On Sunday night, Juventus visit the Stadio Olimpico to take on Roma in a game of great importance for both clubs as they look to secure their place in Europe for next season. For Gianluigi Buffon, the game could hold even greater significance. Should Alessandro Del Piero and Giorgio Chiellini both lose their races for fitness, Buffon will don the captain’s armband and lead out his side at the stadium where, if rumours are to be believed, he could well be playing his home games next season.
2011 has so far been a year of redemption for Buffon. After being sidelined for over six months with a back injury picked up at the World Cup, he has returned to the starting line up for club and country and has not disappointed. He has quickly shaken off any rust gathered during his time out and has once again proved himself to be one of the best goalkeepers of his generation, if not ever.
However, it has recently been suggested Buffon will be required to take a pay cut of something like 50% if he is to renew his contract at Juventus. This has sparked rumours the custodian may seek pastures new in the summer, rumours gained momentum when his agent responded by saying: “Juventus stay? I don’t know, we will have to evaluate things with the club.” Speculation linking Ajax and Holland ‘keeper Maarten Stekelenburg with a move to Turin as his replacement has also added strength to the rumours of a summer departure for Buffon.
While Buffon has been linked with a move to England with Arsenal, Roma seems a much more likely destination. In fact, a move to the Eternal City could prove beneficial for all involved. With Roma on the verge of a takeover, the funds necessary to buy Buffon from Juventus seem likely to be available in the summer, funds which Juventus would in turn put to use in their own rebuilding project. With Marco Storari regarded by many as the best back up ‘keeper in Serie A, signing a replacement for Buffon would take a back seat as Juve look to put together a squad capable of challenging for the Scudetto next season.
At Roma, Buffon would face little competition for the number one shirt. Vincenzo Montella has elected to reinstate the decidedly shaky Doni ahead of Julio Sergio, and suggestions the club are also looking at Salvatore Sirigu of Palermo underlines Montella’s lack of faith in either ‘keeper. The capture of Buffon, however, would be in a different league to Sirigu as it would represent the club signing a world-class player arguably for the first time since Gabriel Batistuta joined in 2000.
The importance of Sunday’s game cannot be overstated then. Not only does it offer Juventus the chance to claw their way back into contention for a Europa League place, it also intriguingly offers Buffon an opportunity to impress against his possible future employers. Juventus may be hoping for a vintage performance from their number one not just in order to help them to a vital three points, but also to add a few zeros to his price tag ahead of the summer!