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Buffon: ‘Why I turned down Champions League for Parma’

Gianluigi Buffon has said he rejected ‘two opportunities to even win the Champions League’ so that he could help Parma come back into Serie A and hasn’t lost hope of a spot at the 2022 World Cup.

The 43-year-old shot-stopper signed the two-year contract and will be presented to the media this evening after leaving Juventus for the club where his career first started as a teenager.

“I have many memories, above all the motivation and hope is to write a few more important pages in the history books of this club, and I know I can do it,” Buffon told Sky Sport Italia.

“That is the main reason I returned here, along with the other 999 reasons! I felt such strong emotions, as an emotional reaction is the only way to keep delivering at this level at my age.

“I knew Parma would give me something that no other team could, so if I was already sure of my choice, I am even more convinced of it now. Seeing these places again make me feel like being back home. I need to feel happy, and Parma is a place that loves me just as I love them.”

The idea of returning to the Stadio Tardini came after Juventus played Parma in Serie A and Buffon chatted with new President Kyle Klaus.

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“It emerged day after day. It’s true I spoke to the President and his son after the game, but it was about other things. At the end, he asked if I wanted to come back to Parma. I replied that I’d already played in Serie B and didn’t need to do that again.

“However, when I got back to the locker room, I said to the Juventus directors that Parma were in good hands. I was glad that even if they were relegated, I was sure they’d return to Serie A rapidly and had a real project here.

“That put me in a good mood. I had other offers, some very nice ones certainly, but with the emotional bond and the feeling that I would work for a cause, the visceral connection with Parma made the difference.”

There were reports that Buffon also received an offer from Barcelona to be the second goalkeeper to Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Was that true?

“I had two opportunities to even win the Champions League, but not as a protagonist. I had accepted the role of understudy at Juventus due to the strong bond and friendship I had with everyone there, but I didn’t particularly feel like doing that again for these final two years.

“People forget, but Parma are the fourth most successful club in Italy when it comes to winning European silverware. This is a side with a difficult present, but a glorious past and I believe a wonderful future to come.”

Buffon was asked if he was still aiming to take part in the 2022 World Cup, which would be a new all-time record for his fifth edition of the tournament?

“There is an Italy project that is doing very well now, so I don’t want to disturb that in any way. The challenge that I set myself two or three years ago when Paris Saint-Germain arrived was to test myself. I am a dreamer and a very optimistic person, so of course playing in another World Cup would be a marvellous objective, but my aim is to reach June 2023 in good condition.”

When the 2022 World Cup rolls around in December 2022, Buffon will be just a month off his 45th birthday, and he already has 176 senior caps for the Azzurri under his belt.

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