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At 40, Iconic Buffon Targets French Conquest At PSG

Veteran Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was seen on July 6, 2018 visiting the headquarters of Paris Saint-Germain and a nearby hospital by an AFP reporter before signing with the French champions on Friday, June 6, 2018. PHOTO/AFP
Veteran Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was seen on July 6, 2018 visiting the headquarters of Paris Saint-Germain and a nearby hospital by an AFP reporter before signing with the French champions on Friday, June 6, 2018. PHOTO/AFP
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PARIS, France- After 23 seasons as one of the unmovable pillars of Italian football, Gianluigi Buffon is experimenting with life abroad as he signs for Paris Saint-Germain at the age of 40.

The veteran keeper has remained rooted in his native Italy through almost 900 club games for Parma and then Juventus and a European record 176 caps for Italy.

On the way, Buffon has won a string of trophies. He is also the only goalkeeper to win the UEFA player of the year award.

But it has been an “eventful rollercoaster ride of a journey,” as club president Andrea Agnelli said on the eve of Buffon’s Juventus farewell in May.

It has been a career which has repeatedly touched the heights but also brought reverses.

Last season, Buffon captained Juventus to a seventh straight Serie A title and a fourth consecutive Italian Cup but also suffered two moments of heart-breaking disappointment.

In April, Buffon again missed out on the Champions League, sent off for dissent after Juventus conceded the injury time penalty that eliminated them at Real Madrid.

In November, Buffon was part of the Italy team that missed the World Cup after losing a qualifying play-off against Sweden.

Buffon also missed almost two months of action with a calf injury.

The goalkeeper made his debut with Parma at 17 in 1995. He won the Italian Cup, SuperCup and UEFA Cup at the club before moving to Juventus in 2001, winning nine Serie A titles, four Italian Cups and five SuperCups.

Buffon made his Italy debut at 19 in 1997. In 2006, he conceded only two goals in seven matches – a record he shares with Spain’s Iker Casillas and France’s Fabien Barthez – as Italy won the World Cup.

Staying royal

In this file photo taken on April 15, 2018 Juventus' goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon celebrates at the end of the Italian Serie A football match between Juventus and Sampdoria at Allianz Stadium in Turin. Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon announced on May 17, 2018 that he will leave the Turin giants after 17 years. PHOTO/AFP

In this file photo taken on April 15, 2018 Juventus’ goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon celebrates at the end of the Italian Serie A football match between Juventus and Sampdoria at Allianz Stadium in Turin. Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon announced on May 17, 2018 that he will leave the Turin giants after 17 years. PHOTO/AFP

His place in Germany had been in doubt as Juventus were embroiled in scandal. Buffon was cleared, but the club were relegated. Some stars left, but Buffon stayed loyal.

“When we descended into Hell in 2006, he stayed with us and played his part in our return to Paradise,” Agnelli said. “We will be forever grateful for his loyalty.”

That only increased the adoration of Juventus, fans but before his final game, the charismatic Buffon tried to downplay his farewell.

“I want to live this day normally. I ask nothing except what I have already had, esteem, affection and respect. The rest I do not need it. As a child, I did not like birthdays and be in the centre of attention,” Buffon said.

Buffon’s final competitive game for Italy was less happy as the Azzurri drew 0-0 at home against Sweden to lose their World Cup qualifying playoff 1-0 on aggregate.

“I’m not sorry for myself but all of Italian football,” an inconsolable Buffon told Italian broadcaster Rai after the final whistle.

“We failed at something which also means something on a social level. There’s regret at finishing like that, not because time passes.”

Buffon’s cool slipped in the Champions League when he  was sent off for barging referee Michael Oliver who had awarded the late penalty that eliminated Juventus.

Buffon later said the 33-year-old Oliver had a “bag of rubbish for a heart”.

His anger was perhaps related to his long frustration in a competition he has never won.

Saved spot-kicks

Buffon first reached the final in 2003 when Juventus played a goal-less draw with AC Milan and then lost the shootout, even though Buffon saved spot kicks from Clarence Seedorf and Kakha Kaladze.

He made two more appearances in the final: a 3-1 loss to Barcelona in 2015 and a 4-1 thrashing by Real Madrid in 2017.

Buffon’s international career began in a World Cup playoff.

Under the snow of Moscow in 1997, Gianluca Pagliuca was injured and coach Cesare Maldini had no choice but to turn to the young Buffon.

“Do you feel like coming on?” he asked. Buffon played, he was good and became a fixture, first as a substitute, then number one goalkeeper and finally captain.

Buffon, whose mother was a discus thrower and father a weightlifter, became a goalkeeper only at 12 years old, having started off as an attacking midfielder.

His charisma, his experience and his measured way of expressing himself have made him a senior figure in Italian football.

“I was lucky to play my entire career with him, at Juventus and the national side,” centre back Giorgio Chiellini, who played with Buffon for 14 seasons.

“There’s no doubt that sometimes I don’t even realise what it means to be in front of such a strong goalkeeper. Sometimes it seems simple but it’s only because it’s him.”

Juventus' goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon saves a penalty kick during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs Cagliari on August 19, 2017 at the Allianz Stadium in Turin. PHOTO/AFP

Juventus’ goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon saves a penalty kick during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs Cagliari on August 19, 2017 at the Allianz Stadium in Turin. PHOTO/AFP

Gianluigi Buffon factfile

Name: Gianluigi Buffon

Age: 40

Date of birth: January 28, 1978

Place of birth: Carrara, Tuscany (Italy)

Height: 1.91 m (6ft 3in)

Weight: 92 kg (14st 5lb)

Playing career

Position: Goalkeeper

Teams: Parma 1995-2001, Juventus 2001-2018, Paris Saint-Germain (FRA) 2018-

International: Italy 1997-2018

Caps: 176

Playing honours

Parma:

Italian Cup (1): 1998-1999, Italian SuperCup (1): 1999, UEFA Cup (1): 1998-1999

Juventus:

Total games played: 655

Serie A games played: 471

Serie A (9): 2001-2002, 2002-2003, 2011-2012, 2012-2013, 2013-2014, 2014-2015, 2015-2016, 2016-2017, 2017-2018

Serie B (1): 2006-2007

Italian Cup (4): 2014-2015, 2015-2016, 2016-2017, 2017-2018

Italian SuperCup (5): 2002, 2003, 2012, 2013, 2015

International

FIFA World Cup: 2006 winner

European Championship: 2012 runner-up

FIFA Confederations Cup: Bronze medal 2013

Records

Most caps for Italy: 176

Second-most appearances in Serie A: 639, behind Paolo Maldini’s 647

Joint record for World Cup appearances (5): 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014

Awards

Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year: 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year: 2002–03, 2016-17

Runner-up Ballon d’Or: 2006

Juventus' Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (2L) argues with the referee 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. PHOTO/AFP

Juventus’ Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (2L) argues with the referee 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. PHOTO/AFP


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