As Gianluigi Buffon arrived for his medical at Juventus on Thursday, you could be forgiven for thinking you had entered some kind of time warp. Was this 2001? No, we really are in 2019, and – in one of the most bizarre summer transfers you’ll ever see – the 41-year-old goalkeeper has returned to Turin after only one season away at Paris Saint-Germain.
“It’s the conclusion of a wonderful journey I’ve been fortunate enough to share with people who truly cared for me,” Buffon declared just over one year ago. “I felt that, day after day, and because of that love I fought and tried to do my best.
“Saturday will be my last game with Juventus. I think it’s the best way to end this wonderful adventure, to end it with another two victories, which are truly important, and to end it with the closeness and accompaniment of Andrea and the whole Juventus family. My fear was to reach the end of the Juve adventure as someone who people just put up with or a player who had lost it.”
So what has changed so radically in a year that the goalkeeper is now back at the club?
After links with Leeds and other moves to England, very few will have expected Buffon to return to the club in which he had previously spent 17 years. However, has been his desperate need to add the only major winners’ medal that his collection lacks – the Champions League – that has helped persuade the veteran to carry on with his career for just that little bit longer.
Having chosen PSG to continue with his adventure, it seems like the ‘keeper has somehow removed that desire from his system and is happy to return home, albeit on a reduced contract. Juventus are starting a new chapter themselves with new boss Maurizio Sarri and it seems like Buffon would like to become part of that.
“He had many offers, especially from the Premier League and from other large teams,” his agent Silvano Martina told The Daily Mail. “I don’t name names, it’s not my style but I think you won’t have problems understanding.
“Buffon has always made choices with his heart and never for his wallet. You can compare his return home to that of a husband who after an escapade can’t wait to hug his wife again.”
Just like a man who has returned home after a fling with another woman, Buffon realises he can’t just expect the situation to continue exactly as it was before.
“I just want to do my bit for the team,” Buffon admitted in his (re)introductory press conference before admitting that he had turned down offers of the number one jersey from current first choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and an attempt from Giorgio Chiellini to return the Captain’s armband.
“It’s only right that the starting goalkeeper, Szczesny, has the No 1 jersey. And for the captaincy we have a great player like Giorgio Chiellini.
“I’m not here just to get a few minutes under my belt, Juve have very clear hierarchies: I’m here and I’ll have to make sure I’m ready to lend a hand whenever the opportunity arises.”
When he does “lend a hand”, the legendary stopper will be making progress towards a number of records that he was very close to in his first period with the Bianconeri. Buffon is just seven appearances shy of Paolo Maldini’s all-time Serie A appearance record of 647. Making just eight appearances in the forthcoming campaign would see that record broken, and would also see him eclipse Alessandro Del Piero in Juve’s all time top Serie A appearance maker with 480.
There is also still hope that Juventus will win the Champions League with star forward Cristiano Ronaldo already in the ranks, plus some other top signings this summer. In addition, there is reportedly also the promise that the veteran will be able to enjoy a coaching role once he has officially retired from playing.
When all is said and done, this move seems to be a real no-brainer for Buffon. He has been and tried life in another league, and now is content to return home. He simply needs to realise and respect that after his high-profile exit, things at Juventus will never be exactly the same for him.