It seems all but certain Gianluigi Buffon will hang up his gloves at the end of this season, but should he play on? Chloe Beresford weighs-up the arguments.
Such has been the influence of legendary Juventus and Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, it will be hard for all fans of Italian football to say goodbye to him when he finally hangs up his gloves. His international career came to a premature end when Italy were eliminated from World Cup 2018 with defeat in the play-offs to Sweden, the pain of not being able to play in just one more tournament clear for all to see.
Now at 40-years-old, Euro 2020 is way too far away for Buffon to even consider, but could he play for just one more year at Juventus? Recent reports suggested that the goalkeeper mooted this idea during a conversation with Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio, the suggestion being that he could put off his retirement by just one more year should the Bianconeri still consider him to be important.
But like we see with all good long-running television series, sometimes it’s better to quit while the going is good. At the moment, Gigi is still as much of a safe pair of hands as he always was, his reactions still sharp and – on the rare occasion his Bianconeri defenders let him down – still capable of pulling off the incredible saves we have all become accustomed to.
While it is always hard to say goodbye, quitting now would preserve those memories in our minds, images of Buffon the great goalkeeper who was reliable right up until the very end. He may now fail to eclipse Paolo Maldini in terms of the Serie A appearance record - Maldini has 647 and Buffon was only on 629 by the end of 2017 - but it would be foolish to continue just to come out on top.
Look at the likes of David Seaman, who is remembered for being beaten by a lob from Ronaldinho at the 2002 World Cup at 38 years old, when actually he had enjoyed a brilliant career up until that point. So too with Dino Zoff, who played one last World Cup with Italy at the age of 40, then continued for one further season with Juventus.
He was at fault for the only goal scored in the European Cup final of 1983, when the Bianconeri went down to Hamburger SV. A sour note to end his distinguished career on, and one that provides a warning to Buffon should he decide to go down the same route.
Instead, we must remember his greatest moments, ones that gave Buffon the reputation of a goalkeeping superhero, rather than mistakes that could be made if he does indeed carry on too long. Moments like his save against Pippo Inzaghi during the 2003 Champions League final or when he won promotion back to Serie A after making the decision to drop down a division with Juve after the Calciopoli scandal.
Put simply, we want to remember Gigi Buffon at his very best. While he remains at the top of his game now, nature dictates that he will start to decline at some point soon. Indeed, some Bianconeri fans have already begun to whisper about his agility. Breaking up is hard to do, but sometimes it’s better to let go in order to make space to write a new chapter.