It’s been quite a few months since we last saw Gianluigi Buffon wearing the No. 1 jersey and captain’s armband for the Italian national team. It’s been even longer since we saw him in goal for Italy in a game that had something riding on it — which is a November night in 2017 that I have chosen to block out of my brain because it could possibly still cause me to be grumpy ... and nobody wants that.
But we could be seeing one final appearance for the man who has more caps in an Italy jersey than anybody who has ever played for Gli Azzurri.
There is, of course, going to be a catch.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy manager Roberto Mancini is considering bringing Buffon — as well as former Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi — for one last swan song with the Azzurri. The catch we mentioned earlier? Well, that swan song being thrown out there would only come after Mancini’s Italy squad has secured qualification to next summer’s European Championship that will be played across a dozen countries.
There’s no word on just how far Mancini has gone when it comes to making this a reality, but with Italy getting closer and closer to qualification, he’s got a little bit of freedom when it comes to friendlies he has scheduled in early 2020.
Obviously this is of interest to us because it’s Italy and it’s Buffon. But now that San Gigi is back in Turin after his yearlong excursion to France to play with Paris Saint-Germain, seeing good things happen to the man who was Juve’s starting goalkeeper for nearly two decades is a matter to discuss.
Buffon, who has been about as good of a teammate as possible this season while serving as Wojciech Szczesny’s backup, recently surpassed Paolo Maldini with his 903rd club appearance in Juventus’ win over SPAL at Allianz Stadium. Buffon has 176 international caps to his name, a number that also ranks best amongst Italians that he took over from Maldini. His most recent appearance came just a handful of months after Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, coming back to the squad after initially retiring as a nod to caretaker manager Luigi Di Biagio following the death of Davide Astori.
As much as Mancini’s tenure as Italy manager has been about bringing in new blood with some of Serie A’s younger standout players, one final sendoff to Buffon — as well as De Rossi — would be a fitting end to an international career that has accomplished as much as anybody to wear an Italy jersey. You know, a lot better than having one of Buffon’s final appearances be remembered for what his team wasn’t able to do rather than having the chance to be the first man to go to six different World Cups.
(No, still not bitter, I swear.)
Italy’s final two Euro 2020 qualifiers will come during the November international break.