KEIR RADNEDGE in CARDIFF: Gigi Buffon is one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. But, at 39, he has won everything there is except the Champion League.
This is the reason neutral opinion about the Champions League Final in Cardiff against Real Madrid will veer in favour of the veteran Italian and his team-mates against the holders.
Buffon will be busy. Madrid are natural free scorers while Juventus possess the meanest defence in European’s elite club competition. In personality terms it all comes down to Buffon against Cristiano Ronaldo.
The danger for Juve would be if the Buffon issue clouded their team focus but the man himself did his best to put that to rest in his pre-match press conference, even though just about question reverted one way or another to a reminder of the gap in his honours list.
Buffon acknowledged the support generated by Juventus from both within Italy and abroad. He said: “We do feel this great support and it is one of the additional ingredients which, during difficult times in the match, might be able to help us find extra reserves of energy and creativity to resist the pressure of Real Madrid.
“To win would be a huge joy because when you get to this stage there’s nothing better than taking the reward for which you have sweated so hard and to share share it with teammates who have perhaps worked even more than I have to get to this point.”
Juve’s captain praised Ronaldo for his exemplary professionalism and also Brazilian team-mate Dani Alves for the way in which the former Barcelona player had encouraged him to believe that this can be Juventus’ year after so many near-misses.
Buffon said: “When I knew we had signed Dani Alves I sent him an sms to welcome him. He’s like me, a bit of an optimist, and he replied that he would help us win the Champions League.
“He’s important to us because, while Real Madrid are used to winning finals, we have lost quite a number. Dani Alves in helping us trying to overturn our record in history.”
Alves responded to Buffon’s praise by bringing a realistic, practical focus back to the imminent final.
He said: “Look, for Gigi not to have this trophy, wouldn’t change much in his career as player but it would be one more wonderful page added to his football history.
“When I arrived I said they weren’t signing a star but a worker who would dream with then and work with them and, through our dedication, we’ve reached this point. Now we have to do just that little bit more to make the dream become reality and form a piece if history to win this title with Buffon before he eventually retires.
“We’re not afraid of Real Madrid’s history. We have our ambition, our will to win. We’re hungry. We have a plate of food in front of us and we want to eat it now.”
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