Gianluigi Buffon says he was close to signing for three Premier League clubs in the past
Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon revealed that he was close to moving to the Premier League on three occasions during his career. The 38-year-old Italian is one of the most world renowned goalkeepers in football today and still holds the record as the most expensive goalkeeper after his transfer from Parma to Juventus for a transfer fee of £32.6m back in 2001.
Buffon has long been admired for sticking with Juventus in spite of the Italian side getting relegated to the Italian Serie B in 2006. A number of players left the club and moved elsewhere while some like Alessandro Del Piero and Pavel Nedved stayed with Buffon to help the Old Lady return to Serie A.
The move paid off and Juventus are now one of the best sides in Europe, having won Serie A the last four seasons and are now closing in on a fifth consecutive title. But it could have been different for Buffon had he agreed to move to the Premier League all those years ago.
Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City approached me: Buffon
In an interview with BT Sport, Buffon revealed that he had come close to moving to Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City in the past two decades.
“I remember when I was 20 years old in 1998,” Buffon recalled. “I had dinner once with Arsene Wenger from Arsenal.”
At the time, English goalkeeper David Seaman was arguably at his peak at Highbury. Wenger was presumably looking for a long term replacement and considered Buffon to be a viable option to keep in goal. While the move did not go through, Wenger would eventually sign Jens Lehmann years later to take over from Seaman and build his own legacy.
“Then when I was at Parma, Manchester United definitely had their eyes on me for a long time with [Sir Alex] Ferguson.”
Buffon was at Parma till 2001 and Sir Alex Ferguson was looking for a goalkeeper after the departure of the legendary Peter Schmeichel in 1999. While France goalkeeper Fabian Barthez came highly rated when he was signed in 2000, he was responsible for some costly errors that saw United lose on many occasions.
“Let’s say that the most serious and direct approach I had was from Manchester City," Buffon continued. "They wanted to start their adventure by signing two or three more renowned players and I was one of them."
This was around the time the Abu Dhabi United Group had taken over at City and splurged in the transfer market to sign a number of star footballers such as Real Madrid’s Robinho. By the next summer, they had spent £100m in the transfer market to rebuild their squad.
“That was 2007 or 2008 roughly,” Buffon said. “However, nothing came of it for various reasons.” City would eventually stick with Joe Hart who had joined the club as a youngster in 2006.