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Buffon hits out at critics as veteran returns to international squad

Gianluigi Buffon has hit out at his critics as he arrived in England to add to his 175 record cap tally with Italy.

Buffon, 40, had previously announced his retirement from international football after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup last November but later reversed his decision, and was retained as captain by the caretaker coach Luigi Di Biagio who will lead the side out in friendlies against Argentina in Manchester on Friday and England at Wembley next Tuesday.

The Juventus keeper’s decision has attracted some criticism but the Juventus No 1 insists he is still the best man for the job, saying: “I’ve nothing to add to what has been said. Everyone knows the truth. My role in the squad has always been positive and I’ve always brought people together. I’ve always put us before me.”

“I’m not here to showcase, to show myself off. I can still be useful. I might be 40 but I’m the goalkeeper of Juventus. Italy is a funny country where people enjoy controversy but any controversy about me is just sensationalism. After a while all this controversy will just fall away.”

Buffon had also previously hinted that this season could be his last but he does not appear to have any retirement plans yet.

Speaking at a press conference at the Etihad Stadium, Buffon added: “I don’t know if my last match will be with Juventus or an international but it will be low key and sober, normal. I arrived at my first game on a scooter and the only car I have is the one that Juventus make available for me.”

Di Biagio, who has stepped up from duties with the Under-21 side, hopes the four friendlies in the remainder of the season can help Italy move on from their World Cup nightmare. Russia 2018 will be the first finals to take place without four-time world champions Italy for 60 years.

The games also provide a chance for Di Biagio to stake a claim for the job full-time but he insists that is not his focus. “Everything around the team has changed. We need a new start,” he said.

“We have a small world championship in these four matches. It is a chance to test new players. We need patience and consistency, regardless of who is going to be in the driving seat.”

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