TURIN, Italy (AP) It was a day of celebration but also of tears as Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon played his last match for the Bianconeri after 17 years at the club.
Juventus beat already relegated Hellas Verona 2-1 in the final round of the season on Saturday but the result mattered little as the club bid an emotional farewell to Buffon, while it also received a record-extending seventh successive Serie A trophy.
Buffon, widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers ever, announced Thursday that he was leaving Juventus although the 40-year-old World Cup winner has put off retirement to consider offers to play overseas.
Buffon ran out for the warmup first as defender Andrea Barzagli held back his teammates for a few seconds to let the ‘keeper enjoy the reception on his own.
The former Italy captain also spent several minutes under one of the stands behind the goal and had tears in his eyes as he hugged many fans.
A huge banner of Buffon was unveiled before kickoff, while there were continuous chants and songs about him during the match.
Buffon, who could be seen at times wiping away tears, had hardly a save to make.
His opposite number, Nicolas, was far busier and saved a late penalty from Stephan Lichtsteiner, who was also playing his farewell match for the club.
Paulo Dybala almost gave Juventus the lead shortly before the break but his chipped effort came off the crossbar.
Juventus broke the deadlock four minutes after the interval when a corner was played short and Douglas Costa dribbled into the area. His effort was saved by Nicolas but Daniele Rugani tapped in the rebound.
Miralem Pjanic doubled Juve’s lead three minutes later with a trademark free kick.
Buffon was substituted in the 63rd to an emotional standing ovation. He was hugged by all his teammates and staff as he struggled to hold back the tears.
Alessio Cerci scored for Verona in the 76th to end Juve’s bid to set a new Serie A record of 23 clean sheets in a season.
Buffon moved to Juventus in 2001 and has made 656 appearances for the club.
He won his ninth Serie A title with Juventus this season, leading the Bianconeri to a fourth successive league and cup double.
Two other league titles were stripped from the club due to the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal. Also as punishment, Juventus was relegated to Serie B but Buffon stayed and helped it win the second division and bounce straight back up.
Among Buffon’s records for club and country is the longest time in Serie A without conceding a goal when he was unbeaten for 974 consecutive minutes in the 2015-16 season.