Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James. Wayne Gretzky vs. Mario Lemieux. Tiger Woods vs. Jack Nicklaus. Hank Aaron vs. Babe Ruth. Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior. Professional sports have been a part of the public consciousness for approximately 150 years but with very few exceptions, you’ll seldom find a consensus about the greatest athletes to play a particular sport or position within a sport. And in the absence of agreement, debates rage on, comparing athletes and careers that were, in some cases, separated by half a century.
Engaging so fervently in a topic that has little to no bearing on your quality of life may seem odd, but these debates, academic though they might be, are part of the reason why we love sports so much. But every so often a player comes along and renders these debates moot: your Usain Bolts, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams—athletes who are unequivocally the greatest to ever step foot on a track/pool/tennis court.
Gianluigi Buffon is one of those exceptions. Buffon, 43-years-old, recently announced that he'll be leaving his long-time home in Juventus at the end of the season, putting an end to an almost unbroken 20 year run with the Old Lady. With more trophies and individual accolades than you can count, Gigi is widely regarded as the greatest goalkeeper in the history of the game.
And while he's played second fiddle to Wojciech Szczesny since returning to Juve in 2019, Buffon has proven to be a reliable backup over the past two seasons and grabbed his share of headlines this week with a penalty save against Domenico Berardi in Juve's 3-1 win over Sassuolo yesterday.
Not long after the match, Buffon opened up about his future plans:
I did get a call from Flamengo, but I think I’ll be staying much closer to home. I don’t know if there’s any secret to playing on at 43. I guess it depends on your character, your body and of course good luck, because that makes a big difference
The last time Buffon left Juventus (in 2018), he signed with PSG in order to chase his ever-elusive Champions League title but also (presumably) because he couldn't see himself playing for a different Serie A club. However, if we take him at his word, and also assume that he's not actually retiring, that “staying much closer to home” line could open up a range of possibilities for Buffon.
And according to La Repubblica, Buffon could be tempted by José Mourinho's Roma project. The Italian paper speculates that Gigi could be tempted by moves to either Atalanta or Roma, while a heartfelt reunion with Parma seems less likely now that they're being relegated.
Ordinarily, we'd dismiss this rumor out of hand, but you may have noticed that the Roma name suddenly carries more cache than it did two weeks ago. The Special One may not be stacking up trebles every year, but this is still José Mourinho we're talking about here: a legendary manager who may attract players Roma otherwise would have no hope of signing.
Buffon wouldn't solve Roma's goalkeeping crisis but for a team that some critics claim is lacking leadership, his presence in the locker room could be immeasurable.
This likely won't happen but even at his advanced age, it would still be incredibly surreal to see Gianluigi Buffon playing for Roma...and with José Mourinho barking at him from the bench, no less.
For a variety of reasons well beyond the scope of this website, it almost feels like the entirety of western civilization is at an inflection point and the same might be said of our favorite football club.
If we suddenly wake up on July 1st and Roma have José Mourinho and Gianluigi Buffon, you can allow yourself to dream: trophies, stadiums, seasons that don't end in February. You name it, and it could be possible.
I'm not holding my breath, but this move would definitely signal a dramatic change around Trigoria. Stay tuned.