He is one of the greats. Not just in Turin, not just in Italy, not even just in Europe. He is one of the best goalkeepers that has ever graced the sport. When Gianluigi Buffon retires he will be a hall of famer. His consistency, he’s ability and his personality will see him go down in history as one of the greatest of all time. As with any player at this level he has won numerous titles, had a huge amount of career defining moments and has won matches for club and country with big saves on many occasions. However, there is one thing that eludes him – a medal for winning the biggest club competition in Europe. After the latest instalment of the Champions League seeing his side dismantled by the mighty Real Madrid, the Italian shot stopper says he has one chance left. One last shot at achieving a career long goal.
At half time in Cardiff his chances looked good. His side had gone down to a Cristiano Ronaldo goal which Buffon had no chance with after it deflected off a defender to take it even further out of his reach. Juventus had hit back with a brilliant team goal which saw Mario Mandzukic score one of the best goals in a Champions League final. When they came back out for the second half disaster struck for the Italians. Casemiro scored just after the hour mark after another deflection which took it just out of the reach of Buffon. You could see the disappointment on the keepers face; he must have had a familiar feeling at this point. Juventus had the better of the first half but Madrid came out and blew them away in the second. Ronaldo scored his second three minutes later and that was that. A red card for Juan Cuadrado killed any thoughts of a miraculous comeback and a 90th minute goal from Marco Asensio was the final nail in the Old Lady’s coffin.
This was Juventus’ and Buffon’s second final in three years. The game took a similar pattern. Juve faced Barcelona in the 2015 final. Ivan Rakitic put the Spaniard ahead and then Juve drew level. Barcelona scored in the 68th minute to go ahead and scored late to seal a 3-1 victory. Again Buffon and the great Juventus defence put to the sword in a final.
Before this one Juve lost at Old Trafford in the 2003 final. A more youthful Buffon kept a clean sheet against Italian rivals AC Milan but could not help his team to glory in a penalty shootout in a game that lacked goals and action but was fascinating in terms of technique and strategy. Andriy Shevchenko sent Gianluigi the wrong way with the conclusive to win the battle of Italy in Manchester.
Now Buffon must face the very real possibility of not winning this tournament. His eight Italian league triumphs would be able to comfort him in missing out on this one. Not even his World Cup winner’s medal with Italy would sooth his feelings of disappointment in missing out on this one. Juventus are a strong team and performed superbly this season. This is proven by the fact that they were playing against Real Madrid to win the treble. They won both the league and the Italian cup seeing them achieve the domestic double. Not a bad season, but one that could have been historic for the biggest club in Italy.
He will come again, one last time. He has stated that he has one year left on his contract at Juventus, presumably he will retire at the end of his current contract as he is approaching his 40’s. His presence within the squad and his reputation will surely motivate his team mates to give it their all next time. He bemoaned the fortune of Real Madrid in the game who he saw as lucky. These comments were relating to the deflections which gave Real the two goals which gave them leads in the game. It is true you need luck at some stages to win competitions like this and Los Blancos got the rub of the green on this occasion. It seems as though Buffon does not believe he has had his fair share of luck in these biggest of games. Although he did concede that Real Madrid were better than them during the game and deserved to win.
Buffon also commented on the performance of the Juventus team. He believed that for half an hour they performed at the level they are capable of. He said after the opening 30 minutes the team were not ‘up to scratch’. Gianluigi could not work out if they excelled to be on Real’s level in this period or dropped off after the 30 minute mark.
Next season Juventus will start in the group phase of the Champions League. They will recruit over the summer and they will believe that they are stronger. Let’s not forget the competitive nature of this tournament. There are sides that are expected to win it and the two Spanish super teams have dominated in recent years, Madrid winning it three times in the last four years and Barcelona winning it the remaining year in this period. Juventus are on the verge of becoming a force in European football with their consistent progress in the last few years. They must keep checking over their shoulders however, there are a good number of other clubs on the periphery of breaking through also.
Hopefully they can go one further next year and break the Spanish hold on the competition. There is nobody more deserving or anybody in the game it would be more fulfilling seeing lift the trophy than Gianluigi Buffon. It would be a great finale to a fantastic career.
Good luck next year Gigi.