BUF­FON KNOCK­ING ON BAL­LON D’OR DOOR

Ju­ven­tus’ iconic goal­keeper should see his ef­forts recog­nised

New Straits Times - - Sport -

and Barcelona neme­sis Lionel Messi, such an ac­co­lade is not to be un­der­es­ti­mated.

Es­pe­cially when con­sid­er­ing the only pre­vi­ous goal­keeper hon­oured was Rus­sian leg­end Lev Yashin, in 1963.

Many have come close, in­clud­ing Buf­fon, who in 2006 fin­ished sec­ond to Italy team­mate and Real Madrid de­fender Fabio Can­navaro.

But to match the feats of Yashin, known as the ‘Black Spi­der’ for ac­ro­batic goal­keep­ing feats that wowed the beau­ti­ful game in the 1960s, is go­ing to take some do­ing.

AC Mi­lan leg­end Gianni Rivera, who fin­ished sec­ond to Yashin in the 1963 vote, has echoed many team bus as it left the squad’s ho­tel head­ing for a Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter-fi­nal match at home against Monaco, wound­ing Span­ish in­ter­na­tional Marc Bar­tra, 26, and a mo­tor­cy­cle police of­fi­cer.

A Ger­man-Rus­sian, iden­ti­fied only as 28-year-old Sergej W., has been charged with at­tempted in the game who be­lieve Buf­fon, still in search of an eva­sive Cham­pi­ons League ti­tle, will only get close if Juve are crowned Euro­pean cham­pi­ons.

“It was a his­tor­i­cal first, but it was right to give Yashin his award,” Riverai re­cently said in an in­ter­view with

“I only found out later I’d come sec­ond.”

He added: “Buf­fon de­serves to win it for what he’s still do­ing on the pitch. If he wins the Cham­pi­ons League with Ju­ven­tus, it will be the crown­ing glory of what has been an ex­tra­or­di­nary ca­reer.”

Now 39 and head­ing to­wards re­tire­ment fol­low­ing the 2018 World Cup in Rus­sia, Buf­fon re­mains one of the world’s best. mur­der, and pros­e­cu­tors have said he staged the at­tack hop­ing to profit from a drop in the foot­ball team’s share price.

Tuchel had com­plained that nei­ther he nor his shell-shocked play­ers were con­sulted on the de­ci­sion to go ahead with the match against Monaco less than 24 hours af­ter the at­tack.

In a sea­son that has seen Ju­ven­tus ditch a con­ser­va­tive 3-5-2 for­ma­tion for a more in­ven­tive and at­tack­ing 4-2-3-1 in which de­fen­sive du­ties re­main a pri­or­ity, Buf­fon has been su­perb.

Es­pe­cially in Europe, where he de­fied his years and pro­duced three remarkable stops on his way to see­ing Ju­ven­tus put one leg into the fi­nal with a pre­cious 2-0 win over Monaco at the Stade Louis II last month.

It is not for noth­ing that Buf­fon, who has seen Ju­ven­tus through thick and thin – re­main­ing with the club fol­low­ing their de­mo­tion to Serie B fol­low­ing the Cal­ciopoli match-fix­ing scan­dal – is re­garded, in par­lia­men­tary terms, as the ‘Speaker of the House’.

At the head of the Ju­ven­tus dress­ing room there are two, plush seats that re­sem­ble thrones.

Buf­fon sits on the right, with no­to­ri­ously me­dia-shy but hugely-re­spected Croa­t­ian for­ward Mario Mandzu­kic to his left. From there, Buf­fon com­mands the dress­ing room.

Al­though the big ‘keeper is the first one to ad­mit: “You have to make the saves. If I’m not mak­ing saves, then I can’t start giv­ing lessons.”

The last time Ju­ven­tus tri-

But Watzke de­nied that was the case and said the claim had an­noyed him.

In a state­ment, the club sought to play down the row, say­ing that “the well-be­ing of the Borus­sia Dort­mund club... is al­ways more im­por­tant than in­di­vid­u­als or pos­si­ble dif­fer­ences be­tween them.” umphed in the com­pe­ti­tion was in 1996, when the Turin gi­ants beat Ajax at the Sta­dio Olimpico.

Af­ter two suc­ces­sive run­ner-up places in 1997 and 1998, the Ital­ians lost the fi­nal a fur­ther two times in 2003 and 2015, for a record tally of six run­ner-up places.

End­ing their hoodoo might just give Buf­fon, de­scribed re­cently by as “the only real ri­val to Ron­aldo“, a fit­ting end to his ca­reer.

De­fender and team­mate Giorgio Chiellini, though, said the ‘keeper should only de­serve it based on his per­for­mances this year.

“I’m lucky to have played all my ca­reer along­side Buf­fon. He de­serves the Bal­lon d’Or for what he’s achieved this year. I hope he wins it, but it would be a con­se­quence of us win­ning in Cardiff,” he said on Mon­day.

France Foot­ball, though, tem­pered those hopes, adding: “But Buf­fon is a goal­keeper and even if Juve tri­umph in Europe there is al­ways this hand­i­cap: the one of not hav­ing one’s des­tiny in his own hands.

“Ron­aldo can de­cide how much to give of him­self. Buf­fon has to wait for the op­por­tu­nity. That’s the dif­fer­ence.”

Tuchel’s de­par­ture came days af­ter Dort­mund won the Ger­man Cup at Saturday’s fi­nal against Ein­tra­cht Frank­furt.

It also came a year be­fore his con­tract was due to ex­pire, and Ger­man me­dia has linked Swiss coach Lu­cien Favre to the job af­ter his im­pres­sive sea­son with Nice.

EPA PIC

Dort­mund head coach Thomas Tuchel lifts the Ger­man Cup at the Olympic Sta­dium in Ber­lin on Saturday.

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