Thursday 8 December 2016

Buffon eyes elusive crown in journey from Serie B to Berlin

Mark Ogden

Published 04/06/2015 | 02:30

It’s 12 years since Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon suffered penalty shoot-out heartache in the Champions League final against AC Milan
It’s 12 years since Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon suffered penalty shoot-out heartache in the Champions League final against AC Milan

Gianluigi Buffon came within touching distance of winning the Champions League 12 years ago, but not even two saved penalties in a shoot-out against AC Milan at Old Trafford were enough to steer the European Cup into the Juventus goalkeeper's hands.

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Three misses, by team-mates David Trezeguet, Marcelo Zalayeta and Paolo Montero, nullified Buffon's heroics and denied Juve their third European Cup, at the same time as handing Italian rivals Milan their sixth success in the competition.

More than a decade on, and with a scandal-stained odyssey to Serie B and back in between, Buffon and the 'Old Lady' are still waiting to add to the club's European Cup triumphs of 1985 and 1996.

Burning

As the Italy No 1 prepares to face Barcelona in Berlin on Saturday, however, Buffon insists that he is happy to have missed out in 2003 because of the burning sense of unfinished business which continues to act as his motivation.

"I am missing that (European Cup) from the mantelpiece," Buffon, 37, said.

"But in the end, I am happy not to have won it yet because I have the motivation to still play for something prestigious. This is the game of our lives and it has a historical importance because it has been 12 years since that final with Milan.

"This final has come in an unexpected manner and, unlike back then, we are now the outsiders. I would always want to be starting off as a favourite, but we have our weapons to try and make Barcelona's job more difficult.

"If we are not successful it will be a great disappointment. Even as outsiders, we want to win this cup and we will go on the pitch to play and ensure we have no regrets."

Since leaving Parma for Juventus in a £32.6m transfer in 2001, which remains the most expensive deal for any goalkeeper in world football, Buffon has either won, or competed in, the final of every major competition in the game.

Winning the World Cup with Italy in 2006 is clearly the pinnacle for Buffon and, with Marcelo Lippi's team being crowned world champions in the same Berlin Olympic Stadium which will host Saturday's final, he admits he is searching for parallels which may point towards glory for Juventus.

"I return to Berlin after nine years and I am curious to see if the emotions and the feelings will be the same," Buffon said. "But I think they won't be any different. As the captain during the week, I will say what I feel, but I hope my team-mates will have something to say too to make this fight easier.

"We are all calm, we know we did something unexpected to make the final, but we deserve to be here."

The 1-1 semi-final second-leg draw in Madrid last month, which secured Juve's place in the final, ensured a pleasing piece of symmetry for Buffon.

"From Berlin to Serie B and back again. That's life!" he tweeted after the game.

The task now facing Juventus and Buffon is overcoming a Barcelona team with the goalscoring threat of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez. Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri has already ruled out the prospect of man-marking Messi.

Buffon admits that Juve must hope for the Argentinian to have a rare off-day in order to have a realistic chance of winning.

"He seems to be an extraterrestrial that plays with us humans. The only hope is that this Saturday he will be from earth, like the rest of us.

"If we had a 35pc chance of beating Real Madrid, our chance with Barcelona is even less. We will try to use our weapons, not to stop them, but to limit their danger." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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