Gianluigi Buffon says it’s completely normal that Kylian Mbappe would see the veteran goalkeeper as ‘a father figure or even a grandpa’ and that it’s part of the fabric of life.
The 41-year-old joined Paris Saint-Germain on a one-year deal in the summer and brought with him a wealth of experience from his long, distinguished career in Serie A and with the Italy national team.
That age was the punchline to a small joke that Mbappe made in January, when Buffon celebrated his birthday, as the star attacker tweeted: “Happy birthday, Grandpa Gigi. An immense
Buffon has no problem with that humour, having been in Mbappe’s position as a brilliant young player trying to gain acceptance from his older, more experienced team-mates.
And the goalkeeper says his relationship with Mbappe is a strong one, as the two have grown to find common ground between them.
“It's only normal that Kylian, who is 20, thinks of me as a father figure or even a grandpa. But I think that's nice," Buffon told CNN.
"I've experienced so many wonderful things in my career. Firstly as a young, adolescent, cocky player who was surrounded by older players and my mission then was to be accepted by them.
"Then as a young man, and lastly as an older man who meets a young man who was just like me when I was the same age.”
Joyeux Anniversaire Papy Gigi 🎁🎉.— Kylian Mbappé (@KMbappe) January 28, 2019
Un honneur immense d’avoir cette opportunité de te côtoyer et d’apprendre à tes côtés au quotidien, tu es une référence absolu 🇮🇹👑 @gianluigibuffon pic.twitter.com/6gDhmZRxOE
"This is all part of the difficulties of life, and you understand how different people's opinions are, and by changing your point of view over time you see how things can be different. But I must say it's all part of the rich fabric of life.
"And when I joke about with Kylian, we have a friendly rapport and it feels like we're the same age. The way I see it, we have to find common ground and I have to act in a younger way and he has to think along the lines of someone slightly older perhaps."
There is an option in the veteran’s contract for another season, but Buffon admitted uncertainty when asked about his future.
"I don't know," Buffon said. "The opportunity may well present itself, but nothing has been carved in stone. I think that a player like me and of my age shouldn't make long-term plans."