Legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has announced he is leaving Italian giants Juventus, but not that he is retiring. The 40-year-old has said that offer received in recent weeks have changed his mind.
"I'm convinced that Juventus needs to plan for the future and, as someone who has spent many years as a player and several as club captain, I am the first to understand that," Buffon told a press conference at the Allianz Stadium in Turin. "Saturday will be my final match with Juventus."
The 40-year-old, widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers of all time, was expected to announce his retirement at the press conference but he has received offers to play elsewhere, which have changed his mind.
"Until about two weeks ago, I was certain I would stop playing. Now offers have arrived that are exciting on and off the pitch," he said without discussing where he could be headed.
Buffon joined Juve in 2001 after six top-flight seasons at Parma, where he won an Italian Cup and a UEFA Cup. Seventeen years later, the keeper is set to make his 640th and final Serie A appearance for Juventus against Verona in Turin, when the club lifts a record seventh successive league title.
The keeper also holds the record for time without conceding - 974 minutes in Serie A. In 655 appearances for Juventus, Buffon has kept 310 clean sheets.
"I get to this point with plenty of emotions, but also with a great feeling of joy," he said. "A lot of people have loved me here. I felt this love and fought to deserve it, and tried to do my best.
In November, Buffon retired from the national team after Italy lost a World Cup playoff to Sweden but recently returned for friendlies. He played five World Cups, helping Italy lift the trophy in 2006 and holds a record of 176 caps with the Azzurri. He could well make his international retirement official after a friendly on June 4 against the Netherlands.
jh/pfd (AP, dpa)