Italy coach says he convinced Buffon to extend career
ROME (AP) — Gianluigi Buffon’s international career might not be over after all.
Interim Italy coach Luigi Di Biagio believes he has convinced the 40-year-old goalkeeper to stay on for friendlies against Argentina and England next month.
“A player like him can’t go out after the loss to Sweden,” Di Biagio said Monday at a training camp for younger players in Florence, referring to the World Cup playoff defeat in November.
Buffon announced his retirement from Italy’s squad after that loss, which marked his record 175th appearance with the national team.
“I proposed that he take part in two or three matches then make a decision down the road. So Gigi will probably take part in the March trip,” Di Biagio said.
Di Biagio added that veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini will also remain in the squad after he, too, had announced his retirement.
Di Biagio wouldn’t announce a decision over a possible recall of Mario Balotelli.
Balotelli, who is performing well with French club Nice, has not played for Italy since the 2014 World Cup.
“I’m following him constantly and we’ll make an evaluation when the calls ups are made,” Di Biagio said. “I’m not closing the door on anyone.”
Andrea Barzagli, a 36-year-old defender, has definitively retired from the squad, Di Biagio said.
Earlier this month, Di Biagio was promoted from Italy’s Under-21 squad to take over the senior side for the March friendlies. He could stay on through friendlies against France and the Netherlands in June.
Roberto Mancini, Carlo Ancelotti and Claudio Ranieri are among the coaches being considered for the full-time Italy job — as well as Di Biagio, depending on the performances in March.
Italy plays Argentina in Manchester, England, on March 23, then faces England four days later in London.
If Buffon does return to the squad, he might stay on until a possible retirement match on June 4 in the friendly against the Netherlands. The game has been slated for Allianz Stadium in Turin, the home of his club, Juventus.
It remains unclear if Buffon will play another season with Juventus.
Gianluigi Donnarumma, AC Milan’s 19-year-old starter, is being groomed to take over for Buffon at goalkeeper for Italy.
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