November 15, 2018
Sports

Buffon Bids Tearful Farewell To Juventus After 17 Years

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.

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