Gianluigi Buffon announced his retirement from football on Wednesday, bringing down the curtain on a glorious career as one of the world’s greatest ever goalkeepers. “That’s all folks! You gave me everything. I gave you everything. We did it together,” he posted in English on social media. Buffon, 45, hangs up his gloves after two final years at Parma, the club where it all began nearly three decades ago when Italian football was Europe’s gold standard. He had a contract which ran until next summer with Parma but he will no longer be a part of the Serie B club’s bid to return to the top flight after two years away.
Buffon is a symbol of a halcyon age when the best footballers went to play in Serie A and Italy developed dozens of world class players.
The former Italy captain has a record 176 caps for his country while also holding the record for Serie A matches played — 657, stretching back to 1995.
After bursting onto the scene as a 17-year-old, keeping out the likes of George Weah and Roberto Baggio in his Parma debut against AC Milan, Buffon won 27 major trophies.
The majority came over 19 seasons at Juventus, where he won 10 Serie A titles, five Italian Cups, while he also won the UEFA Cup in 1999 for Parma as part of possibly the best team in the club’s history.
He also won Ligue 1 with Paris Saint-Germain in 2019 before returning to Juve, but he will be most fondly remembered for Italy’s victory at the 2006 World Cup.
Buffon was one of the stars as an Azzurri team battered by the ‘Calciopoli’ match-fixing scandal — which would cost him as Juve keeper two league titles — beat France on penalties after knocking out hosts Germany in the semi-finals.
That was the last hurrah for a generation which had made Italy one of the world’s dominant football nations, and as their fortunes slowly declined he suffered the ignominy of two straight group stage exits before bowing out not long after failure to qualify for the 2018 tournament.
Buffon won his last trophy in his final season with Juve two years ago, lifting the Italian Cup alongside Federico Chiesa, 22 years after he triumphed with Parma alongside his teammate’s father Enrico.
‘I shouldn’t have apologised’
However Buffon’s career has also been plagued by scandal, not least consistent rumours that is, or at least once was, a sympathiser of the far-right.
He drew fierce criticism for choosing the number 88, a neo-Nazi code for ‘Heil Hitler’, on his jersey for the 2000-01 season.
Two years before he wore a t-shirt with the neo-fascist slogan ‘Boia chi molla’, which loosely translated means death before surrender, under his kit for a match against Lazio, who have some of Europe’s most hard-right supporters.
He publicly apologised for the t-shirt, claiming he had no idea of the source of the phrase, but in his 2010 book ‘Number One’ he said that he was still shocked at how he was “crucified”.
Buffon also claimed he chose the number 88 because he wasn’t allowed 00, which he wanted to represent “balls”, as a symbol of his comeback from a period out injured, and that 88 was simply four balls.
He changed his number to 77 but in his book he expressed outrage at the criticism he received from Rome’s Jewish Community, saying his only mistake was “being weak”.
“I shouldn’t have apologised and I should have pushed to keep the number I had already chosen,” he said.
Not long after winning the World Cup he was cleared of illegally betting on Serie A matches, allegations which reared their head at the height of the ‘Calciopoli’ scandal.
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