Italy's veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, having long established himself at the top of his trade, joins an exclusive club as Juventus face Lyon in the UEFA Champions League.
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Gianluigi Buffon's 99th game in the UEFA Champions League proper was one to remember. Unsurprisingly Juventus and Lyon were united in praising the Bianconeri captain before his 100th appearance in the competition.
Two weeks ago Juventus won 1-0 in France but needed an incredible performance from their goalkeeper to keep Lyon at bay. The first-half penalty he saved from Alexandre Lacazette was nothing compared to what he did in the second half when he palmed away Nabil Fekir's deflected shot and stopped Corentin Tolisso's downward header from point-blank range.
"We lost but we were up against a great Buffon. He was sensational," Maxime Gonalons said after that game and the Lyon captain talked again about the Italy goalkeeper ahead of the second Group H match against the Bianconeri. "Buffon is a living monument," he said in Turin. "In Lyon he played the perfect game, he broke our hearts. He's class, and we have a lot of respect for him. He is an exceptional player."
Meanwhile Lyon coach Bruno Génésio used the example of Buffon to explain the difference between his side and Juventus in terms of experience before hailing himself the Bianconeri No1. "He is one of the greats, we have respect for the player and the man. Someone who played at such a high level for such a long time certainly has an enviable mentality."
Buffon, who will turn 39 in January, made his UEFA Champions League debut in 1997/98 with Parma when he was 19 in a goalless draw at Sparta Prague. He did not concede in his first three appearances in the competition but Parma failed to qualify from that group stage meaning he played only six UEFA Champions League games – excluding qualifying – with the Ducali.
He joined Juventus in 2001 becoming the world's most expensive goalkeeper and so far he has played 93 group-stage-to-final games in the competition with the Bianconeri failing to put his hands on the trophy after losing finals in 2003 and 2015 against AC Milan and Barcelona respectively.
"For me, Buffon represents world football," Allegri added during his press conference on Tuesday. "He's an extraordinary player who, for the past 20 years, has been the best of the bunch." Difficult to argue.
Goalkeepers who have made 100 or more UEFA Champions League appearances (group stage to final)
159: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid, Porto)
111: Petr Čech (Sparta Praha, Chelsea, Arsenal)
106: Víctor Valdes (Barcelona)
103: Oliver Kahn (Bayern)
(99: Gianluigi Buffon (Parma, Juventus))