It’s always refreshing to listen to Gianluigi Buffon speak. The manner in which he carries himself, never hiding when times get tough, and always willing to let his teammates share the spotlight when things are going well are all hallmarks of the Juventus legend’s legacy to the game of football.
Nowadays he is not the automatic starter whose name gets pencilled into the teamsheet even before the date of the game or the opponent are listed, and that suits him just fine. Speaking after making his 131st Champions League appearance, Buffon talked about the experience.
“It’s always emotional to hear the Champions League anthem, especially as my last for Juve wasn’t exactly a positive memory!
“I feel very good physically and mentally, as if we face the games this way, I am sure we can all do great things. However, if we approach matches with a sense of snobbery, that becomes a problem.
“It’s a bad sign if you don’t go into games with the right determination if you are 20, let alone in your 40s. I am glad that we had examples like Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo to lead the way in their performance, work ethic and show of sacrifice for the team.”
The result meant Buffon got his 51st Champions League clean sheet, beating Edwin van der Sar and is now only behind Iker Casillas with 57, but does he think he can get to that mark?
“If I want to keep playing, I must accept criticism. I have always evolved through errors and I know the more I carry on, the more risk there is I will be criticised, because being 42 years old, I realise that being at a club like Juventus can lead to me being criticised.
“The only thing I can ask is to do my games well and hope to do my best.”
With Inter Milan crashing out into the Europa League, three Italian teams remain in the competition with the Round of 16 draw scheduled for Monday morning.
“I want to congratulate Napoli and above all Atalanta, because seeing what they are achieving is honestly emotional. I messaged Gasperini after the first couple of games and told him to believe, because they are the kind of team who can beat anyone. They can lose to anyone, but on their day, they can beat anybody.
“I am so happy they qualified and it’s a wonderful story.”