40-year-old Buffon set to temporarily reverse decision to retire from international football

“I spoke to him, he will probably be part of the group in March,” interim national coach Luigi Di Biagio said.

Gianluigi Buffon (file pic).
Gianluigi Buffon (file pic).
Image: EMPICS Sport

ITALY LEGEND GIANLUIGI Buffon looks set for a return to international action in friendlies against England and Argentina in March, interim national coach Luigi Di Biagio said on Monday.

“I spoke to him, he will probably be part of the group in March, a player like him cannot stop after Sweden,” said Di Biagio.

Buffon was inconsolable as he announced his retirement after Italy’s disastrous 1-0 aggregate play-off defeat to Sweden in the San Siro last November, as the Azzurri failed to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

The 40-year-old Juventus goalkeeper had represented the Azzurri for 20 years, winning the 2006 World Cup title, and earning a record 175 caps in a brilliant career. He had been bidding for a record sixth World Cup appearance.

“It’s not fair that his last game was the one against Sweden, so I proposed that he come back for one, two or possibly three games. Gigi (Buffon) will probably be there in March,” continued Di Biagio of friendlies against Argentina and England, in Manchester and London on March 23 and 27.

“Gianluigi Donnarumma and Alex Meret? We’re doing well with goalkeepers for the next 20 years. (Mattia) Perin is there too, and when Gigi unfortunately stops we’ll be well covered.

“We’re solid from that point of view, but Gigi’s story doesn’t have to end with that Sweden game.”

Di Biagio said he had also been in contact with other members of Italy’s golden generation of World Cup winners.

“I’ve met with some of the veterans, because I understood that some of them wanted to quit. I talked to Buffon to see if he wanted to continue.

“As for the other players, without going into details I’ve spoken to a lot of them. (Andrea) Barzagli and (Daniele) De Rossi won’t be there. (Giorgio) Chiellini yes. We want to relaunch the team with enthusiasm.”

Under-21 boss Di Biagio has been promoted to the senior role for the friendlies and is holding a training camp at Coverciano outside Florence on Monday and Tuesday.

“It’s normal to think about what I’ll have to do in the next few months, I’ll decide when the time comes to make the call-ups,” he continued of his squad, adding he had not yet decided whether to recall in-form Nice striker Mario Balotelli.

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“I’m not saying now if Balotelli will come or not, I follow him like everyone else, and no doors are closed,” said Di Biagio.

“At this moment Italian football is in great difficulty and there isn’t much choice, but we need to create the right enthusiasm after the disappointment of the World Cup.”

– © AFP 2018

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