They say a picture is worth a thousand words so in the era where it feels everyone is a transfer insider on Twitter it’s pretty incredible we didn’t figure out what Gigi Buffon meant when he tweeted a picture of himself driving with the caption “Travel only has one rule, don’t come back the same way as you left. Come back different”.
Originally, I thought he meant that he was going to replace Iker Casillas at Porto following his experience at Paris St Germain. Considering his career has already an incredible narrative- arriving at Juve along with Nedved and Thuram following Zidane’s historic sale, going down to Serie B right after winning the World Cup, replacing a legend like Del Piero as the bianconeri’s captain- ending it by replacing his dear friend, and once rival, Casillas after the legendary Spanish keeper had suffered a heart attack, felt like a perfect ending to his club career before potentially hanging up his gloves representing Italy at the next Olympics.
But instead Buffon was being way more literal and we should have figured it out by the pack of cigarettes being prominently displayed in the picture- what could be a better gift for Juventus’ new manager Maurizio Sarri? In fact as Gianluca Di Marzio reported on Wednesday night, Buffon is returning to Juventus to be Woj Szczesny’s backup.
But what does Buffon’s return say about him and Juventus’ current keepers? After an up and down season at PSG, Gigi is now probably comfortable with the idea of being a backup, especially since as part of his new deal with Juventus, he’ll move into the front office presumably next year.
In many ways, bringing back Buffon is a ringing endorsement of how well Woj Szczesny has played last season. One of the reasons Juventus decided to part ways from their legendary keeper last year is they didn’t want his shadow to be looming over the Polish backstop during his first season as the starter- they knew that after any of his (very rare) mistakes, there would be thousands of people calling for Buffon to take over.
While Szczesny didn’t have as flashy a season as Meret, Donnarumma and Cragno in Serie A- which is hard to do when you are the keeper for the team that ran away with the title- he saved his best performances for the Champions League. While his ability with his feet isn’t on Alisson’s level, he’s more than above average in this regard which makes him a great for Sarri’s system.
Buffon’s return will not impact the Polish backstop that much, but the same cannot be said for Mattia Perin who arrived last summer hoping to challenge for the starting spot. But the Genoa keeper was rather underwhelming in his 9 starts, and showed once again, that while he’s a very good shot stopper, he’s quite limited in every other aspect of the positions.
Just like Neto a few years ago, Perin is looking to go back to being a starter- which is understandable considering that he’s 26 and his one season as a backup cost him being part of the Italian national team. Considering that Juventus acquired him for a very reasonable 12 million euro transfer fee last year, selling him this summer could prove to be quite advantageous.
After Alisson’s record breaking transfer fee which was topped just a few weeks later by Kepa to Chelsea, there are more clubs willing to invest significantly on keepers. Perin could easily fetch 15/20 million which would be a considerable profit over his amortized value left on Juventus books of around 9 million- in the last 12 months Juventus has made capital gains on numerous minor deals which added up together helped them pay for Cristiano Ronaldo.
While many will focus on the sentimental angle of Buffon’s return, there are financial gains for Juventus to sell their backup keeper and replace him with one on a Bosman, even when such player is a club legend who telegraphed his return just 6 days ago.