He won the World Cup as a player, but could Gianluigi Buffon be ready to take on the challenge of winning football’s biggest prize as a manager?
The 41-year-old Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper is yet to make a call over whether he will continue playing after the end of the current season.
Buffon, a 2006 World Cup winner with Italy, arrived in Paris last July after making 656 appearances during a 17-year stay at Juventus.
His current deal with French champion PSG runs until the end of the season and while no decision has been made on his future as of yet, Buffon says international management holds great appeal.
“I wouldn’t want to be the coach for a team, but I’d love to be the coach of a national team,” Buffon, Italy’s most capped player, told CNN.
“I’d love to meet other players, see other places in the world and I want to be known in other places, so the idea of becoming the coach of a national team, to live in another country, to learn another language, adapt to a new lifestyle and another way of thinking, would first and foremost help me improve as a person.”
“I feel within me the need to take this challenge on. I feel the essence of life is to say that at the end of my life I can really be satisfied with what I’ve achieved, because you’ve lived your life to the full.
“What I mean is you’ve absorbed a great deal, faced up to and learned from others, and to impart your knowledge to others and take from others too. Leading an active life is the most important thing for me.”
‘True to my nature’
Buffon, once the world’s most expensive goalkeeper when he signed for Juventus in 2001, has won titles as a player in Italy and in France. But the Champions League crown has always eluded him.
A stunning Manchester United comeback put paid to Buffon and PSG’s hopes in Europe’s premier competition earlier this year. Last season, Buffon was sent off after being enraged by a late penalty call from English referee Michael Oliver in the quarter-final match between Juventus and Real Madrid.
Buffon later said that Oliver had a “garbage bin” for a heart while his actions earned him three game ban from UEFA, European football’s governing body.
Such raw emotion has sometimes led Buffon to be criticized. But he maintains that this is part of his character.
“In the good times and not so good times, I’ve always been true to my nature,” he says.
“At times, my way of being wasn’t appreciated. But I’ve noticed that, in the long run, time has treated me kindly and I’m liked generally speaking, by people for who I am.”
Buffon has certainly been appreciated in the French capital as PSG has racked up its sixth title in seven years.
And he says he has even been forgiven for his role in defeating France in the 2006 World Cup final.
“I believe they (Parisians) have granted me the biggest pardon that a nation could ever grant to an adversary,” he jokes.
The passage of time and the fact that France are current world champions may have something to do with that.
But if Buffon, is looking to replicate the success of a national team to bolster his own managerial ambitions, he could do worse than to learn from the country he currently calls home.