“Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference,” reads American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer, words that are often cited, quoted and used in difficult situations.
After a stellar career played out at the highest level, Gigi Buffon – a man labelled an inspirational leader who has regularly motivated his teams in arduous circumstances – should hopefully be able to muster the appropriate understanding of his current position.
However, at a specially arranged press conference last week, the Juventus skipper dropped a bombshell. Widely expected to retire once the club’s 2017-18 campaign came to an end, Buffon instead informed the journalists in attendance that he was only announcing that the Serie A match with Hellas Verona would be his last for the Bianconeri.
Yes, despite being offered a number of off-field roles by the Turin giants, the Carrara native was not satisfied and had decided to assess various offers to keep playing. Paris Saint-Germain are now said to be in advanced talks while Real Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea and even Manchester City are all believed to have expressed an interest in signing him.
Could we really be about to witness the sight of Buffon – who has become almost as synonymous with Juve as the famous black and white stripes on their shirts – running out for a different club next term? Fans of the Old Lady are understandably concerned at the thought. They have already looked on in horror as Alessandro Del Piero was basically forced to move on, spending time with Sydney FC and Delhi Dynamos because he was not ready to call time on his career.
Buffon’s current team-mates are less worried, with Andrea Barzagli speaking out about what the future may hold for his long-time friend. “I don’t know where he’ll go, it’s a surprise,” the veteran defender told Sky Italia at the weekend. “He’ll make the right choice. I have always told him everything and we have a great rapport. We’ll miss him, he’s a leader and the greatest goalkeeper of all time.”
It is to be hoped that the 2006 World Cup winner does indeed show sound judgment, because that opinion of him expressed by Barzagli should not be diminished by a prolonged end to his playing days. There is little doubt that many people share the same opinion, the incredible standard of Buffon’s performances seeing him surpass Gordon Banks, Lev Yashin and even Dino Zoff in the pantheon of goalkeeping legends.
Clearly he loves to play and – one or two errors aside – has still been excellent this term, but hanging around for another season will surely see his skills begin to diminish in the near future. Yes, he has repaid any debt to Juventus and their fans with 17 years of exemplary service, but the Ligue 1 side are no more likely to win the Champions League than the Bianconeri, so it’s not as if this can be explained as a man chasing his dreams.
Nobody wants to watch a subpar Buffon trotting out and conceding goals that he would’ve stopped easily in his prime and after seeing him every day in training this year, Juve have clearly decided his time is up. He has nothing left to prove and everything to lose. It is now up to him to realise that too, or else risk tarnishing the legacy he has spent a lifetime building for one last payday in the French capital.
Father Time remains undefeated, and even the best goalkeeper ever cannot be expected to deny him for too much longer. It’s time to walk away, and hopefully Gigi Buffon has the wisdom to understand that.