End of an era: Buffon to leave Juventus but will play on
JUVENTUS captain Gianluigi Buffon will play his last match for the Italian champions on Saturday and has put off retirement to consider offers to play overseas.
Buffon, who is widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers of all time, was expected to announce his retirement at a news conference in Turin on Thursday.
Instead, while the 40-year-old Buffon says the Serie A match against Hellas Verona on Saturday will be his last for Juventus, he has received "exciting" offers which have changed his mind about hanging up his gloves.
"(On) Saturday I will play a match and that is the only thing that's certain," said Buffon, who teared up at the start of the conference after an emotional tribute from Juventus president Andrea Agnelli.
"Until about two weeks ago, I was certain I would stop playing. Now offers have arrived that are exciting on and off the pitch, and the most important was proposed to me by Agnelli.
"I'll let these three days pass and then I will make a definitive decision, in complete calm, and which will be one that calls to my personality and my nature."
Buffon made his debut with Parma in 1995, and has been at Juventus since 2001. He has ruled out moving to another Italian club or dropping down the divisions.
"I am not someone who thinks it is right to end my career in who knows what third or fourth level division," Buffon added. "I am a competitive animal and I wouldn't be able to live in that situation. I wouldn't feel at ease."
Buffon has been linked with a move to Liverpool, which could offer the former Italy captain the chance to win the Champions League - one of the few trophies missing from his glittering collection, which includes the 2006 World Cup. He's appeared in three Champions League finals and lost them all.
"I said that I received very interesting offers," said Buffon, when asked directly about a move to the English Premier League.
"Next week, once everything has calmed down a little bit, I will decide what will be best for me.
"If I decide to continue it will be to fight for big things, because that's what I live for." Buffon helped Juventus win a record-extending seventh straight Serie A on Sunday, four days after he led the Bianconeri to a fourth straight Italian Cup trophy.
It was the ninth Serie A title he won with Juventus. Two others were stripped from the club due to the Calciopoli scandal. Also as punishment, Juventus was relegated to Serie B but Buffon stayed and helped it win the second division and bounce straight back up.
Among his records for club and country is the longest time in Serie A without conceding a goal when he was unbeaten for 974 consecutive minutes in the 2015-16 season.
On Saturday, Buffon will make his 656th appearance for Juventus. The captain's armband, which Buffon has worn since Alessandro Del Piero's departure in 2012, will be handed to another veteran, defender Giorgio Chiellini. Wojciech Szczesny will become Juve's first-choice goalkeeper from next season.
Buffon was also Italy captain until he retired from the national team in November when the Azzurri lost a World Cup playoff to Sweden. He recently returned for friendlies and was expected to bid the national team goodbye for good in another friendly on June 4 against the Netherlands at Allianz Stadium after 176 appearances for Italy.
However, he insisted he has played his last match for his country and doesn't need a special swansong.
"I don't need other shows of affection," Buffon added. "Italy already has great, young goalkeepers and its right they should get their own experience."