Gianluigi Buffon ended a spectacular 17-year spell at Juventus on Saturday, playing in his final match for the Old Lady in a 2-1 win over Verona, and rounding off a seventh consecutive Serie A title in the process.
Buffon had previously announced that this season was to be his last in Turin but, in a surprise to many, the 40-year-old kept tight-lipped over any plans to announce his retirement during an emotional press conference on Thursday.
“[On] Saturday I will play a match and that is the only thing that’s certain," Buffon said. “Until about two weeks ago, I was certain I would stop playing. Now offers have arrived that are exciting on and off the pitch and the most important for staying on the pitch was proposed to me by Agnelli. I’ll let these three days pass and then I will make a definitive decision, completely calmly.”
Buffon is a legend of biblical proportions at Juventus and, on a wider scale, in his native Italy. Since joining from Parma in 2001, Buffon has gone on to win an incredible nine Serie A titles and five Coppas Italia. He even bagged himself a World Cup to boot.
No-one can ever possibly doubt just how remarkable Gianluigi Buffon is. He is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the greatest custodians the world has ever seen.
Yet, what we need to remember is that Buffon is now far from his peak. Whilst we can praise his longevity, he showed signs of slowing down on multiple occasions this year and it seemed right for him to be calling time on his glittering career this summer; particularly as his beloved Azzurri failed to qualify for this year's World Cup.
So is it wise for Buffon to prolong his playing time when he could risk tarnishing what has been a spectacular career?
Buffon ultimately has nothing to prove. He has won practically everything there is to win (minus an elusive Champions League winners medal), maintained his status as one of the greatest goalkeepers in the world for a number of years and has become a living legend in the process.
If Buffon were to move on to a new side this summer, he will be simply delaying the inevitable whilst his body offers less than his mind thinks its able to.
His performances against Tottenham in the Champions League this season demonstrated that he just hasn't got that cutting edge any longer. He is slower off his line and his athletic ability has diminished, even from last year where he was crowned the best goalkeeper in Europe. So why wait any longer, whilst his body becomes even slower?
Buffon has the chance to finish at the pinnacle of European football; something that so few players have the opportunity to do in the modern game. This is his chance to bow out with grace, at the top of world.
If Buffon joins a new side this summer, it is highly unlikely that he will be doing the same again next year. A move to another European giant such as PSG will surely see the Italian warming the bench, whilst a move to a smaller club will not be a fitting end to such an illustrious career.
Perhaps Buffon's thinking is that he may still have just a fleeting opportunity at another tilt for Champions League glory. He seems to have an almost insatiable desire to finally get his hands on that trophy and if he has just a glimmer of a chance, he will look to take it.
But some things are simply not meant to be. Legendary players have won much less in their careers than the Italian, so now should be the time that Buffon finally calls it quits.
There is clearly a battle going on between Gianluigi Buffon's heart and his mind. In his heart, he will no doubt want to continue his legacy. But in his mind he will surely be considering this to be the end.
For his own sake, lets hope that his mind wins the battle. A footballing world without Gianluigi Buffon may be difficult to comprehend, but a footballing world where Gianluigi Buffon is struggling to keep up may be a whole lot worse.