Italy Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon Responds To Criticism Of Return

Gianluigi Buffon is in Manchester for Friday's friendly against Argentina
Gianluigi Buffon is in Manchester for Friday’s friendly against Argentina

Gianluigi Buffon hit back at critics after arriving in England by saying he has not returned to the Italy squad “to show myself off”.

The veteran goalkeeper announced his retirement from international football after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup last November but later performed a U-turn.

He has been retained as captain by caretaker coach Luigi di Biagio and is set to lead the side out in friendlies against Argentina in Manchester on Friday and England at Wembley next Tuesday.

The decision has been questioned in some quarters but the 40-year-old Juventus legend insists he is still the best man for the job.

Buffon, who holds a European record 175 international caps, said: “I’ve nothing to add to what has been said. Everyone knows the truth.

“My role in the squad has always been positive and I’ve always brought people together. I’ve always put us before me.

Buffon visited the Etihad Stadium on Thursday to soak up the atmosphere
Buffon visited the Etihad Stadium on Thursday to soak up the atmosphere

“I’m not here to showcase, to show myself off. I can still be useful. I might be 40 but I’m the goalkeeper of Juventus.

“Italy is a funny country where people enjoy controversy but any controversy about me is just sensationalism. After a while all this controversy will just fall away.”

Buffon has previously hinted that this season could be his last but he does not appear to have any retirement plans yet.

Speaking at a press conference at the Etihad Stadium, Buffon added: “I don’t know if my last match will be with Juventus or an international but it will be low key and sober, normal.

“I arrived at my first game on a scooter and the only car I have is the one that Juventus make available for me.”

Di Biagio, who has stepped up from duties with the U21 side, hopes the four friendlies in the remainder of the season can help Italy move on from their World Cup nightmare. Russia 2018 will be the first finals to take place without four-time world champions Italy for 60 years.

Buffon called time on his international career in November after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup
Buffon called time on his international career in November after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup

The games also provide a chance for Di Biagio to stake a claim for the job full-time but he insists that is not his focus.

Di Biagio said: “Everything around the team has changed. We need a new start.

“We have a small world championship in these four matches. It is a chance to test new players. We need patience and consistency, regardless of who is going to be in the driving seat.”

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