Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon sees his return to the national side as the best way to pay tribute to former team mate Davide Astori, who died two weeks ago.
Fiorentina captain Astori tragically passed away on March 3rd, before the club's scheduled game against Udinese, which was later cancelled. Tributes poured in from all around Europe to the 31-year-old, who had been capped at international 14 times.
Buffon posted a touching tribute to the defender on Instagram, showing his emotions at the sudden loss.
Ciao caro Asto, difficilmente ho espresso pubblicamente un pensiero riguardo una persona, perché ho sempre lasciato che la bellezza e l'unicità di rapporti, di reciproca stima e affetto, non venissero strumentalizzati o gettati in pasto a chi non ha la delicatezza per rispettare certi legami. Nel tuo caso, sento di fare un'eccezione alla mia regola, perché hai una moglie giovane e dei familiari che staranno soffrendo,ma soprattutto la tua piccola bimba, merita di sapere che il suo papà era a tutti gli effetti una PERSONA PERBENE.....una GRANDE PERSONA PERBENE....eri l'espressione migliore di un mondo antico, superato, nel quale valori come l'altruismo, l'eleganza, l'educazione e il rispetto verso il prossimo, la facevano da padroni. Complimenti davvero, sei stata una delle migliori figure sportive nella quale mi sono imbattuto. R.I.P. Il tuo folle Gigi.
In an interview with Goal.com, veteran Buffon believes he owes it to his friend to turn up and take part in the coming friendlies with Argentina and England, stating, "he’s a reason why I’m here. I wanted to be present and respond to this feeling."
“I’m here because I’ve always been a person who has followed through with what they have said, with a sense of responsibility,” the 40-year-old added.
The 175 cap international had seemingly retired after Italy's failure to qualify for this summer's World Cup in November, losing in a two legged playoff to Sweden. Caretaker boss Luigi di Biagio had been trying to entice the Juventus shot stopper back to the national set up, and it was a sense of duty which facilitated his return.
With Italian football under a cloud after the tragic death of one of their own, Buffon believed he would be 'letting his country down' were he not to answer the call and join up with the Azzurri during this period of mourning.
The 40-year-old made his debut for the national side in 1997, and is their record appearance holder with 175 games in the ensuing two decades, reaching the Euro 2000 final and winning the 2006 World Cup in Germany.