PARIS — Former Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon insisted that Paris Saint-Germain were not obsessed with the Champions League at his unveiling by the club on Monday.
Speaking in Italian after a brief introduction in French, the 40-year-old explained that his arrival on a free transfer is not only geared towards continental glory.
“I started well before PSG [chasing the Champions League],” said Buffon. “It is not an obsession for the club, but it is an interesting trophy.
“I accepted the offer because the conditions are right for me to progress as a player and as a man — I can help the club progress a little more.
“At the start of the season, we cannot immediately target only the Champions League — it would be madness.”
Buffon, who is yet to receive a shirt number with Alphonse Areola and Kevin Trapp still on the books, is banned for PSG’s first three Champions League matches of the new season and feels that his “rubbish-bin heart” spat with referee Michael Oliver is firmly in the past.
“My decision to come did not depend on my suspension,” he said. “I respect this punishment. After that match, my anger subsided — I will not contest this.”
Buffon played alongside former PSG man Blaise Matuidi with Juventus last season and the former Azzurri star admitted that the France international encouraged him to move to Parc des Princes.
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) July 9, 2018
“I only played alongside Blaise for one year, but he is a great person,” said Buffon. “He encouraged me to come here — he told me that PSG needed somebody like me.
“I was only 20 when I arrived in Turin, until then, I knew only Parma. When I joined Juve, I felt some weight of expectation on my shoulders because of my transfer — it was a difficult situation. Today, I arrive in Paris with the enthusiasm of a child.
“I have an energy inside of me. This sport has changed plenty, and players can keep going at 34 or 35. It was unthinkable in the past, but my role is different from that of an outfield player.”
Buffon went on to reveal his surprise at contact with PSG in early May as he had already been planning a different future at that point.
“I had always hoped that something would happen,” the ex-Italy international added. “I felt that I had something inside left to give — life is unpredictable.
“I have followed PSG the most for the past few years now. I was very curious — great players and great talents are of interest to me. I was surprised that the club was unable to progress as it wanted to, but it takes time to evolve as hoped.
“I think that, recently, PSG have been very ambitious and showed continued progress. Also, the identity of a club depends heavily on the coach.”
New manager Thomas Tuchel now has the likes of Buffon, as well as Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Neymar at his disposal in Paris, and Buffon was philosophical about the Brazilian superstar’s recent World Cup exit at the hands of semifinalists Belgium.
“What happened to Neymar in Russia could have happened to anybody,” he said. “There are times like these in a career and sometimes they ultimately mean progress.
“A champion like Neymar has the chance to react well after his World Cup disappointment.”
Buffon sees PSG as his own challenge and hopes to emerge from it stronger, having played his entire career, until now, in his home country.
“I played in Italy for 27 years,” said Buffon. “In Turin, I was in a considerable comfort zone. I never like being comfortable — I have always looked to challenge myself.
“I trained for the first time on Monday and everybody was speaking a different language. These are very beautiful moments that will help me to progress. In one month, I will know more about the squad, and I will improve — I was unable to refuse that.”
Asked how much longer he can play for, Buffon admitted that he has stopped thinking about it and does not want to ask himself that question, because he feels it puts him in a negative situation.”
“I prefer to play on as long as my body allows me to,” he continued. “When I am no longer able to be at that level, I will stop.”
In theory, Buffon will mentor Areola during his potential two-year stay in Paris, but he recognised that he has been an undisputed starter wherever he has played.
“As you know, I have always been a starter,” he said. “Nobody ever told me that I will be first choice here, though, and that is the nature of competition.
“I am of a certain age, but I am in good health — physically, as well as mentally. To achieve good results, you need help from everybody.
“I will do my best to help the others be the best that they can be.”
Buffon is expected to be in PSG’s squad for the International Champions Cup fixtures against Bayern Munich, Arsenal and Atletico Madrid in Austria and Singapore this summer.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.