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Buffon: Winning Champions League like winning the World Cup for me

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Club captain speaks ahead of return leg of Champions League semi final tomorrow

Final Italy v France - World Cup 2006 Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Juventus take on Monaco tomorrow in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final, leading 2-0 on aggregate from the away leg last week. Ahead of the pivotal game, club captain Gianluigi Buffon spoke with the media about the game, tournament and more.

Speaking about Monaco, he said -

“I’ll let you into a little secret. Around the 30-minute mark of their match away to Manchester City, I sent a message to one of our directors, saying: ‘Hey, this lot could make it to the final; they’re really strong!’

“That shows you how much respect we have for them. They play positive, energetic football and they’re a sparkling, physical side with quality players and a lot of experience.

“We know that if we want to get another shot at winning the Champions League, we have to overcome an obstacle that’ll be at least as tricky as Barcelona in footballing terms.”

The fact that he is here at this stage is a tribute to his longevity -

“I was thinking the other day that I’ve managed to span almost three generations. When I started playing, you still had guys born in the end of the ‘50s and the ‘60s –and I’ll finish with guys born in the 2000s.

“It’s a huge span of time! It’s nice knowing that I’m playing with the future Messis, Cristiano Ronaldos and Neymars, because in 10 years, after I have been retired for a while, they will be confirmed superstars and I’ll remember facing them at the dawn of their careers.”

Buffon has played in two Finals before this, and has been unfortunate to be on the losing side of both.

“There’s definitely a desire to make up for losing the final in Berlin [to Barcelona in 2015], but I also have to make amends for Manchester in 2003 [when Juventus lost to AC Milan on penalties], so going back through the years my motivation is a lot deeper.

“In 2015, we lost it at a moment when Barcelona were on the ropes. We let in a goal almost on the counterattack: Messi hammered a shot on goal, I diverted it and Suárez scored.

“Losing on penalties in 2003 was very painful, but since I was only 25, I was fairly calm because I was convinced I’d win many more!

“That’s the exuberance of youth. I was so close to winning it on that occasion; they missed three penalties in that final – I saved two of them. Strange things happen.

“It wasn’t meant to be and we weren’t good enough. In sport and life, those who deserve it more probatbly end up getting their rewards.”

On what it would mean to make it into the Final again, and win it this time -

“After the return leg against Barcelona this season I was very happy, of course, but I did not celebrate too much, because I know that after a certain point you either win the trophy or get disappointed.

“And since I have been disappointed so many times, I want to get the victory before allowing myself to celebrate!

It would mean a lot for me. It would be the greatest joy of my career, together with the [2006] World Cup, because it would almost be a reward – the end of a very difficult road paved by bravery, stubbornness and hard work.

“I have always wanted to win it and I have always been convinced that I can do it together with my team, the fans, my colleagues.

“That would be great – we can talk about it later if it happens!”