Parma Re-Sign Buffon 20 Years After He Left The Club For Juventus

File photo: Gianluigi Buffon celebrates at the end of the Italian Serie A football match between Juventus and Sampdoria on April 15, 2018, at Allianz Stadium in Turin. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Goalkeeping legend Gianluigi Buffon has returned to Parma two decades after leaving the Italian club who were relegated last season.

“He is back where he belongs, he is back home. Superman returns,” the club said on Twitter.

In a video, 43-year-old Buffon declared: “I’m back”, later adding on social media: “And now let’s keep having fun.”

Buffon confirmed last month he was leaving Juventus, the club he played for since moving from Parma in 2001, apart from one season with Paris Saint-Germain in 2018-2019.

“Parma Calcio 1913 can confirm having reached an agreement with Gianluigi Buffon for a contract that will sign him to the club until 30 June 2023,” the club said in a statement.

“As such, exactly 20 years after his last game for Parma, Gigi will wear the Gialloblu colours again. He does so having won pretty much everything there is to win in the game.”

Buffon holds the record for Serie A matches played with 657, since his first with Parma in 1995 as a 17-year-old.

Since then, Buffon has played just one season in Serie B when Juventus were demoted in 2006-2007 for the ‘Calciopoli’ match-fixing scandal.

Buffon played his final game for the Turin giants in the Coppa Italia final where he lifted the trophy for the sixth time.

It was his 685th game for Juventus and his 27th career trophy, including the 2006 World Cup.

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File photo: Gianluigi Buffon reacts during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification football match between Italy and Sweden, on November 13, 2017 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

 

The former Italy captain is an iconic figure in Italian football, one of the stars of the Azzurri’s World Cup triumph who racked up a record 176 caps for his country.

Buffon won 10 Serie A titles with Juventus, as well as five Italian Cups, and six Italian Super Cups with the club and second-tier Serie B in 2007.

He also won Ligue 1 with PSG in 2018-2019 before returning to the Turin giants.

He won the UEFA Cup back in 1999 with Parma, the year the club also lifted the Italian Cup and Italian Super Cup trophies.

However, he has never won the Champions League after losing finals with Juve in 2003, 2015 and 2017.

Validation of ambition’

“We are thrilled to welcome Gigi Buffon home,” said club owner Kyle Krause, who took over last September.

“We are going to bring this legendary club back to its rightful place,” continued the American.

“Buffon’s return is another validation of that ambition. It’s a really special moment for all of us.”

The club were among Italy’s top clubs in the 1990s under the ownership of dairy company Parmalat, winning three major European titles.

After Parmalat collapsed in 2003 following a huge financial fraud, the club went bankrupt. They sank to Serie D in 2015.

Three successive promotions put them back in the top flight in 2018. They were relegated after finishing bottom of the league last season with 83 goals conceded in 38 games.

Buffon was second-choice in Juventus to Wojciech Szczesny after his return from PSG.

But the veteran has reportedly received a guarantee of being captain and number one goalkeeper and playing a role in the club when his on-pitch career ends.

AFP

Buffon Says Champions League Return Against Napoli Is Like Electric Shock

Buffon Says Champions League Return Against Napoli Is Like Electric Shock
Paris Saint-Germain’s Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon gestures during a press conference at the San Paolo stadium in Naples on November 5, 2018. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

 

Italian goalkeeping legend Gianluigi Buffon said Monday that making his European debut for new club Paris Saint-Germain at home in Italy against Napoli was like an electric shock for him.

“I know the San Paolo Stadium very well and above all I know the feeling that there is between the team and its fans,” said the 40-year-old former World Cup winner ahead of Tuesday’s game.

“Being able to return to the Champions League after my disqualification in a match so important in Italy and Naples is something that inevitably gives some major shocks.

“It’s very emotional! If I chose to continue to play at 40 years it’s because football generates emotions like nothing else.

“I’m really lucky to be able to return to Italy, against Naples, in a Champions League match.”

Buffon was suspended for PSG’s opening three European games for his behaviour and comments towards the referee during Juventus’ quarter-final loss to Real Madrid last April.

Napoli and PSG played out a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Paris, with the Italians second in Group C on five points after three games, one behind leaders Liverpool.

PSG face the prospect of potential early elimination as they sit third with four.

– ‘Inside knowledge’ –

A defeat in the heated atmosphere of the San Paolo and Paris could find themselves four points behind the top two with two games to play, including a home clash with Liverpool later this month.

“It will be very difficult to win because the Napoli I saw in the first leg is a team to be respected,” said Buffon. “For us, it will be important not to lose, because then there are still two games to make up.

“I hope after this forced exile to be able to have a good match and to be useful to my teammates and the team’s cause.”

New PSG coach Thomas Tuchel is counting on Buffon to help keep cool heads in Naples.

“Gigi (Buffon) will help us, he already knows the stadium and the atmosphere and he’ll be a big help in the dressing room,” said Tuchel at Monday’s press conference.

“Gigi is coming back from a ban and he deserves to play in Italy against a team he knows.”

In Naples, Buffon will meet up again with old friend Carlo Ancelotti, who brought the goalkeeper to Juventus back in 2001 — the start of a glorious 17-year career in Turin.

“Carlo is a special person but he is also a great coach who has won everything in his career,” said Buffon.

“He brought me to Juventus, even though he soon left. And then the following year he defeated us in the Champions League final … ”

Napoli are counting on Ancelotti’s European credentials — Champions League titles with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007 and once with Real Madrid in 2014 — to pull them through against PSG, who have the two most expensive players in history in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

“It’s always a pleasure to meet him again, to see that he is motivated despite his age, I have great respect for the professional and great affection for my friend,” Ancelotti said earlier.

“The group remains very balanced and uncertain, which is a very positive thing for us,” estimated the Italian coach.

AFP

Buffon To Start Against Lille, Napoli

Paris Saint-Germain’s Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (L) gestures as he speaks with Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe (C) and Paris Saint-Germain’s French midfielder Stanley Nsoki (R) during the warm-up prior to the French L1 football match between Olympique de Marseille (OM) and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at the Velodrome stadium, in Marseille, on October 28, 2018. Boris HORVAT / AFP

 

Italian goalkeeping “legend” Gianluigi Buffon will start for Paris Saint-Germain when they face Lille and Napoli in the coming days, PSG coach Thomas Tuchel said Thursday.

Buffon, who joined the Ligue 1 giants in the summer from Juventus, last played for PSG in a 5-0 league win over Lyon on October 7 as he alternates with French shot-stopper Alphonse Areola.

The 40-year-old World Cup winner was suspended for PSG’s opening three Champions League group games.

But he is set to replace Areola in Friday’s league fixture with Lille and again in Naples on Tuesday when PSG will be battling for a win to salvage their flagging Champions League campaign.

“He plays a very important role for us because he’s a legend,” Tuchel said.

“He’s had a great career and has a lot of experience. He’s crucial for us thanks to his approach to the game.

“It’s very important that he’s here and that he speaks to everyone to share his experience.”

PSG have won their opening 11 matches in Ligue 1 and sit top with an eight-point lead on second-placed Lille, whom they host on Friday.

But the Parisians realistically need a win in Naples on Tuesday if they are to save a flagging European campaign beset by defeat at Liverpool and a 2-2 draw with Napoli in the French capital.

AFP

UEFA Ban Buffon For Three Matches After Referee Rant

Gianluigi Buffon reacts during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification football match between Italy and Sweden at the San Siro stadium in Milan. PHOTO: Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Outgoing Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was on Tuesday banned for three European matches for his red card and comments about referee Michael Oliver after the Italian side’s dramatic Champions League quarter-final loss to Real Madrid last month.

The 40-year-old had been charged both with breaching UEFA’s “general principles of conduct” over his outburst and also for his red card for dissent.

European football’s governing body announced Tuesday that Buffon was suspended for “three UEFA competition matches for which he would be otherwise eligible”.

The last-eight clash between holders Real and Juventus was decided by a last-gasp Cristiano Ronaldo penalty after the Serie A champions had staged a remarkable comeback to wipe out a 3-0 first-leg deficit at the Santiago Bernabeu.

But Buffon, who was sent off in the aftermath of the penalty decision, lashed out at Oliver’s decision to award the spot-kick, saying the English official had a “rubbish bin for a heart”.

The 2006 World Cup winner, who did not renew his contract with Juventus, could, however, be playing for Paris Saint-Germain next season.

He said on Monday he needed a week before making a decision on whether to head to the French capital or not.

AFP

Buffon Bids Tearful Farewell To Juventus After 17 Years

Buffon Bids Tearful Farewell To Juventus After 17 Years
Juventus’ goalkeeper from Italy Gianluigi Buffon waves during the victory ceremony following the Italian Serie A last football match of the season Juventus versus Verona, on May 19, 2018 at the Allianz Stadium in Turin. Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 

Italy great Gianluigi Buffon played his final game for Juventus on Saturday before tearfully exiting after a 17-year career as storm clouds gathered during a 2-1 win over already-relegated Verona.

Buffon — who had captained Juventus to a seventh straight Serie A title and fourth consecutive Italian Cup triumph this season — took his final bow midway through the second half before rain came down and thunder rumbled over the Allianz Stadium.

It was the 656th game for the evergreen 40-year-old who arrived in Turin in 2001 from Parma for a then world record 52 million euros fee.

The goalkeeper and captain was substituted by coach Massimiliano Allegri to take an ovation before 40,000 emotional Juventus fans many with their eyes filling with tears.

Juventus were two goals up thanks to Daniele Rugani after 49 minutes and Miralem Pjanic three minutes later when Buffon came off the pitch.

He hugged all his teammates, on the field and on the bench, and then left the sidelines.

Goalkeeper Carlo Pinsoglio made his Serie A debut between the posts in his place.

Buffon had said he did not want anything special for his final game.

“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 had said.

But there was resounding applause and singing as the goalkeeper and Juventus captain emerged from the locker rooms before his final game.

He was accompanied onto the pitch at the Allianz Stadium by his three children — Louis Thomas and David Lee, with the youngest, Leopoldo, in the arms of his partner Ilaria D’Amico.

“There is only one number 1, there is only one number 1”, they sang in the tribunes before kick-off, as Buffon hugged his teammates one by one.

In the south tribune Juventus fans unfurled a banner: “Only those who try the absurd reach the impossible”.

A giant flag with the image of the goalkeeper covered the stand.

There were messages “17 years with you. Thanks Gigi”, “Gigi Buffon, immortal hero” and “Gigi, Santo Subito”.

Buffon embraced each of his teammates including his successor Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny and new captain Giorgio Chiellini and took his place in between the posts for his final game.

The crowd cheered his every move with his first save made after quarter of an hour against Algerian winger Mohamed Fares.

The moment everyone was waiting for came after 63 minutes as Buffon again hugged every teammate, every member of staff, waved at the crowd until he got to the bench, rested his head back and sighed with eyes closed, before leaving the sidelines.

– ‘Simply the best’ –

Teammates also paid tribute with Sami Khedira tweeting: “It has always been an honour for me to play side to side with a living legend. Glad we can celebrate another Scudetto today!”

“100 games together, 1,040 days, smiles, tears, hugs,” tweeted Paulo Dybala.

“You’ve taught me so much. You are the captain of my successes. I wish you to be happy in the future my captain, I will miss you. Today we must have fun together again.”

After winning the Italian Cup, SuperCup and UEFA Cup with Parma, Buffon went on to claim nine Serie A titles, four Italian Cups and five SuperCups with Juventus, in addition to winning the 2006 World Cup with Italy.

On the pitch Alessio Cerci pulled one back for the Verona after 76 minutes, ending Juventus’s bid for a record 23 games in one season without conceding a goal.

It was also the final game for Ghanian Kwadwo Asamoah and Swiss Stephan Lichtsteiner.

Juventus had wrapped up the Serie A title last Sunday in Rome, but lifted the trophy for the 34th time after the game.

The storm did not stop hundreds of fans, many of whom had gathered outside, lining the route as the open top bus then made its way to the centre of the city.

Despite trailing Napoli for much of the season Juventus ended the campaign with 95 points from 30 wins including 16 at home.

“We fought with Napoli throughout the year, we tip our hats to them, but we were the best,” said Allegri.

“We missed the icing on the cake, which is the Champions League, but we can’t know how it would have ended in extra time against Real Madrid,” he added of a match in which Buffon was controversially sent off.

AFP

Juve Captain Buffon ‘Sorry’ For Referee Rant

Italy’s goalkeeper Gianluigi                                                                             Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Gianluigi Buffon on Thursday apologised for his referee rant after Juventus’s Champions League quarter-final exit against Real Madrid last month.

The 40-year-old has been charged by UEFA over his comments about referee Michael Oliver, who awarded the Spaniards a late penalty and dismissed the Juve captain.

Cristiano Ronaldo slotted home the penalty to give Real a 4-3 aggregate victory after the Serie A champions had staged a remarkable comeback to wipe out a 3-0 first-leg deficit at the Santiago Bernabeu.

A fuming Buffon had raged that Englishman Oliver had a “rubbish bin for a heart” and should “sit in the stands with your wife, your kids, having your drink and eating your crisps”.

European football’s governing body said the case will be dealt with on May 31.

“After that match, I went beyond the limits with the things I said about the referee and I apologise for that,” said Buffon.

“I am extremely sorry about that, as over 23 years of Champions League career, I was never sent off or suspended, so I feel that I behaved fairly and in a sporting manner with everyone.

“If I saw the referee again, I would give him a hug and say that he should have taken more time with that decision in such an important game for us and for me,” said Buffon.

“With the feelings, emotions and disappointment of the situation, I behaved in a way that was not usual for me.

“The referee gave me a red card — which I still don’t understand — and you (the press) rather than focusing on my comments, should look at behaviour from the official that was not really consistent.

“A few days later I was sorry to have offended the referee because at the end of the day he is a human being who does a very difficult job.”

AFP

Italy Great, Buffon To End 17-Year Juventus Career

Juventus’ Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon gives the thumb up 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. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Juventus goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon, announced on Thursday that he will leave the Turin giants after 17 years but did not as expected declare the end of his playing career.

Buffon, 40, captained Juventus to a seventh straight Serie A title and fourth consecutive Italian Cup triumph this season.

“To end this adventure with two new victories was important,” the Italian told a press conference at the Allianz Stadium.

“Saturday will be my final match with Juventus.”

The former Parma goalkeeper will make his 640th Serie A appearance against Verona in Turin.

Buffon said he would like to take more time to reflect on his future which could be either on or off the pitch.

“What am I going to do? Saturday, I’m playing a match and it’s the only thing that’s certain,” he continued.

“Until 15 days ago, I was sure to stop playing, but I received some exciting proposals, both on and off the pitch. Off the pitch, the most interesting was made to me by (Juventus) president (Andrea) Agnelli.”

“Next week, after a few days of calm reflection, I will make a definite and certain decision.”

According to the Italian press Buffon has received offers from top European clubs including Liverpool, Real Madrid and Paris Saint Germain.

It was a rollercoaster season for Buffon with Italy failing to qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time in six decades.

His final Champions League game ended in another fiasco last month as he raged into the night at the referee after being sent off late in a semi-final defeat by Real Madrid.

He is facing a UEFA ban for his verbal abuse of English referee Michael Oliver who he said had “a rubbish bag for a heart” and should “sit in the stands with your wife, your kids, having your drink and eating your crisps”.

Italy’s most capped player with 176, Buffon could make his international farewell on June 4 in a friendly against the Netherlands.

Buffon holds the record for going 974 minutes in Serie A football without conceding a goal and has kept 300 clean sheets in 655 competitive club matches.

AFP

Buffon Should Watch His Mouth, Says Italian Referee

FILE COPY Juventus’ goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon celebrates at the end of the Italian Serie A football match between Juventus and Sampdoria on April 15, 2018 at Allianz Stadium in Turin. Juventus won the match 3-0. Photo Credit: MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Italian referees’ Chief, Marcello Nicchi, said Monday that Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon should think before lashing out at officials as he did during last week’s Champions League defeat by Real Madrid.

Buffon was sent off for dissent by English referee Michael Oliver after he awarded Real Madrid a stoppage-time penalty which sent the Spaniards into the semi-finals.

The 40-year-old Italian icon later called Oliver “a murderer” with “a rubbish bin” in place of a heart.

“Buffon is a great champion who I hope will go on to have a great managerial career,” Nicchi told Italian radio.

“But at certain levels you have to be careful about what you say. There are always kids listening.

“If it happened in Italy? I would have defended the referee. They can’t be threatened either before, during, or after the game.

“After that, there are the appropriate bodies which must judge the conduct of all players on the pitch.”

Meanwhile, Nicchi warned of a repeat of the 2006 Calciopoli match-fixing scandal if referees lose their right to vote at the top of the game in Italy.

The Italian Referees’ Association (AIA) could lose its two percent voting allocation in the Italian Football Federation’s Federal Council.

And AIA president Nicchi believes this could open the door to behind-the-scenes meddling like during the Calciopoli scandal that rocked Serie A and Serie B in 2006.

“To undermine the independence and impartiality of our referees could mean the start of a new Calciopoli,” said Nicchi.

“I’m doing everything to calm the referees, but if one day someone goes out on the pitch and doesn’t find the referee, I wouldn’t be surprised,” he added of possible strike action.

AFP

Referee ‘Has No Heart’, Buffon Reacts To Juventus Champions League Exit

Referee ‘Has No Heart’, Buffon Reacts To Juventus Champions League Exit
Juventus’ Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (2L) argues with the referee during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg football match against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on April 11, 2018. OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

 

Gianluigi Buffon told English referee Michael Oliver he “has no heart” and should have been watching Juventus’ Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid in the stands “with his wife and a Sprite”. 

Oliver awarded Real a penalty in the 93rd minute at the Santiago Bernabeu, after Juve defender Mehdi Benatia brought down Lucas Vazquez with a clumsy challenge from behind.

Buffon was then sent off for his protests and Cristiano Ronaldo scored the resulting spot-kick to drag Real through to the semi-finals with a dramatic 4-3 aggregate win.

“This referee has no heart, he has a garbage bag instead of a heart” Buffon told Italian channel Mediaset Premium after the second leg tie which his team had won 3-1.

“If you do not have personality and courage, you should go to the stands to watch the match with your wife and with a Sprite.”

Real looked like they would cruise into the semis following last week’s 3-0 victory in Turin but Mario Mandzukic gave Juve hope with two first-half headers before Blaise Matuidi levelled the tie after a mistake from goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

Buffon’s red card could bring a bad-tempered end to a magnificent Champions League career, with the 40-year-old Italian expected to retire in the summer.

“The referee blew for a foul that only he saw,” Buffon told beIN Sports. “Above all, for great matches at European level, we need big players, coaches, supporters and referees.

“There must be some sensitivity to understanding the importance of some moments and if you do not have this sensitivity to what’s going on in the game, you’re not worthy of being on the pitch.

“In this case, he should be in the stands with his parents, with his friends, with fries and coca-cola, and watch the game. You cannot do something like that.”

Benatia, who later likened the penalty award to being “raped”, claimed he made little contact with Vazquez and believes Real too often enjoy the rub of the green on decisions.

“Honestly I’ve seen and played in matches — you can never whistle for a penalty like that in the 93rd minute,” Benatia said.

“If there is contact it is with my thigh and that is part of football. There is never the intention to foul him or to push him.”

Benatia added: “Last year they screwed Bayern Munich on two or three goals that were offside if I’m not mistaken.

“It’s always the same story that repeats itself. It’s a very big team Real, it’s not for nothing that they have won so much, I don’t think they need any extra help.

“Everyone knows that this match had to go into extra-time and the best team would have won.”

AFP

Goalkeeping Legend Buffon Ready To Play Again For Italy

Italy’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon                                                  Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

 

 

Italy goalkeeping legend Gianluigi Buffon confirmed on Tuesday he is ready to come out of international retirement if he is called up for friendlies against England and Argentina.

Buffon called time on his international career after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia, losing a two-legged play-off to Sweden to miss the tournament for the first time in 60 years.

But Italy interim national coach Luigi Di Biagio said on Monday he was ready to recall Buffon for friendlies against Argentina and England in Manchester and London on March 23 and 27.

“I had thought about going on holiday for a few days with my family, but when the national team needs you, you must be present and not desert them,” Buffon told Italian programme Tiki Taka.

The 40-year-old Juventus goalkeeper has represented the Azzurri for 20 years, winning the 2006 World Cup title, and earning a record 175 caps in a brilliant career. He had been bidding for a record sixth World Cup appearance.

“There’s nothing to add to Di Biagio’s words other than I feel a sense of responsibility and loyalty which I must give to the national team in this transitional moment,” he continued.

“I repeat, it’s a way of showing loyalty and a sense of responsibility towards Italy. A new national team is being born and the first games are not comfortable ones because we will face Argentina and England.

“I think that any experienced player can be useful at the start, even if it’s just to give advice to the young ones.”

Juventus captain Buffon, who has said he intends to retire as a player at the end of the season, said he will announce his final decision in due course.

“The only thing I have to do right now is focus on the end of the season,” Buffon continued.

“The thing I can tell you is that I’m sure and I’m very happy with what will be my choice, together with the club, but we’ll announce it when the time comes.

“Right now it’s a point in the season where we have to be very focused.”

Six-time Serie A holders Juventus are second in the league and are also in the running for the Italian Cup, and the Champions League where they play the last 16 second leg against Tottenham in Wembley on March 7.

Buffon Returns To Italy Team For England, Argentina Friendlies

Buffon Returns To Italy Team For England, Argentina Friendlies
(Files) Juventus’ Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon warms up prior to the Italian Serie A football match Sassuolo versus Juventus on September 17, 2017 at the Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia.
MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Italy legend Gianluigi Buffon looks set for a return to international action in friendlies against England and Argentina in March, interim national coach Luigi Di Biagio said on Monday.

“I spoke to him, he will probably be part of the group in March, a player like him cannot stop after Sweden,” said Di Biagio.

Buffon was inconsolable as he announced his retirement after Italy’s disastrous 1-0 aggregate play-off defeat to Sweden in the San Siro last November, as the Azzurri failed to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

The 40-year-old Juventus goalkeeper had represented the Azzurri for 20 years, winning the 2006 World Cup title, and earning a record 175 caps in a brilliant career. He had been bidding for a record sixth World Cup appearance.

“It’s not fair that his last game was the one against Sweden, so I proposed that he come back for one, two or possibly three games. Gigi (Buffon) will probably be there in March,” continued Di Biagio of friendlies against Argentina and England, in Manchester and London on March 23 and 27.

“Gianluigi Donnarumma and Alex Meret? We’re doing well with goalkeepers for the next 20 years. (Mattia) Perin is there too, and when Gigi unfortunately stops we’ll be well covered.

“We’re solid from that point of view, but Gigi’s story doesn’t have to end with that Sweden game.”

Di Biagio said he had also been in contact with other members of Italy’s golden generation of World Cup winners.

“I’ve met with some of the veterans because I understood that some of them wanted to quit. I talked to Buffon to see if he wanted to continue.

“As for the other players, without going into details I’ve spoken to a lot of them. (Andrea) Barzagli and (Daniele) De Rossi won’t be there. (Giorgio) Chiellini yes. We want to relaunch the team with enthusiasm.”

Under-21 boss Di Biagio has been promoted to the senior role for the friendlies and is holding a training camp at Coverciano outside Florence on Monday and Tuesday.

“It’s normal to think about what I’ll have to do in the next few months, I’ll decide when the time comes to make the call-ups,” he continued of his squad, adding he had not yet decided whether to recall in-form Nice striker Mario Balotelli.

“I’m not saying now if Balotelli will come or not, I follow him like everyone else, and no doors are closed,” said Di Biagio.

“At this moment Italian football is in great difficulty and there isn’t much choice, but we need to create the right enthusiasm after the disappointment of the World Cup.”

AFP

Buffon Wins Serie A Best Player Award

Juventus’s Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon poses after receiving the “Best goalkeeper 2017” award at the “Gran Gala del Calcio” Italian Football Association. Photo; MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

Italy legend Gianluigi Buffon eased some of his World Cup heartache by winning the Serie A Best Player of the Year award at the Gran Gala del Calcio Awards in Milan.

“The failure to participate in the World is the biggest disappointment in my career together with some (lost) Champions league finals,” said the 39-year-old Juventus goalkeeper at Monday night’s ceremony.

“I’m happy and proud. I never thought I’d get this kind of trophy, and I’ll hold on tight to it because I’ve never won best youngster!”

Napoli’s Maurizio Sarri was named the best coach in the Italian football awards.

Buffon quit international football last month as four-time champions Italy sensationally missed out on their first World Cup finals in 60 years after a playoff defeat to Sweden on Monday.

“Italy-Sweden was the biggest disappointment of my life,” he told Sky Sports Italia.

“But we need to move on, the season must end in the best way and with Juventus there are so many goals to be achieved.”

Buffon won a tenth Serie A title with Juventus, as well as a third Italian Cup title as well as helping the Turin side reach the Champions League final for the second time in three years.

And he left the door open on a future return for the national side.

“I’ve taken a period of rest, I’m getting on, I’ve always been a soldier signed up for the national side and Juventus, so I can’t desert,” he said.

“Even at the age of 60, if there was a dearth of goalkeepers I’d be available because that’s how I conceive the idea of a nation.”

It is the sixth straight year that a Juventus player has won the award as he follows Andrea Pirlo (2012- 014), Carlos Tevez (2015) and Leonardo Bonucci (2016).

Buffon has said he will retire at the end of this season, unless Juventus win the Champions League title.

The Serie A champions play league leaders Napoli on Friday before a crunch Champions League game next week at Olympiakos.

AFP