Gianluigi Buffon has confirmed he will leave Juventus at the end of the season but he is yet to decide if retirement beckons.

The 43-year-old re-joined the club two years ago having spent 2018-19 at Paris Saint-Germain, but he feels the two parties have reached the "end of a cycle".

Over the course of his second spell in Turin, Buffon has been second choice to Wojciech Szczesny, playing 16 times in Serie A since the start of 2019-20.

He won his 11th league title last term, but under the guidance of his former team-mate Andrea Pirlo, 2020-21 has been a drag for the Bianconeri, who sit fifth in the table with three games to go – Inter have already claimed the Scudetto.

Now he feels it is time to move on again, though he has not come to a decision as to what comes next.

Gianluigi Buffon proved his worth to Juventus in their vital win at Napoli on Wednesday, but Andrea Pirlo will restore Wojciech Szczesny as his first-choice goalkeeper.

World Cup winner Buffon, now 43, is firmly behind Szczesny in the pecking order in Turin, yet he was given a rare opportunity for the huge midweek Serie A match.

The veteran, who returned to the club from Paris Saint-Germain in 2019, made three saves as strikes from team-mates Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala set the Bianconeri on their way to victory.

Only a 90th-minute Lorenzo Insigne penalty denied Buffon a clean sheet as Juve moved three points clear of their opponents, who sit in fifth - just outside the Champions League places.

But Buffon should not expect to reprise this starting role on a regular basis, despite Szczesny committing an error leading to a goal in the weekend draw with city rivals Torino.

"I had already spoken to the lad [Szczesny]," said Pirlo, who had suggested earlier in the week Szczesny would play.

"He was already tired when he was back from the national team because he had played three games in a row, so he needed some mental rest and to recover his energy.

"It was already in my mind to have Gigi play, but [Szczesny] remains the main goalkeeper of Juventus."

 

Even besides the mishap against Torino, Buffon's output since returning to Juve has been more than a match for the number one.

Among goalkeepers in Europe's 'top five' leagues to play 25 games or more in all competitions since the start of last season, Buffon's save rate of 80.2 per cent trails only Sevilla's Yassine Bounou.

None of these keepers have conceded fewer goals than Buffon (18), while again Bounou is the only man conceding fewer goals per game (0.7 for Buffon).

With 11 clean sheets in 26 outings, he ranks ninth for clean sheet percentage (42).

Meanwhile, discounting penalties and own goals, Buffon has conceded 14 times over the past two seasons despite having an expected goals on target (xGOT) conceded total of 17.1, meaning he has prevented 3.1 goals.

This season alone, among goalkeepers to play 10 times or more, Buffon again ranks second for save percentage, his 81.8 this time trailing Sergio Rico.

 

Across the past two campaigns, Szczesny has saved 72.7 per cent of shots he has faced, but has conceded on average 1.1 goals per game and collected a clean sheet in just 31 per cent of his appearances.

He has prevented 7.7 goals - with a 66.7 xGOT conceded versus 59 non-penalty goals - albeit having played 68 matches, 42 more than Buffon.

In 2020-21, Szczesny has conceded a goal per game and kept out 71.3 per cent of shots on his goal.

With Buffon set to again lose his place despite remaining at the forefront of the European game, it would support Gianluca Pagliuca's suggestion the Juve great should have retired rather than return to Turin to sit on the bench.

Pagliuca told Stats Perform News: "If I was him, I have already retired. I would have retired after PSG. It was a good idea to go to Paris because it's a big club and he was playing regularly.

"Buffon on the bench? Happy to play only in Coppa Italia? It's not great.

"Someone with his career, it's better to retire when you are 41 and you are still playing than having a couple of years on the bench. He is still a really good goalkeeper.

"The best thing was to retire after PSG, considering his career. Maybe he still wants to compete. However, we have to think he's been the best goalkeeper in the football history."

Gianluigi Buffon is "the best goalkeeper in the football history" but should have retired after leaving Paris Saint-Germain, according to Gianluca Pagliuca.

Italy great Buffon has appeared only five times in Serie A so far for Juventus this season.

Indeed, the 43-year-old has featured in just 25 matches in all competitions since returning to Turin in 2019, keeping 11 clean sheets and conceding a meagre 17 goals.

Buffon's save percentage of 80.5 per cent ranks second among goalkeepers in Europe's 'top five' leagues to start 25 games in the past two seasons, but he is very much playing second fiddle to Wojciech Szczesny (72.8 per cent), who has had 67 Juve outings over that time.

The legendary Buffon played on 25 occasions in a single season with PSG and ex-Italy goalkeeper Pagliuca feels he should have called time on his career following his spell in the French capital.

"If I was him, I have already retired," Pagliuca told Stats Perform News. "I would have retired after PSG.

"It was a good idea to go to Paris because it's a big club and he was playing regularly.

"Buffon on the bench? Happy to play only in Coppa Italia? It's not great.

"Someone with his career, it's better to retire when you are 41 and you are still playing than having a couple of years on the bench. He is still a really good goalkeeper.

"The best thing was to retire after PSG, considering his career. Maybe he still wants to compete.

"However, we have to think he's been the best goalkeeper in the football history."

Montpellier centre-back Hilton, also aged 43, is the only player older than Buffon to appear for a club in Europe's 'top five' leagues this season.

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has been suspended for one match for using a "blasphemous expression" during Juventus' 4-0 win at Parma in December.

The 43-year-old was caught on camera committing the offence when shouting instructions to team-mate Manolo Portanova.

The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) opened disciplinary proceedings against Buffon earlier this year and he was fined €5,000 by the governing body last month.

It was announced on Tuesday that the veteran shot-stopper will also serve a one-game ban - against local rivals Torino in Serie A on Saturday - after the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the appeal of the Federal Prosecutor.

Buffon has served as back-up to Wojciech Szczesny since returning to Turin from Paris Saint-Germain in 2019 and has made 10 appearances in all competitions this season.

 

Timo Werner only joined Chelsea at the start of the season, but could he leave Stamford Bridge?

Premier League giants Chelsea are among the clubs interested in Erling Haaland.

But reports claim Chelsea are not prepared to sanction a Werner exit.

 

TOP STORY – NO CHELSEA EXIT FOR WERNER

Chelsea are not planning on selling Timo Werner as they eye Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, according to Telegraph.

Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea have been heavily linked with Haaland, who is also being targeted by Real Madrid, Manchester City, Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

But Chelsea are against the idea of parting with Werner or using the German forward in a deal to prise Haaland to Stamford Bridge after one season in London.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca are eyeing a move for Sergio Aguero after City announced their all-time leading goalscorer will leave the club on a free transfer at season's end, claims Fabrizio Romano. Inter, Chelsea and PSG have also been linked.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports Kalidou Koulibaly is likely to leave Napoli at the end of the season. Koulibaly has been linked with United, PSG and Bayern Munich previously.

- While a Koulibaly departure is on the cards, could legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon arrive? Gazzetta dello Sport claims Napoli are interested in the Juventus great, who is searching for regular football.

Cristiano Ronaldo will decide his future before May, according to Tuttosport. The Juventus superstar has been linked with former clubs Madrid and United, as well as PSG.

- Fiorentina's Dusan Vlahovic, Torino captain Andrea Belotti, PSV's Donyell Malen, AZ's Myron Boadu and Celtic star Odsonne Edouard are on Milan's shortlist of strikers in the transfer window, reports Calciomercato.

- The Athletic and other outlets claim Liverpool are nearing a deal to sign RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate. Leipzig sporting director Markus Krosche played down the possible transfer in an interview with Stats Perform News.

Real Madrid are hatching a plan to land former star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Los Blancos' transfer priorities this upcoming off-season appear to be Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Madrid's financial might but Ronaldo remains on their radar.

 

TOP STORY - REAL PLOT 'SYMBOLIC PRICE' FOR RONALDO

Real Madrid are considering a one-year contract for Cristiano Ronaldo for a "symbolic price", according to Cuatro.

The 36-year-old appears set to leave Juventus in the off-season after three years in Turin.

Madrid have reportedly started working on an economic plan to land Ronaldo should their other priorities not eventuate.

ROUND-UP

- Le10Sport claims that Paris Saint-Germain are set to agree terms with Brazilian superstar Neymar on a fresh deal which would secure his signature until 2026.

- Manchester United's Diogo Dalot is keen to make his loan stay at Milan permanent, according to Todo Fichajes.

- Todo Fichajes is also reporting that 43-year-old Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is looking to finish his career at Parma.

Juventus are monitoring Paul Pogba's contract situation at Manchester United amid talk of a move, according to Calciomercato.

- GiveMeSport claims Leicester City will make an eight-figure bid for Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard with their interest in him previously well known.

Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma has reached the notable milestone of 200 Serie A appearances, shattering a record in the process.  

Donnarumma made it to his double century when starting in the derby against Inter on Sunday, with San Siro hosting a pivotal battle between the top two in the table.  

At 21 years and 361 days, the Italy international is comfortably the youngest to achieve the feat in the competition since the switch to three points for a win in 1994-95.

The great Gianluigi Buffon (24 years and 83 days) previously held the record.  

Donnarumma was handed his league debut at 16 by then-Milan boss Sinisa Mihajlovic in October 2015. He has saved 73.09 per cent of the shots faced during his career in the Italian top flight, as well as also keeping out eight penalties.  

When compared to fellow keepers who have played in at least 10 Serie A games this season, only Lukasz Skorupski (73.26) at Bologna and Genoa's Mattia Perin (72.41) can better Donnarumma's save percentage of 72.15. 

However, his long-term future at Milan still remains unclear. Head coach Stefano Pioli recently said he remains confident the player will reach an agreement over a new deal before his current terms expire in June.

The 174th Milan derby in Serie A saw the rivals go into the contest occupying the top two spots in the standings for the first time since April 2011. The Rossoneri won 3-0 on that occasion and went on to finish the season as champions. 

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has been fined €5,000 but avoided a suspension after using a "blasphemous expression" during Juventus' 4-0 win at Parma in December.

The 43-year-old was caught on camera committing the offence when shouting instructions to team-mate Manolo Portanova.

The FIGC opened disciplinary proceedings against Buffon and the veteran keeper risked a one-man ban for his comment.

However, the National Federal Court only "partially accepted" the FIGC's referral at Thursday's hearing and former Italy international Buffon escaped with just a fine.

Buffon has served as back-up to Wojciech Szczesny since returning to Turin from Paris Saint-Germain in 2019 and has made nine appearances in all competitions this season.

After turning 36 last week, Cristiano Ronaldo felt compelled to remind fans that he cannot go on forever.

"I'm sorry that I can't promise you 20 more years of this," said the Juventus star, who looks every inch a man that could quite comfortably play professional football into his mid-fifties. "But what I can promise you, is that as long as I keep going, you'll never receive less than 100 per cent from me."

That much would never be in doubt from a man who, blessed with talent as he is, has built an extraordinary career on a foundation of boundless ambition and unyielding endeavour. He brings to mind Brad Pitt's turn as Achilles in Troy, the war-seeking warrior-hero who wins a skirmish singlehandedly before, abs a-glistening, he proclaims to a prisoner: "I want what all men want. I just want it more."

Achilles, as this version has it, knew Troy would bring about his death in a blaze of glory. Ronaldo, too, can already sense time's winged chariot hurrying near.

Which brings us to Gianluigi Buffon.

Juve's veteran goalkeeper, who celebrated his 43rd birthday less than two weeks ago, has for so long defied convention when it comes to a footballer's longevity. Even keepers rarely keep playing beyond the age of 40 and certainly not for Europe's grandest teams.

Buffon is not Juve's first choice these days, of course, but he remains the cup stand-in for Wojciech Szczesny and he duly kept his spot for Tuesday's Coppa Italia semi-final second leg with Inter. It was a day to celebrate, too, as a goalless draw earned him club clean sheet number 288 of his Juve career and sent his team into the final 2-1 on aggregate.

The game also showed why head coach Andrea Pirlo would do well to consider how much more his old friend has to offer.

A resolute defence meant he only had two saves to make throughout; in fact, the only time Juve looked especially anxious was when Buffon had the ball. There was one pass under pressure that went straight out for a corner, another in the second half that let Lautaro Martinez drive into the box only to foul Buffon after a heavy touch. There were three attempted punches while under pressure from Romelu Lukaku, all of which ended with Buffon clueless as to the ball's position as he landed, then grateful that it had already bounced away, and another positional mishap on which Martinez really should have capitalised.

The contrast with Samir Handanovic - himself no spring chicken at 36 - was stark. Handanovic made four saves to Buffon's two, a couple of which were exceptional stops to deny Ronaldo, who could have killed the tie long before full-time in Turin. Commanding in his penalty area, he gave quite a different impression to Buffon, who seemed like a doddering uncle at a family wedding trying desperately to keep up with the dance moves. Indeed, had Inter's attacking players showed the same level of laser-focus as Handanovic, perhaps they could have rescued this contest.

Pirlo's Juve have become supremely difficult to beat. They have won 10 of their 12 games in 2021, the sole defeat being a 2-0 Serie A loss to the Nerazzurri. Since that game on January 17, they had won six out of six games before this encounter and conceded only one goal: a close-range strike by Martinez in the first leg that squirmed into the net when Buffon, in game number 1,100 of his club career, was too slow to get to ground.

The Bianconeri are on course for more silverware this season and Buffon will deserve any more medals he can add to his impeccable collection. He may well start the final, too - one more turn in the limelight. But there is no shame in admitting that, in the 26th year of his professional career, the time is approaching when he should graciously step into the wings.

Andrea Pirlo cited the 2-0 loss to Inter in January as a turning point for in-form Juventus as they prepare to face Antonio Conte's side once again, this time in the Coppa Italia. 

Arturo Vidal and Nicolo Barella scored the goals as Inter deservedly triumphed at San Siro last month, the defeat inflicting further damage on the reigning champions in their bid for a 10th straight Serie A title. 

However, since that setback in Milan, Juve have won four games in a row without conceding. That run includes lifting the Supercoppa Italiana at the expense of Napoli, as well as a Coppa Italia quarter-final success over second-tier SPAL. 

Next up in the competition is a two-legged tie with Inter and, having been second best in the previous meeting, Pirlo is confident his side learned a valuable lesson from that game.

"I want to see a team aware of their strength," Pirlo - who confirmed Gianluigi Buffon will start in goal - told the club's television channel.

"It will be the first round, because it's a 180-minute game, so tomorrow it will be important to manage it well, because it won't be decisive.  

"The match against Inter in the league taught a lot, first of all, when we are not on the right track, we are not ourselves, but from there we started with great performances.” 

As for Conte, he is wary of a repeat of what happened to Inter in the competition in the 2019-20 season, when they lost 1-0 at home to Napoli in the first leg of the semi-final. A 1-1 draw was not enough in the return fixture, meaning they were knocked out by the eventual winners. 

"You always need to be very respectful of very strong teams, and we'll certainly need to put in an excellent performance,” the former Chelsea boss told the media.

"The upcoming 180 minutes will determine who progresses, and the first match will be important. Last year, we lost 1-0 to Napoli at home and didn't manage to turn things around at the San Paolo despite playing very well. We will need to perform and try to do our best."

The Nerazzurri will be without Romelu Lukaku on Tuesday due to suspension after he received a yellow card for his part in a confrontation with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the previous round. 

Conte, though, is confident he has enough strength in depth at the position to cover for the absence of the influential Belgian. Lukaku scored twice at the weekend against Benevento in Serie A action, taking his tally for the campaign in the league to 14 goals in 16 appearances. 

"It's not the first time that Romelu has been missing," Conte said. "We will have Alexis and Lautaro, who I'm sure will do well.  

"Romelu is feeling good, he responded on the pitch and scored two goals against Benevento. Now, he's being forced to rest due to his suspension and will work hard to be in good shape when he returns in the league."

Andrea Pirlo insisted Juventus had forgotten about their recent loss to Inter ahead of the Coppa Italia semi-final between the Serie A giants.

Juve booked their spot in the last four with a 4-0 thrashing of SPAL in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.

They will face Inter in a two-legged semi-final, having fallen to the Nerazzurri less than a fortnight ago in Serie A.

But Pirlo said Juve – who reached the Coppa semi-finals for the eighth time in 10 seasons – had moved on from that encounter.

"We forgot the game in Milan [against Inter] because it was in the league," the Juve head coach told a news conference.

"Next week we are going to play Coppa Italia semi-final so we will face them keen to qualify to the final. These two games are completely different.

"We have to cancel the game played last Sunday, but we have to prepare well for the semi-final."

Alvaro Morata, Gianluca Frabotta, Dejan Kulusevski and Federico Chiesa scored in Juve's resounding win over SPAL.

Morata joined Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku and Ciro Immobile as one of four Serie A players to have been involved in 20-plus goals in all competitions this season (13 goals and seven assists).

Meanwhile, Gianluigi Buffon started and kept a clean sheet, making one save, and Pirlo said he hoped there was more to come from the 43-year-old.

"It's a pleasure having Gigi in the team. It's a pleasure to see him training every day like a young player. This is the most important thing," he said.

"When you have that energy you can keep on [playing], otherwise you need to find something else to do. When we were playing together, I didn't expect he could have so long a career. He had serious injuries to his back and shoulder but he's been really focused to his body and he worked more than when he was young. That's why he has had this long career.

"He will play again this season because he showed he is still one of the best goalkeepers in the world. I hope we can enjoy him for more time."

Before the first leg of their semi-final against Inter on February 3, Inter will visit Sampdoria on Saturday.

Gianluigi Buffon is set to be sanctioned by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) after he was found to have used a "blasphemous expression" during Juventus' 4-0 win at Parma in December.

The FIGC's disciplinary committee will now consider Buffon's case, with the veteran goalkeeper expected to receive a one-match ban.

A statement from the federation said Buffon was caught on camera committing the offence when shouting instructions to team-mate Manolo Portanova during the 80th minute of the match.

Buffon, 42, has made six appearances in all competitions for Juve this season and has served as backup to Wojciech Szczesny since returning to Turin from Paris Saint-Germain in 2019.

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