Buffon bids farewell in emotional swansong

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(Daniele Rugani 49, Miralem Pjanic 52) (Alessio Cerci 76)

Talismanic goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon bid a tearful farewell to Juventus after 17 seasons at the club when he played his last match for them in a 2-1 win over relegated Verona on Saturday.

The Turin side, who clinched their seventh consecutive Serie A title a week ago, were leading 2-0 when Buffon was substituted in the 17th minute of the second half in his 656th appearance for the club in all competitions.

Amid the emotion, embraces and tears, the 40-year-old, who joined the Turin side from Parma in 2001, also lifted the Serie A trophy as it was presented to Juventus on the pitch after the match.

The 2006 World Cup winner, arguably one of the greatest goalkeepers the game has seen, handed his captain’s armband to midfielder Claudio Marchisio before hugging several teammates and rival players as he left the field in tears to a standing ovation.

He then walked around the perimeter, shaking hands with supporters in the front row.

Buffon, who won nine Serie A and four Italian Cup titles with Juventus and had kept 300 clean sheets heading into Saturday’s match, was replaced by third-choice goalkeeper Carlo Pinsoglio, who made his first appearance for the club.

Buffon, who announced on Thursday that he would leave Juventus at the end of the season but said he might still continue his playing career, had one save to make when he blocked a shot by Mohamed Fares in the first half.

Daniele Rugani put Juventus ahead four minutes after half-time from a rebound when Douglas Costa’s shot was parried by Verona goalkeeper Nicolas and Miralem Pjanic added a second from a free-kick three minutes later.

Alessio Cerci scored a consolation for Verona in the 76th minute.

Fullback Stephan Lichtsteiner, also playing his final match for Juventus after seven seasons at the club, had a penalty saved by Nicolas in the 85th minute.

Juventus completed the 38-match campaign with 95 points from 30 wins, five draws and three defeats.

“I am sad that the captain is leaving,” defender Medhi Benatia said. “I’ve played with many champions, but Gianluigi is special, both on and off the field. His departure really leaves a hole in Juventus.” – REUTERS 

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