Veteran Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon says Saturday’s Champions League final against Real Madrid will have “special” personal significance as he approaches the end of his storied career.
A world champion with Italy in 2006 and eight-time Series A winner with Juventus, Buffon finished on the losing side in his two previous Champions League finals in 2003 and 2015. Now 39, he may never get a better opportunity to claim Europe’s biggest prize and he concedes it is a source of extra motivation.
“The emotions I feel might be different to any other guy who’s younger, like Dani (Alves),” said Buffon, gesturing to his team-mate, who was sitting beside him at Friday’s pre-game press conference in Cardiff.
“Dani has already won this competition and he has four or five years ahead in his career. I have to rule out this possibility, so yes, it will be much more special for me. I still feel like a young boy, even though I’m 39 years old. Tomorrow’s match is very important to me. I’ve played for Juventus for many, many years. I’ve got back more than I gave. It would be the perfect finale. And people like fairytales.”
One of Buffon’s chief responsibilities at the Principality Stadium will be keeping out Madrid talisman Cristiano Ronaldo, who is chasing a fourth success in the competition and third in four years.
Ronaldo also dreams of equalling his great rival Lionel Messi’s tally of five Ballons d’Or and Buffon dismissed suggestions he might pop the pair to the sport’s top individual prize.
“I know that reporters have to write reports about these things because it’s your job, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m not that conceited. I wouldn’t dream of putting myself on the same pedestal as Cristiano. We play different roles. My role is to defend and he is to attack. We are complete opposites. The only thing I can do is try and not concede goals. But he can determine much more the outcome of a match because of the role he plays and his history. I’m pleased the media see the game as a challenge between myself and Cristiano, but it’s not reality. As for the Ballon d’Or, it’s rewarding to hear it, but it’s not important now. All that matters is the match tomorrow.”
Alves was on the winning side when Barcelona defeated Buffon’s Juventus in 2015 final in Berlin but will line up alongside him against Madrid.
The Brazilian right-back won three Champions League titles with Barcelona and when he signed for Juve last year, Buffon sent him a text message telling him to bring his expertise in the tournament with him.
Buffon said with a smile,
“That’s the text message I sent when he signed for Juventus. He’s a bit like me. He’s an optimist. Yes, I will help you win the Champions League. Until now he’s been a revelation for me. Not as a player. We’ve all seen what he can do on the pitch. I was able to get to know him in the dressing room and off the pitch, there’s a lot more to him.”
Alves, meanwhile, played down the prospect of becoming the first player in history to win three European Trebles.
“That’s for the history books,” he said. “When you stop your career, people will see what I’ve achieved. For me, it’s really not much use. Our objectives are much bigger than that. We have our ambition and will to win. We’re hungry. We have a plate of food in front of us and we want to have it.”
He added: “The only extra motivation that might help is that the president (Andrea Agnelli) said maybe we might find some Ferraris that pop up. That does motivate you a bit! I hope we bring the cup home and the president is true to his word.”