Nine years after lifting the FIFA World Cup at Berlin's Olympiastadion, Gianluigi Buffon returns for the UEFA Champions League final: he talks about the occasion and Juventus's season.
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When Gianluigi Buffon was making his senior debut for Parma FC in 1995, the goalkeeper who will be his opposite number in Saturday's UEFA Champions League final, Marc-André ter Stegen, was 18 months old.
Now 37, Buffon is returning to the scene of his greatest triumph, Berlin's Olympiastadion, where he helped Italy win the 2006 FIFA World Cup final against France. That year he opted to stay at Juventus despite their demotion for disciplinary reasons, and now he is completing his 14th season at the club hoping to claim the European title for the first time as they face FC Barcelona with the Italian double already in the bag.
Before travelling to Berlin, Buffon sat down with UEFA.com to explain what the game means to him, what Massimiliano Allegri and Carlos Tévez have achieved in Turin, and why he feels Juve's chances of victory are "slimmer" than 35%.
On reaching the final by beating Real Madrid CF ...
I just felt a great happiness that I have only really experienced a few times, because when you are not the favourites or the stronger team and you still make it through to the next round, that is something very rewarding.
On returning to the Olympiastadion ...
I'm going back to Berlin after nine years. And I am curious to see whether the feelings and sensations will be the same. But I don't think there will be big differences to nine years ago.
On Allegri ...
What has impressed me most is his great intelligence in terms of settling in with the squad and trying to find out not just our technical qualities but also the mentality and morale of the whole team and each individual player. By doing this I think he has integrated very well. So he was really very intelligent in this way – and really good.
Plus, his tactical knowledge is outstanding – after years of playing a certain system, he managed to get us to try alternatives and to perform even better. Even so, he has not tried to completely change how we've played because in some situations or matches we have returned to how we played before. So I think this is his biggest achievement. He didn't try to enter the club and change everything, but to make changes step by step based on our needs and the situations encountered.
On Barcelona ...
Against Real we might have had a 35% chance of making it past them, so I guess the chances of now winning the trophy against this Barcelona side are even slimmer. We are aware of this and we can't deny it – because it's just obvious. So we certainly have an abundance of respect for the Barcelona squad, for what they have achieved and for the players they have. But like I said about Real, we have a few weapons to compete and ways to try to make things difficult for them. So we will play based on that.
On what the final means to him ...
For me personally, this is a big goal. It's a big goal because my career has been a long one – and obviously during all those years there have been a lot of complicated and difficult decisions to take. I took those decisions based on my feelings and based on my way of life. And I have to say that after nine or ten years – some of which have been really difficult – to come here again and make it with the whole team, the whole staff, the whole club and all our fans, that is just something great and something really rewarding.
On Carlos Tévez ...
Carlos is a player we didn't know and I didn't really know before. But these last two years he has really been an unbelievable surprise because he managed to integrate into the team right away and adapted immediately to our way of working and training. It is certainly different to English football and also different to the Argentinian mentality. It was something he had to deal with, but he immediately began working hard to try to understand what was being demanded of him.
Now he knows perfectly what he has to do to help the team and to help his team-mates. He understands at every moment of a match when he has to help out, when he has to make an extra run, when he perhaps needs to commit a foul, or when he has to keep the ball. He is a really hard worker and just a great man. I am very happy to play alongside him and to have met him.