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Why Buffon is even greater than you thought

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Turin, April 3, 2018. Juventus take on Real Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Away lead 1-0 after an early goal from Cristiano Ronaldo. In the 63rd minute, due to a misunderstanding between defender Giorgio Chiellini and Buffon, an acute situation arises at the gates of Turin: the Real Madrid striker delivers a dangerous shot, but the goalkeeper beats the ball away. What happens in the next few moments will be remembered for a lifetime by anyone who saw this match live. Madrid right-back Daniel Carvajal picks up the ball from the flank and serves it into the box, Cristiano soars into the air, reaches the ball at a height of two meters and 37 centimeters and executes a flawless scissors kick through himself. Buffon drops his hands, the Real Madrid coach clutches his head, the fans give a standing ovation. After the match, which the Italians lost 0-3, the goalkeeper and the captain told reporters: “When you meet some opponents, you have to admit that they are simply objectively stronger. Cristiano Ronaldo is an extraordinary footballer who needs to be compared to people like Maradona, Messi, Pele.

After the defeat, even the most adamant Juventus fans did not believe that their team would beat Real Madrid, but by the 60th minute of the second leg, the Italians were leading 3-0. Things went to extra time, but in the third added minute, another incredible event occurred: after a cross into the Juve penalty area and questionable contact between defender Medi Benatia and striker Lucas Vazquez, referee Michael Oliver did not hesitate to award a penalty. Buffon immediately rushed to the referee. The goalkeeper with a reputation as an impeccable gentleman, a smile man, an exemplary athlete and captain, a legendary football player who managed to accomplish a real feat with the team at the very finish line of his career, was so furious that it seemed that his pressure was enough to convince the little-known referee. It wasn’t enough. Oliver, defending himself, put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a red card, forever becoming “the referee who sent off the forty-year-old Buffon in the 93rd minute”, and depriving the great goalkeeper of even a chance to save a penalty.

Subsequently, he will express regret about the form, but not about the content of what was said. “If I met him [Oliver] in a couple of days, I would hug him,” Gigi said at his farewell press conference as a Juventus player on May 17, “but I would confirm what I think.

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Moscow, October 29, 1997

On the ice-covered field of the Dynamo stadium, at sub-zero temperatures, the first play-off match between the national teams of Russia and Italy for the right to go to the World Cup in France is taking place. At the 31st minute, Andrey Kanchelskis rushes to the Italians’ goal, the main goalkeeper Gianluca Palyuka rushes towards him and fixes the ball, but at the joint on the icy lawn he receives a painful blow to the knee and cannot continue the game. The 19-year-old Buffon throws off his woolen blanket, warms up quickly and takes to the field for the first time in the Azzurra Squadra.

First season in Juve

The very first season at Juve ended with a dramatic denouement: black and white, until the last round, pursued the leader of the championship – Inter Milan, who lost in the decisive match to Lazio and missed the title. In the semi-finals of the Champions League, Turintsy passed the new team of Zidane (Buffon saved Luis Figo’s penalty in this confrontation) and reached the final of the tournament. Another old acquaintance, Inzaghi, is waiting for them there: in the 17th minute of the match, Filippo, in the fall, hits his head from close range in opposition to the goalkeeper, but Buffon manages to shift his weight to his left foot and hit the ball with his left hand in the near corner. The game ends in a goalless draw and goes first to extra time and then to a penalty shootout. Buffon parries Seedorf and Kaladze’s blows, but his counterpart Dida fends off attempts by Trezeguet, Salayeta and Montero. It was then that Gigi was closest to the main club trophy of the world, which he never submitted to. He waited for the next final for twelve years, but neither with Barcelona in 2015, nor with Real Madrid in 2017, Juventus played in the status of a favorite or at least an equal contender for the title.

July 9, 2006, Olympic Stadium in Berlin

Again post-match penalties, and again Marcello Lippi is on the coaching bench, and Trezeguet approaches the ball. And again an error. Only this time Buffon rejoices, and it is clear why: this mistake will be the only one and will decide the outcome of the final match Italy – France at the World Cup. At 28, Gigi becomes the world champion with a team that few people seriously bet on. In the final, Buffon repeatedly entered the game, but he accomplished his main feat in the first additional segment, dragging Zidane’s shot from under the crossbar. For the Frenchman, this match was the last in his career and ended with the famous Materazzi strike and removal – an episode that many remembered at the moment when Buffon, who received a red card, left the field of Real Madrid’s home stadium in front of the Frenchman, who had by this time become the coach of Madrid.

No matter how his story continues, bright and controversial, reasonable and emotional, desperate and wise Gigi stands out from other superstars with sincerity, which, along with purely sporting achievements, inscribed him in the history of football.

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