Gianluigi Buffon said teenage sensation Gianluigi Donnarumma is the chosen one for Italy, but the goalkeeping icon has no plans to step aside just yet as he looks forward to Giampiero Ventura’s new project.
As Buffon, 38, comes towards the end of his illustrious career, 17-year-old Donnarumma is seen as the heir to the international throne having already become AC Milan’s first-choice keeper.
Buffon is aware of the challenge to keep the teenager at bay, but the Italy and Juventus captain is relishing the start of a new era, which gets underway against France in an international friendly on Thursday.
“There’s a new project, and we’re ready to make our quality available to the coach,” Buffon said. “When you feel you still have something to give then you’re ready for a new project.
“It’s important to be mentally ready for a match like France-Italy.
“This is the most difficult phase of World Cup qualifying in my career. Donnarumma is a chosen one.
“We have the desire to cry again, but [cry] with joy.”
Italian fans will get their first glimpse of Ventura’s side at the Stadio San Nicola in Bari.
Ventura was appointed following Euro 2016 after Antonio Conte departed for Chelsea on the back of a quarter-final run at the Championships in France.
And the 68-year-old coach is hoping to see the Italians build on their last-eight appearance, telling reporters: “I want the humility, determination, rage and involvement seen at the Euros.
“I hope to continue what Conte’s done and, if possible, build on it.
“Bari lives for football, and I hope that tomorrow the stadium fills up as much as possible.
“I’m calm because I’m used to replacing Conte [from Bari] and because I know I’ve done things in the best way.
“I hope that under Ventura you’ll see a great team. Our most important young players are on the wings, I want to let them be part of our future.”