TRIBUTES are pouring in from all over the football world after Gianluigi Buffon announced his retirement at the age of 45.

“You gave the position a face and became THE goalkeeper to beat and aspire to be.”

The shot-stopper confirmed that he was going to terminate his contract with Parma a year early to hang up his gloves.

It marks the end of a 28-year career that began with his surprise Serie A debut for Parma in a 0-0 draw with Milan on November 19, 1995.

He was only 17 years, nine months and 22 days old, promoted from the youth team by coach Nevio Scala.

Going on to represent Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain, Buffon holds the record for most Serie A appearances – 657 – and Italy caps on 176.

Juventus released a lengthy statement thanking the club legend for his two different spells in Turin, including dropping down to Serie B after winning the 2006 World Cup.

“Dear Gigi, it is hard to find the right words on a day like today. It is incredibly difficult to talk about football on a day when the beautiful game bids farewell to its number 1 par excellence.

“We have already said our goodbyes and we have already celebrated the historic achievements that will never be replicated, but on each occasion we knew that you would keep beating Father Time.

“This time, we know that you have decided to bring this chapter to a definitive end and hang up your gloves off the back of an extraordinary career.

“It is another chance for us to thank you, knowing that this is one of those moments that will leave an indelible mark on football history. You were not simply the best; you were more than that. You gave the position a face and became THE goalkeeper to beat and aspire to be.

“Today is a day for everyone to think back to your gravity-defying saves, the way you transcended history, bidding phenomenal players farewell and seeing the emergence of their heirs, while you remained in place. You showcased the consistency and reliability of a champion whose smile could wipe away any fear and fill the supporters and your team-mates with the feeling that you were truly unbreakable. You gave us reason to dream and made those dreams come true.

“Today marks the end of an era and we are deeply honoured to have lived through it. We are part of your story and you are part of ours. Thank you, Gigi! Wishing you the best of luck in your future endeavours.”

It is reported that Buffon will take over the Italy team manager role that had until December been held by Gianluca Vialli.

Buffon started and ends his career at Parma and their statement confirmed that exceptional bond.

“A man, a champion, a captain. This is Gigi Buffon, for Parma and at Parma. From November 19, 1995, to May 30 2023, from Milan to Cagliari, from first to last: 28 years (going through Juventus, PSG and Italy) and 23 633 minutes with the Crociata shirt on your back in a story without end. 265 appearances, the UEFA Cup victory, Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia, so close to a Scudetto and the first time playing in the Champions League with our colours: numbers and victories that represent only part of Gigi Buffon’s greatness. On the other side, the champion off the field, is immeasurable.

“It is a story without end, because Gigi has decided to push the pitch just a little bit aside, to leave room for new emotions. From today a new life begins, a new story, a new magic, with Gigi who will carry Parma in his heart forever.” Football Italia

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