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Buffon to leave Juventus, not retiring just yet

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Legendary Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is set to put on the Juventus shirt one final time this Saturday. But it may not be the last time he plays pro soccer.

The 40-year-old announced at a press conference Thursday that he would play his final match for Juventus against Hellas Verona in the last round of Serie A matches this season. It ends a run of 17 years for Buffon as the shot stopper for the Old Lady, and he ends his time at Juve as a record holder in many categories. Buffon also won nine Serie A titles (11 if you count the Calciopoli titles that were later revoked) and four Coppa Italias, though he never won the UEFA Champions League.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Had Buffon and Juventus won the Champions League, there were some rumors that Buffon would sign on for another season (or at least six months) in order to compete for the FIFA Club World Cup. But with Juventus knocked out by Real Madrid at the final moments, with Buffon earning an unceremonious red card dismissal in second half stoppage time, he was ready to hang up the boots.

That was, until, as Buffon said, some “interesting” offers came in to he and his agent. One of those offers is rumored to be from Boca Juniors, where Buffon’s former Juventus teammate Carlos Tevez is once again plying his trade.

Either way, Buffon is putting a bow on what’s been an amazing career. Watch the video below (and be sure to turn on subtitles if you don’t speak Italian or Spanish) of Barcelona’s Gerard Pique interviewing Buffon about retirement, soccer, and the future.

LIVE, UCL quarterfinals: Real Madrid v. Juventus, Bayern Munich v. Sevilla

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The quarterfinal round of the UEFA Champions League wraps up on Wednesday as Real Madrid look to finish off Juventus and Bayern Munich looks to do the same to Sevilla.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a Goal of the Year candidate in the first leg, perfectly connecting on an audacious bicycle kick to give Real Madrid its 3-0 advantage heading into the Bernabeu. Ronaldo starts again in the second leg while Gareth Bale comes off the bench to start up top with the Portuguese international.

Juventus meanwhile have a huge hole to dig out of and ultimately need a minimum of three goals and a clean sheet to force extra time. This could be the final Champions League game for Gianluigi Buffon, and what a place to make your final appearance.

Bayern meanwhile picked up a 2-1 win on the road at Sevilla, and could cruise into the semifinals with a goal at the Allianz Arena. Both Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery start, with younger players such as Corentin Tolisso available off the bench. Sevilla has a big job to do, and its fans will be hoping Wissam Ben Yedder can come up with another couple of big goals in Germany.

Click on the link above to follow the action live, while the schedule and lineups for both games is below.

We will have analysis and reaction from both games right here on Pro Soccer Talk.

Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League quarterfinals second leg

Real Madrid v. Juventus- 2:45 p.m. ET (3-1 aggregate)
Bayern Munich v. Sevilla- 2:45 p.m. ET (2-1 aggregate)

Beckenbauer apologizes for Buffon ‘pensioner’ comment

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Raphael Honigstein had an enlightening interpretation on Thursday’s Football Weekly podcast. The German soccer writer was on The Guardian’s show when Franz Beckenbauer’s “pensioner” quote came up. The Germany and Bayern Munich legend had cast that label on Gianluigi Buffon after the Juve keeper’s performance on Tuesday, implicitly comparing the 35-year-old to somebody twice that age.

The comment was big news in Italy, but as Honigstein explained to the podcast’s panel, the remark was less an attempt at analysis than a flippant, off-the-cuff assessment. Beckenbauer, per Honigstein’s telling, sits in a television studio and just says what’s on his mind, often giving his reactions in the same voice that a fan might use for an offhand comment at the pub. It’s not that Buffon is a pensioner. It’s just that on David Alaba’s opening minute goal, he looked like one.

(MORE: Bayern clinch Bundesliga in record time)

Good luck staying something like and expecting the Italian media to have a sense of humor about it. Buffon is a legend in Italy, the national team’s number one, and the starting goalkeeper for the country’s best club. Fair or not, jabs at players like Buffon, Andrea Pirlo, and Francesco Totti are sometimes interpreted as shots at Italian soccer itself.

Perhaps that’s why Beckenbauer has apologized:

“I apologise to Buffon if he felt offended by my words, as it was not my intention,” Beckenbauer told Bild.

“However, I remain convinced of my opinion: Buffon should’ve been able to block the first and second goals.”

I think most people feel the same. And most people know that Beckenbauer wasn’t being literal when he called Buffon a pensioner. But with Buffon and others having taken offense to Beckenbauer’s reaction, might as well apologize and move on. No point making a stand over something that was never intended to be serious in the first place.

The backlash on this one has been a little weird, though. I can’t shake the feeling that Juventus are reaching for something to rally around. Never underestimate the number of ways an athlete can perceive and use a slight, especially when that slight could take headline space away from a recent, disappointing result.

Buffon has already apologized to fans. He called Tuesday’s performance the worst of his Champions League career, so rolling with the pensioner jab wouldn’t have been that big a deal. Playing into it, however, has given his team a way to draw attention from their Tuesday letdown.