Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon says he accepts Barcelona are favourites in Saturday’s Champions League final, however his own team have not come to Berlin as “sacrificial victims.” While Paolo Maldini, the former Italy skipper, said that the current captain deserves a winners’ medal, having been the world’s best goalkeeper for the last three decades.
Maldini is one of the most storied players in the Champions League’s history, appearing in a record eight finals and winning five.
Said: “Buffon deserves it since he has been the best goalkeeper of the last three decades and is an icon of world football. He is always smiling and always calm. Often he is criticised on the basis only of his age, since the same mistake 10 years ago would be forgiven. I know that from experience!”
The 37-year-old Italy number one prepares to face Barcelona in Berlin on Saturday, Buffon insists he is happy to have missed out in 2003 because of the burning sense of unfinished business which continues to act as his motivation. “I am missing European Cup from the mantelpiece,” Buffon said. “But in the end, I am happy not to have won it yet because I have the motivation to still play for something prestigious.”
Since leaving Parma for Juventus in a £32.6m transfer in 2001, which remains the most expensive deal for any goalkeeper in world football, Buffon has either won, or competed in the final of, every major competition in the game. T
He task now facing Juventus and Buffon, however, is overcoming a Barcelona team with the goal scoring threat of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez. Barca are heavily favored by the bookies ahead of the decider, with Luis Enrique’s side having already won the La Liga and Copa Del Rey double, and a front three, all of whom are in outstanding form through recent months.
“Of course there is the possibility that Messi scores,” Buffon said. “We are playing the strongest team in the world with a phenomenal player who is in a great moment of mental serenity and physical strength.”
Juve themselves are also on track for the treble, having won the Serie A and Coppa Italia crowns. The potential of the team that includes including Tevez, Pirlo and Pogba was shown as it knocked out last year’s Champions League winners Real Madrid in the semifinal.
“This is the game of our lives and it has a historical importance because it has been 12 years since that final with Milan. This final has come in an unexpected manner and, unlike back then, we are now the outsiders,” admitted Buffon.