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There is a tendency in sports to overuse the word “legend.” But here, to one of the most beloved figures in Italian soccer history, it truly applies. It absolutely, inarguably applies to Gianluigi Buffon.
Buffon played his last game for Juventus on Saturday. His last game ever. And there are hundreds of thousands of people who will get emotional while reading or hearing those words. That’s the mark of a legend.
That’s why so much emotion rippled around Turin when Buffon got his curtain call, substituted after an hour in Juve’s Serie A season finale against Hellas Verona. It lasted three full minutes. And it left every cheek inside Juventus Stadium stained with tears:
Once the signal from the bench came, it began with an extended embrace and kisses for longtime defensive stalwart Andrea Barzagli. And then there were hugs and kisses for every single other player on the field, teammate or otherwise. Then there was a guard of honor awaiting him on the touchline. And more hugs. And more, sustained, unceasing applause.
Buffon later took a lap of honor. But it wasn’t a typical lap of honor. He circled the perimeter of the field, saying individual, personal thanks yous and goodbyes to fans.
Buffon is not retiring. But he announced earlier in the week that he would be leaving Juventus, the only club he has known since the Bianconeri made him the most expensive goalkeeper in the history of the sport in 2001.
In the 17 years that followed, Buffon made over 500 appearances for the Italian kings. He won 11 Serie A titles, endured Juve’s scandal-tinted dip down to Serie B, and won a World Cup.
He deserved every bit of the gratitude, and every single one of the over-the-top tributes that greeted him on Saturday.
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