Back-up goalkeepers do not usually get interviewed. While being a key part of any team’s bench, they do not usually get any of the limelight afforded to the first team squad. However, when you give up a starting role at title-contending teams to become the deputy to the great Gianluigi Buffon slowly winding down his career, you are sure to get asked about it.
That is the case with Wojciech Szczesny at Juventus, who has performed admirably when the durable Gigi has broken down this season. Speaking to Tuttosport in an interview that covered a wide range of topics, ‘Tek’ (as he is known by his teammates), talked about what it was like playing back up for one of the greatest to have played the game.
“Once I realised it was time to leave Arsenal, Juventus’ offer came in immediately and at that point, it was a very easy decision to make.
“For me, it was also an opportunity to train with the best goalkeeper in the world. I think it’s been a positive experience, although I haven’t felt like a backup goalkeeper, rather a goalkeeper who doesn’t play every game.
“It’ll be much easier to become a starting goalkeeper after this experience. If Buffon stayed on? I think it’d be good for him and the team because the team still need Buffon: as a captain and a great goalkeeper.
“Age is just a number: even in the last few years, he’s been the best goalkeeper or at least one of the best in Serie A.
“He really helps the team with his legendary status and it would be the perfect solution [if he kept playing].”
Szczesny went out on loan to Juve’s title-challengers AS Roma for two season while still an Arsenal player, and feels one player from the Giallorossi would be well served to move to the Bianconeri for the sake of his career.
“Do I think Juve should sign Alessandro Florenzi? If someone asked me that, I’d always say that joining Juventus would be a very important step because you have to win everything here.
“I’d say they’re the right team for a great player. After that, I don’t know… I haven’t talked to anyone, but for any player who wants to become better than they are, Juventus would be the perfect step.”
He drew some comparisons between Arsenal colossus Arsene Wenger and his current manager at Juve Massimiliano Allegri -
“It’s difficult to think about Allegri in a Wenger-esque role (coach - manager). When you do so well, there are many clubs that want you. Wenger did special things at the beginning too, then he did very well in managing the club’s finances. As an Arsenal fan I’d like to see them win more. Allegri has the humility to make us defend: we know that the team has enough quality to score, but conceding less it’s what wins you the league”.
As far as his own personal ambitions, Tek insisted that he was happy to play second fiddle in Turin for now.
“In Turin me and my wife are happy. When the wife is content, then 80 percent of everything is on point.
“Here I learn a lot from Buffon, I go out for dinner with him and the other Juve goalkeepers.”
Sounds about right, for anyone for whom family comes first.