Gianluigi Buffon spoke about his experiences from “invincible” teen to panic attacks, but “my idea, if PSG agree, is to play on for another year.”
The legend turns 41 later this month and has been through tough times as well as the highs of winning the 2006 World Cup.
“As a kid, I had a sense of being indestructible, omnipotent and invincible,” he confessed to Vanity Fair Italia.
“I felt that I could go over the top, do whatever I wanted. In a way, I embrace the madness of when I was 20 years old. I did my fair share of dumb things, relished them and am to a degree happy to have ticked every box.
“I did studiously avoid taking drugs or doping. At the age of 17, when someone puts a pill on my lips, I already know how and why to say no.
“Having said that, at most I had a couple of tokes on a spliff when I was a lad. I still remember the cloud of smoke that surrounded the Casertana fans, but it was smoke not from fireworks or pyrotechnics, but 200 spliffs all smoked together: I can see it now…
“Around 15 years ago, for a few months, everything just stopped making sense. It felt like people weren’t interested in me, just in the champion that I represented. Everyone asked after Buffon, nobody asked about Gigi.
“It was a really tough time. I was 25 years old, at the height of my career success and one day, just before a Serie A game, I went over to the Juventus goalkeeping coach Ivano Bordon and told him: ‘Ivano, ask Chimenti to warm up and play, because I’m not feeling up to this.’
“I’d had a sudden panic attack. I was simply unable to handle the game.
“If I hadn’t shared that experience, that mental fog and confusion, with other people, then perhaps I wouldn’t have emerged from it. I had enough clarity to realise that was a crossroads between giving up and dealing with the weaknesses we all have. I’ve never been afraid of showing my emotions or of crying, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
Buffon went from the verge of giving up to embracing the sport with newfound vigour at Paris Saint-Germain.
“My idea, if PSG agree, is to play on for another year. I might seem strange at the age of 40 on the field, thinking I’ve got more dreams and ambitions than I did when I was 20.
“Where I hope to be in 10 years is just still on my feet!”
Buffon has always had a strong rapport with the fans and gave his views on the recent racist chants aimed at Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly by Inter ultras.
“I was part of the Commando Ultra Indian Tips, a group who followed Carrarese around. I still have their name printed on my gloves. I met lots of people who are talked about without many knowing who they are. These are normal guys. Dreamers. Idealists. Some interesting, some idiots.
“The problem is that if a boat sinks in Lampedusa and 300 people die, we are moved to tears, think of adopting the children who remain orphaned and ask what we can do to help.
“If the boat doesn’t sink, we complain about 300 immigrants coming in and wonder what they are doing here.
“It’s difficult to provide context to what happened in Milan with Koulibaly. Hate is an ill wind, no matter where it comes from. I have the suspicion that football is just an excuse to express that hate.”