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'I didn't think Chiesa was so good!' - Buffon admits to being surprised by Juve & Italy star's meteoric rise

11:23 BST 25/07/2021
Federico Chiesa Italy Austria Euro 2020
The ex-Bianconeri goalkeeper has heaped praise upon the winger after seeing him inspire his country to glory at the European Championship

Gianluigi Buffon has admitted to being surprised by Federico Chiesa's meteoric rise to prominence, while describing the Juventus and Italy star as "really special".

Chiesa followed up an encouraging debut season at Juve by inspiring Italy's run to glory at Euro 2020.

The 23-year-old's standout display came in the Azzurri's final win over England at Wembley, which left Buffon in awe of his talents once again after initially doubting his abilities in Turin.

What's been said?

The former Juve goalkeeper, who returned to Parma for a second spell last month, has confessed that he wasn't convinced by Chiesa upon his initial arrival at the Allianz Stadium from Fiorentina in October 2020. 

Buffon now holds him in much higher esteem, though, as he told Gazzetta dello Sport: “When he arrived at Juve I didn't think he was so good. I am honest. In the European Championship he was unbelievable, in the final match with England, it was impossible to stop him.

"After a season at Juve with Federico it is no longer a surprise for me, but it was not obvious that he would be able to play at such a high level in a tournament like the European Championship.

"If you do those things at such a high level, then it means that you are really special."

Chiesa's journey to the top

Chiesa began his career at Fiorentina in 2016, and went on to score 34 goals in 153 games for the club while earning a regular place in Italy's set-up at international level.

The mercurial winger attracted attention from a number of top clubs towards the end of his time with La Viola, but Juve ultimately won the race for his signature after successfully negotiating a €60 million (£51m/$71m) deal.

Chiesa quickly established himself as a key player for the Bianconeri in 2020-21, and finished the season with nine goals and nine assists to his name from 33 appearances, while also picking up Coppa Italia and Suppercoppa Italiana honours.

He successfully transferred that form to the European Championship, featuring in all seven games for Italy as they clinched the sixth major title in their history under Roberto Mancini.

What else did Buffon say?

Buffon also played a part in Juve's domestic success last term alongside Chiesa, but decided to undertake a new challenge in Serie B with Parma instead of signing fresh terms at the Allianz Stadium.

The 43-year-old insists that he has no plans to set a retirement date at the moment, but won't hesitate to hang up his gloves when the physical demands of top-level football become too much for him.

"Now I continue because I have a dream," he said. "But it will have to be supported by the results. As soon as I notice a sign of decline, a minute later I will stop.

"Also because I am perfectly happy at home with my wife and children, with friends. Quitting will never be a problem."

Pressed on whether he could earn a recall to the Italy national team in time for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Buffon added: "It’s almost certain Mancini won’t give me a call-up, he has his men and his group, but I need to know there will be a World Cup to keep dreaming.”

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