Twenty-six years after making his professional debut, the greatest goalkeeper to ever play the game is heading back to where it all started.
That’s right. Gianluigi Buffon is a Parma player once more.
Fresh off a second departure from Juventus following two seasons as Wojciech Szczesny’s backup, the 43-year-old Buffon has completed his move back to the club he grew up at, Parma has announced through a very creative video posted to Twitter on Thursday. Buffon has reportedly signed a two-year contract with Parma, which was relegated to Serie B at season’s end.
The goal of the return is obviously filled with nostalgia, but there’s also a mission that Buffon is taking on: Getting the club he loves so much — one provided the groundwork for the best career a goalkeeper has ever had — back into Italy’s top flight after a horrendous 2020-21 campaign.
He ain’t lyin’.
“I’m back” is something that Parma supporters surely thought they would never hear again when Buffon sign for a then-record fee for a goalkeeper 22 years ago. Buffon left a young man and returns a man in his mid-40s who has accomplished every single thing he quite possibly could have as a player outside of winning the Champions League. (/sad)
But for Buffon, this seems like the perfect club to have his last go at if it wasn’t going to be Juventus. You just feel happy for him knowing that Buffon and Parma are reunited again. And even if he is a part-time starter and only plays in half of Parma’s games next season — it really will be interesting to see how much he plays knowing that he will be 44 years old at the midway point of the season — it will be a move that you know he feels will have been worth it.
Then again, with the way he played while filling in for Szczesny this past season, things are going to be all right for Parma when Buffon’s in goal.
Parma chairman Kyle Krause detailed the process of bringing Buffon back to the Tardini in an interview with The Athletic posted right as the goalkeeper’s return became official:
“From the moment we bought the club,” Parma owner Kyle Krause tells The Athletic, “you can’t not have that in your mind. I talked it over with my sons and the seed was planted. After we played in Torino in April, I had a chance to meet Gigi after the game and just made the joke to him: ‘Hey, I’d love to have you at Parma next season’. He had a typical on-brand Gigi response, laughing and smiling, all those animated gestures he does.
“From then, he chose not to stay at Juventus so you reach back out. As you know, it’s football, right. It’s WhatsApp. He wanted X amount of time to decompress post-season, so we left him alone for two weeks and then got in touch to say: OK, Gigi, do you want to do something or not? And while I don’t want to speak for him, he really had the passion to come back and loved the idea.”
Who the heck knows — maybe if Buffon can return to Parma, then he can return to the Italian national team as well with the World Cup not so far away. Maybe that’s a little wild to think about, but I’m sure you probably thought the same thing about Buffon returning to Parma (as well as Juventus) a couple of years ago when he was playing in France.