Over the years, the game of football has witnessed some of the most memorable retirements the sport has ever seen. Some of the biggest names in the sport have been seen walking into the shadows after their final hurrah. While everyone aims to achieve the perfect send-off, only a few have been able to bow out of the game on a winning note.
In the 2006 World Cup, football legend Zinedine Zidane looked destined to retire from international football with the coveted title to his name. But, what really unfolded in the final was truly beyond the imagination of his team and the fans. What seemed like the perfect way to retire eventually turned into a disaster as Zidane’s infamous head-butt led to his send-off with Italy getting the better of 10-man France in the summit clash.
Now, fast-forward to 2017 at the hallowed San Siro where another football legend in Gianluigi Buffon was inching close to his retirement. The second-leg between Italy and Sweden in the 2018 World Cup qualifying stage was surely not the final game for Buffon, but it eventually turned into one before going down in the history books as one of the most cruel and heart-breaking moments in football.
— @ManUtd_HQ (@ManUtd_HQ) November 13, 2017
After a 0-1 loss in the first-leg, the Azzurri failed to overcome the yellow-clad Swedes, who progressed further with a 1-0 win (on aggregate). The 0-0 scoreline in the second-leg meant that four-time World champions Italy will not feature in the 2018 edition for the first time since 1958.
While the outcome was sheer embarrassment for Italy and an absolute shocker for the fans, it was arguably a tearful heart-break for a legend like Buffon who had already announced his retirement after the 2018 World Cup. But, just seven months before he could reach that stage, the opportunity was stripped from him and the 39-year-old shot-stopper was eventually forced to hang his boots up.
With 175 international caps, Buffon is the most-capped player in the history of Italian football, the fourth-most-capped male international footballer of all time, and the most-capped European international player ever (alongside Fabio Cannavaro).
Since making his debut in 1997, Buffon has been called up for five World Cup tournaments (1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014) – an international record. He also holds the record of most appearances (79) for Italy as captain. During Italy’s last triumphant World Cup campaign in 2016, Buffon kept a record five clean sheets and conceded just two goals (neither of which were in open play).
It was surely not the way for someone as legendary as Buffon to bow out in the way he did, and his tearful interview after the game was a testimony to what it really meant for the Italian stalwart.
In an emotional interview, Buffon spoke his heart out: “I’m not sorry for myself but all of Italian football. We failed at something which also means something on a social level. There’s regret at finishing like that, not because time passes. We are proud, we are strong, we are stubborn. We will pick ourselves up as we have always done. I am leaving a national team set-up that will know how to pick itself up again”.
“Best wishes to everybody, and especially to those with whom I have shared this beautiful journey,” he concluded.
Here’s how Twitter mourned the heart-breaking exit of one of greatest shot-stoppers of all time:
It appears Gianluigi Buffon has played his final game for Italy. He will be much missed. A mountain of a man. A Giant of a goalkeeper. A credit to his sport.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) November 13, 2017
— Robert Lewandowski (@lewy_official) November 13, 2017
Absolutely devastating to watch #legendarygoalkeeper @gianluigibuffon retire after yesterday’s #FIFAWC Playoff. You shall continue to be our idol, our inspiration. It is heartbreaking to know you already played your last match #ToughToSinkIn #TimeisCruel #GrazieBuffon pic.twitter.com/LfGG35VBDo
— Enthusia VJTI (@enthusiavjti) November 14, 2017
Spent so much of my life in awe of Gianluigi Buffon. Can’t quite believe this is how it ends on the world stage. One of the all time greats.
— Dan Levene (@danlevene) November 13, 2017
— Boris Becker (@TheBorisBecker) November 13, 2017
— Franck Ribéry (@FranckRibery) November 13, 2017
— Joel Robles (@joelroblesb) November 13, 2017
“I leave a squad full of talent, including Gigio Donnarumma and Mattia Perin… I want to give a hug to Chiello, Barza, Leo and Lele, who I had almost 10 years alongside.” pic.twitter.com/Ka9T4r1MIm
— European Qualifiers (@EuroQualifiers) November 13, 2017
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) November 13, 2017
Photo: © Reuters (Main Image)
Source of news : Mensxp