Can Gianluigi Buffon, Paris Saint-Germain finally conquer Europe?
Gianluigi Buffon has had a tremendous career. The nine-time Serie A winner continues to prove one of the world's best players, a position he's held for more than a decade. Having spent 23 years performing in Italy, he has left his homeland for the first time.
After departing Juventus, Buffon joined Paris Saint-Germain last week on a free transfer. The union could be beneficial for both player and club. Each is already deemed successful. The legendary goalkeeper won every available trophy in Italian football. PSG have dominated the French game in recent times.
The Parisians have secured five Ligue 1 titles in the last six seasons. They have also ruled domestic cups, winning both the Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue on the previous four occasions. On the continent, however, they have failed to make a significant mark.
PSG have shown some promising signs in Europe. They were unplayable when defeating Luis Enrique's Barcelona 4-0 two seasons ago, as well as overcoming Carlo Ancelotti's Bayern Munich 3-0 last campaign. At times, the French giants have demonstrated a ruthless streak in the Champions League, but they have not managed to get over the line when it matters most.
Apart from lifting the Cup Winners' Cup in 1996 and adding the Intertoto Cup five years later, PSG have consistently fallen short on the continent. Champions League glory has remained a distant dream.
That is something Buffon can empathise with. A World Cup winner with Italy and 12-time Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year, he has played in three Champions League finals, losing each time.
PSG have acquired some top players and managers in order to realise their European dream. None has helped achieve the feat. The French champions refuse to stop trying, though. Last season, they shattered transfer records by making a double swoop for Neymar and young sensation Kylian Mbappe. Both players proved instrumental in guiding the Parisians to a domestic clean sweep. However, the Champions League story remained the same, falling to eventual winners Real Madrid at the quarter-final stage.
Among the main reasons for PSG's ouster was goalkeeping errors. Signing Buffon makes real sense. He will provide a much-needed solution between the posts. The 40-year-old will also be a huge influence in the dressing room. His experience and expertise can only inspire younger teammates, including 25-year-old keeper Alphonse Areola.
PSG must hold on to their key players to stand any chance of conquering Europe. Cristiano Ronaldo's move to Juventus means Los Blancos are on the prowl. With a new talisman needed to replace the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, both Neymar and Mbappe fit the bill. As well as retaining talent, new manager Thomas Tuchel must make one or two signings this summer. N'Golo Kante is a possibility, one who would no doubt improve the Parisians' midfield.
Without Buffon, Paris Saint-Germain possess a strong team. With him, they become even stronger. Although the Italian will miss next season's first three Champions League matches due to a ban for comments directed at referee Michael Oliver, he will prove vital in the club's European quest once returning.