The Italian stopper won't lose a wink of sleep ahead of his third Champions League final.  (Credit: UEFA.com)

Buffon's battle for Champions League glory
Published: June 03, 2017

Macdara Ferris reports from Cardiff

 

Saturday evening’s Champions League Final is more than just what many are billing as the battle between free scoring Real Madrid and the traditional thrifty Italian defence of Juventus.

 

However it is hard not to focus on two legendary world class players who will face off against one another in Cardiff – Juventus captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who is looking to keep Portuguese star striker Cristiano Ronaldo at bay.

 

The Real Madrid manager Zinédine Zidane expects a free flowing game as he explained to the media in Cardiff on the eve of the game.

 

“I expect an open game on both sides,” said the coach bidding to win back-to-back European Cups. “I've lived and been at Juventus. In Italy there's the famous catenaccio, but Juve don't just have that.”

 

"It would be great joy,” said Gianluigi Buffon about winning the one trophy that he does not have in his palmares, speaking at the pre-match press conference in the stadium on Friday afternoon.

 

“There is nothing better in life than getting your reward, because you know how hard you've worked and how much you've sweated for it – and (to do it) with teammates who have worked even more to get it.”

 

Buffon is the only player remaining from Juve’s 2003 final defeat to Milan on penalties. That was a game he kept a clean sheet in for 120 minutes and made two penalty shoot out saves – only to pick up a runners up medal. He is also one of five Juventus players who lost the 2015 final in Berlin to Barcelona. The Bianconeri last won the European Cup 21 years ago.

 

If he wins on this occasion at age 39, Buffon will beat Paulo Maldini’s record as the oldest winning player in Champions League history. The ‘keeper kept 13 clean sheets in 30 Serie A appearances this year as his team unsurprisingly had the lowest amount of goals conceded in the league. He kept 21 shut-outs in all competitions and went 600 minutes in the Champions League without conceding a goal.

 

"Playing in this Champions League final will be a very special feeling for me. My aim is to not have any regrets afterwards. Everyone loves fairy tales and for us to win would be the perfect story.”

 

Sitting alongside Buffon at Friday’s press conference in Cardiff was Juve defender Dani Alves. "A player as important as Gigi, to not have this trophy – it wouldn't change very much in his career but it would be very nice. To win with Buffon, before he retires, would be very special for me.”

 

If Juve are to win they will need to keep Real Madrid’s lethal strikeforce including Ronaldo at bay. They managed to shut out Barcelona in the quarter-final and have only conceded three goals in the 12 games in Europe this year, keeping nine clean sheets in total.

 

“I wouldn't dream of putting myself on the same pedestal as Cristiano,” said Buffon who wasn’t buying into the discussion of a battle between himself and the man from Madeira. “We have completely different roles – mine is to defend, his is to attack. We're complete opposites.

 

“All I can do is try to not concede goals but he is able to determine the outcome of a match much more. I am pleased the media tend to see tomorrow's game as a battle between me and Cristiano, but it is not the reality."

 

Ronaldo has enjoyed playing against Juve, hitting the target in all four of his appearances against La Signora. He scored eight goals in total in the European Cup quarter-final and semi-finals alone. He comes into the game in Cardiff with 14 goals in his last nine games for Real.

 

“He always wants more,” was the assessment of his manager Zinedine Zidane.

 

“Even if it's a training session, he wants to win there as well. What this gives the team is that he always wants to win. He has something inside; he's a born leader, especially on the pitch.”

 

See also our detailed Champions League Final preview here.

 

Macdara Ferris is in Cardiff for Extratime.ie this weekend and will be in the press box for the big game as well as the post match press conference afterwards. We'll bring you all the content right here on Extratime.ie.


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Macdara Ferris

Macdara Ferris is a contributor since 2007 to Hoops Scene (Shamrock Rovers' match day programme) and the co-author of Tallaght Time: Shamrock Rovers 2009 to 2012. He still believes that one day he will see Rovers win the FAI Cup. The first international game he attended was Luxembourg being dispatched 2-1 at Lansdowne Road by Jack Charlton's Ireland team.

He has been a writer with extratime.ie since 2012 covering the League of Ireland, the Irish National team and a few Champions League finals. He has also been known to pop up in far flung places like Ballybofey, Belfast, Berlin and Brazil to report for extratime.

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