Buffon calls time on stellar Juve career

Juventus signed Gianluigi Buffon from Parma in 2001 for a world-record goalkeeper transfer fee

Italy's talismanic goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, considered by many to be the greatest in his position, will play his last match for Juventus after 17 years at the club when they host Verona on Saturday.

Yet the 40-year-old, who has won nine Serie A titles with Juventus including the last seven in a row, stopped short of announcing his retirement from the sport in a news conference on Thursday.

Buffon, close to tears at times, said that until two weeks ago he had been set to end his playing career, but changed his mind after receiving "very interesting" proposals.

"Saturday will be my last game for Juventus. I think it's the best way to end this wonderful adventure," he said.

"For now, I only know that Saturday I will play a game.

"Until a few days ago it was certain that I would stop playing. Now there are some very interesting proposals."

Buffon, widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers of all time, joined Juve in 2001 after six top-flight seasons at Parma, where he won an Italian Cup and a UEFA Cup.

He helped Italy lift the World Cup in 2006 and holds a record of 176 caps with the Azzurri, retiring from the national team in November when they failed to qualify for Russia 2018.

Buffon has remained remarkably loyal to the Turin side, refusing to leave them even after they were relegated to Serie B in 2006 over the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal, which also saw them stripped of a further two Serie A titles.

He said he would not consider playing for a lower league team.

"I am certainly not someone who thinks it is right to end my career in the third or fourth level division," Buffon said.

"I am a competitive animal and I wouldn't be able to live or feel at ease in that situation."

Juventus won a league and cup double this season, their fourth in a row, but also suffered a bitter Champions League quarter-final exit against Real Madrid, who won with a stoppage-time penalty.

Buffon was sent off for protesting the decision and then launched a furious tirade against referee Michael Oliver and faces disciplinary action from UEFA.

"I stepped over the line and I am extremely disappointed. If I had seen him (the referee) two days later, I would have embraced him and asked for forgiveness," he said.

That defeat ensured Buffon would not leave Juve with a Champions League winners' medal, the only major title he has never won in his career.

"It has been a season with some shocking and unexpected lows but also incredible highs and, yet again, we gave an incredible response," he said.

Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli announced that Poland's Wojciech Szczesny would be replacing Buffon as No.1 next season.