLS and even Argentina, but a number of more high-profile destinations have since been touted for Buffon over the last few days.

Both Liverpool and Real Madrid have been suggested as possible landing spots with betting outlets in England, but, as per reports from both France Football and Sky Sport Italia over the last 24 hours, Buffon is in fact all set for a move to Ligue 1 champions PSG.

And, as per a further update courtesy of Paris United this evening, Buffon’s agent, Silvano Martina, has now accepted a contract offer from the capital giants which will see the Italian ply his trade at the Parc des Princes for the next two seasons:

Sergio Ramos pays tribute to Gigi Buffon, Andres Iniesta and Fernando Torres

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Sergio Ramos pays tribute to Gigi Buffon, Andres Iniesta and Fernando Torres

Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos has this evening taken to social media to thank Gianluigi Buffon, Andres Iniesta and Fernando

Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos has this evening taken to social media to thank Gianluigi Buffon, Andres Iniesta and Fernando Torres for their services to the game, and personal battles against he and Los Blancos.

Moving on

As has been the talk of the football world over the last couple of months, several club icons are set to depart their respective homes this summer.

Gianluigi Buffon said his final goodbyes to the Juventus faithful yesterday afternoon, bringing to an end his illustrious 17-year spell with the Serie A champions with a 2-1 win versus Hellas Verona:

Fernando Torres, meanwhile, is currently playing in his final game for boyhood club Atletico Madrid, and has incredibly managed to grab a brace for Los Rojiblancos on his farewell appearance:

Finally, Andres Iniesta is set to call time on his legendary Barcelona career tonight, ahead of an expected (and deserved) move to the riches of the Chinese Super League (or possibly Japan):

‘Thank you’

And Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos, who has lined out against all 3 of the aforementioned icons on numerous occasions over the course of his own legendary career, has today taken to Twitter to pay tribute to the trio, with a special message:

Gianluigi Buffon bids farewell to Juventus in emotional final appearance (photos and videos)

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Gianluigi Buffon bids farewell to Juventus in emotional final appearance (photos and videos)

Juventus legend Gianluigi Buffon this afternoon took to the pitch for the final time in a Juventus jersey, ahead of

Juventus legend Gianluigi Buffon this afternoon took to the pitch for the final time in a Juventus jersey, ahead of his departure from the club this summer.

Legend

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.

Domestic dominance

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 (9 official) 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 (before today), 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.

Confirmation

As such, after the Italian veteran confirmed in a press on Thursday morning that he was set to depart the Allianz Stadium at the end of the season, focus quickly shifted to Buffon’s final game in a Juventus jersey, which came this afternoon versus Hellas Verona.

Ciao Capitano

The fixture took place a short time ago, with Juve having run out 2-1 winners courtesy of goals from Daniele Rugani and Miralem Pjanic, before lifting the Scudetto trophy once again.

However, all eyes were on Buffon, as the Bianconeri hero was substituted in the 60th-minute (with the score at 2-0) to an absolutely rapturous ovation from the Juventus faithful.

There was hardly a dry eye in the stadium as Buffon’s number flashed across the fourth official’s board, with every member of the Juventus XI on the pitch having hugged their captain, before the remainder of the club’s squad and staff formed a guard of honour on the touchline to see Buffon off in a fitting manner.

The 40-year-old then made his way around the entire stadium for a lap of honour, embracing as many Juventini as possible as the tears flowed on both sides of the barriers.

Below are some of the best photos and videos from this afternoon’s events in Turin, as Juventus bid farewell to one of, if not the greatest player to ever pull on the club’s famous black and white colours:

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Juventus legend Gianluigi Buffon announces departure from club/refuses to rule out Premier League switch

Goalkeeping icon Gianluigi Buffon this morning confirmed in a press conference that he has decided to call time on his

Goalkeeping icon Gianluigi Buffon this morning confirmed in a press conference that he has decided to call time on his Juventus career.

Legend

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.

Domestic dominance

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.

Gianluigi Buffon - Juventus FC v US Citta di Palermo - Serie A

TURIN, ITALY – FEBRUARY 17: Gianluigi Buffon of Juventus FC celebrates after his team-mate Gonzalo Higuain scored a goal during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and US Citta di Palermo at Juventus Stadium on February 17, 2017 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

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.

Azzurri icon

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.

Buffon and Zidane

BERLIN – JULY 09: Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (2nd L) of Italy consoles Zinedine Zidane (R) of France, as he is shown the red card by Referee Horacio Elizondo of Argentina during the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 Final match between Italy and France at the Olympic Stadium on July 9, 2006 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Goodbye

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.’

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 07: Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini of Juventus celebrate victory after the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg match between Tottenham Hotspur and Juventus at Wembley Stadium on March 7, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

‘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.’

Grazie

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.

Ciao capitano.

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Buffon To Hold Press Conference On Thursday As Retirement Looms

Juventus’ goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon celebrates at the end of the Italian Serie A football match between Juventus and Sampdoria on

Juventus’ goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon celebrates at the end of the Italian Serie A football match between Juventus and Sampdoria on April 15, 2018, at Allianz Stadium in Turin. Juventus won the match 3-0. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon will hold a press conference on Thursday morning, during which he is expected to announce his retirement, the Serie A champions announced.

The 40-year-old Italian international has said he intends to hang up his gloves at the end of the season, but as yet has not made an official announcement.

Juventus sealed a seventh straight Serie A title on Sunday, to complete a league and cup double for the fourth year in a row.

The club said in a statement without giving further details that the press conference would take place at the Allianz Stadium at 11.30 local time (0930 GMT).

Buffon, who has won nine Serie A titles with the club since joining in 2001 from Parma, is expected to play his final game on Saturday against Verona in Turin.

AFP

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Buffon Has No Regrets Over Referee Rant

English referee Michael Oliver (4L) shows a red card to Juventus’ Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (2R) during the UEFA Champions

Buffon Has No Regrets Over Referee Rant
English referee Michael Oliver (4L) shows a red card to Juventus’ Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (2R) during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Juventus FC at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on April 11, 2018.

CURTO DE LA TORRE / AFP

 

Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon insists he has no regrets about his outburst against the referee who awarded the late penalty that put Real Madrid into the Champions League semi-finals.

“I’d say them all again. Maybe with a different type of language, one that was more civilised, let’s say. But the content remains and I stand by all of it,” Buffon told Italian television programme “Le Iene”.

Buffon was sent off for dissent in the final minute of the quarter-final, second leg in Madrid after confronting English referee Michael Oliver over his decision to award the hosts a penalty in time added-on.

The 40-year-old has come under fire for his post-match rant in which he called Oliver “a murderer” with “a rubbish bin” in place of a heart.

“I have to defend my teammates and fans, even in a not very composed fashion. I had to let that out, even if it damaged my reputation.

“You find a way to speak, right or wrong, that at times can seem excessive, but this is me, I am Gigi Buffon,” he continued.

Buffon said his words were of “a man who won’t hide behind a veil of hypocrisy and instead throws out what is bubbling in his guts. End of story.”

And the Italian legend said he still believes that 33-year-old referee Oliver lacked experience.

“A referee with more experience would not have blown his whistle and decided not to become the protagonist of the match. He would have left it running, turned around and let the two teams fight it out in extra time. Let the pitch do the talking.

“I’m sure Oliver will have a great career in future, but he’s too young to officiate a match like that.”

AFP

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Gigi Buffon’s classy tribute to Ronaldo and Real Madrid following Juventus loss

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has this evening lavished praise on both Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid, after the Bianconeri were

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has this evening lavished praise on both Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid, after the Bianconeri were handed a morale-draining 3-0 loss at home to the Spanish champions in the first-leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie.

Matchup

Last season’s Champions League finalists went head to head in Turin, with hosts Juve having come into proceedings on the back of a crucial 3-1 victory over AC Milan in Serie A at the weekend.

Real, meanwhile, rested several stars for their La Liga meeting with Las Palmas on Saturday, though Zinedine Zidane’s men nevertheless emerged with a comfortable 3-0 win.

0-1

While a tight affair was predicted by many at the Allianz Stadium, the tie was blown wide open with just 3 minutes on the clock, as all-time Champions League top-scorer Cristiano Ronaldo added yet another strike to his frankly-ridiculous tally in Europe’s top-tier competition:

Stunning

Juventus grew into proceedings as the half wore on, with Gonzalo Higuain and Giorgio Chiellini both having had huge chances to level things up, but it was Ronaldo’s goal that separated the sides at the interval.

The second-half saw Paulo Dybala also go within inches of equalizing with a deflected free-kick, before Cristiano Ronaldo once again stepped up to produce one of the greatest goals in Champions League history.

Watch, and enjoy, below:

0-3

Marcelo went on to put the tie firmly to bed a short time after Ronaldo’s second, getting on the end of a gorgeous, flowing Real move to dink a perfect finish over Gianluigi Buffon.

‘Objectively stronger’

In the aftermath of tonight’s result, much of the talk, unsurprisingly, has surrounded the incredible showing, and career, of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Speaking in a post-match interview with Mediaset Premium, Gianluigi Buffon was questioned on his side’s nemesis in the Champions League over recent seasons, with Buffon, in typically classy fashion, musing:

‘We saw what Ronaldo is and always has been, a player of an extraordinary level that, along with Leo Messi, is achieving the biggest heights.’

‘This means their value is to be compared to Maradona and Pele for the way they ultimately are able to decide the matches and trophies won by their teams.’

On the mistakes on the part of his side for the first and second goals scored by Real, Buffon expressed his disappointment, but was also quick to point to the fact that ‘they are objectively stronger’:

‘Mistakes can happen, you are playing against incredible champions and they force you into being less precise than usual. That’s because you are facing the best and if we are talking about people who score 500 goals, there’s a reason for that.’

‘I feel great regret and disappointment, because we probably won’t be able to go forward in the tournament and that is a regret, a big regret, but it’s also true that when you meet certain opponents, you must have a clear enough head to recognise they are objectively stronger.’

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Rossi Slams Pressure On Himself, Buffon To Retire

FILE PHOTO Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Italian rider Valentino Rossi (46) rides his Yamaha ahead of Repsol Honda Team’s Spanish rider

FILE PHOTO Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Italian rider Valentino Rossi (46) rides his Yamaha ahead of Repsol Honda Team’s Spanish rider Marc Marquez (93) during the 2018 Qatar Moto GP Grand Prix at the Losail International Circuit in Lusail, north of Doha, on March 18, 2018.                            KARIM JAAFAR / AFP

 

Motorcycling ace Valentino Rossi has slammed critics of himself and fellow Italian Gianluigi Buffon who are defying the years in their sports.

Rossi, 39, has signed a new two-year contract with Yahama and will now remain in the sport until at least 2020. His existing contract runs out at the end of 2018, his 23rd season.

Goalkeeper Buffon has been criticised for performing a U-turn on his international retirement after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup and making himself available at the age of 40.

“I feel I’m still at the top and this boosts me. I advise Buffon to follow my example. People enjoy saying we’re finished,” Rossi told Thursday’s edition of Gazzetta Dello Sport.

“Buffon absolutely must continue, if he wants to. I think he knows if he can still be at the top.

“It’s easier to say that someone’s finished, instead of recognising their balls and whether they still have them.

“There are two types of people: those who appreciate and enjoy someone else’s greatness, and those who are jealous and rub their own inferiority on others.

“In Italy, it’s the fashionable thing to do.”

Rossi finished third at the first Grand Prix of the season in Qatar this month as he targets a tenth world title and eighth in the MotoGP category. His last world title was in 2009.

And he insisted he remains as motivated as when he started racing in 1996.

“So many things have remained, I won’t say the same, but similar, especially the desire to drive the bike and that experience when I have a good race, the taste I feel,” he said.

“To go down the track, alone, with your bike is always special. To try to win a race, the world championship.

“In the last few years, I have really liked going to the races to work with my team, to give my best from Thursday to Sunday, having put all the little details in place.”

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Buffon Back To the Italian Team For England, Argentina Friendlies.

Italy legend Gianluigi Buffon looks ready for a return to international stage in friendlies against England and Argentina in March,

Italy legend Gianluigi Buffon looks ready for a return to international stage in friendlies against England and Argentina in March, interim national coach Luigi Di Biagio said on Monday.

“I spoke to him, he will probably be part of the group in March, a player like him cannot stop after Sweden,” said Di Biagio.

Buffon was inconsolable after their  1-0 aggregate play-off defeat to Sweden in the San Siro last November, as the Azzurri failed to reach the World Cup stages. The 40-year-old Juventus goalkeeper had represented the Azzurri for 20 years, winning the 2006 World Cup title, and earning a record 175 caps in a brilliant career. He had been bidding for a record sixth World Cup appearance.

“It’s not fair that his last game was the one against Sweden, so I proposed that he come back for one, two or possibly three games. Gigi (Buffon) will probably be there in March,” continued Di Biagio of friendlies against Argentina and England, in Manchester and London on March 23 and 27.

“Gianluigi Donnarumma and Alex Meret? We’re doing well with goalkeepers for the next 20 years. (Mattia) Perin is there too, and when Gigi unfortunately stops we’ll be well covered.

“We’re solid from that point of view, but Gigi’s story doesn’t have to end with that Sweden game.”

Di Biagio said he had also been in contact with other members of Italy’s golden generation of World Cup winners.

“I’ve met with some of the veterans because I understood that some of them wanted to quit. I talked to Buffon to see if he wanted to continue.

“As for the other players, without going into details I’ve spoken to a lot of them. (Andrea) Barzagli and (Daniele) De Rossi won’t be there. (Giorgio) Chiellini yes. We want to relaunch the team with enthusiasm.”

Under-21 boss Di Biagio has been promoted to the senior role for the friendlies and is holding a training camp at Coverciano outside Florence on Monday and Tuesday.

“It’s normal to think about what I’ll have to do in the next few months, I’ll decide when the time comes to make the call-ups,” he continued of his squad, adding he had not yet decided whether to recall in-form Nice striker Mario Balotelli.

“I’m not saying now if Balotelli will come or not, I follow him like everyone else, and no doors are closed,” said Di Biagio.

“At this moment Italian football is in great difficulty and there isn’t much choice, but we need to create the right enthusiasm after the disappointment of the World Cup.”