Interim Italian national team coach Luigi Di Biagio has confirmed reports that legendary goalkeeper Gianliugi Buffon may yet continue with the Azzurri, at least for the short-term.
Although still to announce whether this will be his last season with Juventus, the 40-year-old was thought to have pulled on an Italy shirt for the last time after failing to qualify for the World Cup.
“I have made my evaluation and Buffon’s career does not have to finish with [the World Cup qualifier defeat against] Sweden,” Di Biagio told the press conference.
“It is a matter of respect and what Gigi has given to our football, I proposed that he play two or three games and then make a decision. Gigi will probably be part of the squad in March, but [Andrea] Barzagli has confirmed that he will retire.”
The former Inter would not be drawn on whether striker Mario Balotelli will re-join the squad, after impressing in Ligue 1 at Nice.
“Balotelli is not excluded [from selection],” stated the 46-year-old. “I follow him regularly and we will evaluate at the time of selection.
“I do not close the door to anyone, but today I will not say whether he will be included or not.”
With speculation still surrounding who will lead the Azzurri into the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, the ex-Roma man admitted that he would be willing to take up the challenge, but does not mind the title of caretaker.
“Call me what you want,” claimed Di Biagio. “My first task is to bring enthusiasm and joy to this team, that we all love, then we’ll see.
“I bring with me a great experience, I know 80 percent of the guys who will be part of the next cycle. I have summoned 150 players in my time with the Under-21 side.
“I am a realist, though, I know my role today, but my ambition [to take the job permanently] is not lacking.”