From Parma to Juventus to Paris, Gianluigi Buffon has had a remarkable career, winning countless titles on the domestic, European and international stage.
But still, there is one trophy that evades him. He has a World Cup winners’ medal, nine Italian league titles and a UEFA Cup triumph under his belt, but the Champions League always has and perhaps always will evade him.
Wednesday night saw his Paris Saint-Germain side head into their game against Manchester United with a healthy 2-0 lead and nobody expecting Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team to overturn. But incredibly, they did.
Gianluigi Buffon applauds the Paris Saint-Germain fans after being dumped out by United
Once again, the legendary Italian goalkeeper’s wait for Champions League success goes on
And with that, Buffon’s wait for a Champions League winners’ medal goes on. Fifteen times of asking, three finals, no success. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.
It all began with Parma back in 1997, a fresh-faced Buffon appearing in his first ever Champions League. They competed in a group with Sparta Prague, Galatasaray and Borussia Dortmund, eventually finishing second.
Nowadays, that would secure you a place in the next round, but back then only the group winners and two best second-placed teams progressed. Parma were not one, and they crashed out, never to return to Europe’s top table again.
Five years later, though, Buffon was back himself, this time playing for Juventus after a huge £45million move in 2001. They got to the now-defunct second group stage before crashing out… but the following year was one to remember.
In their campaign of 2002-03 they reached the final, where they faced AC Milan. Barcelona and Real Madrid had already been downed on the way to Old Trafford, but after a 0-0 draw after extra time, Buffon was perilous to stop Milan winning 3-2 on penalties. Little did Buffon know, this heartache was to be repeated twice more.
As the years progressed, Juve reached the latter stages regularly but never got as far as the final again. Last 16, quarters, last 16, quarters.
Buffon first began his time in the Champions League with his first club Parma back in 1997
In his first Champions League final, Juventus were beaten on pens by AC Milan in Manchester
Buffon looks close to tears after failing to stop Andriy Shevchenko’s penalty at Old Trafford
|12/03/2002||Juventus||Bayer 04 Leverkusen||2001/02||Group Stage – 2nd|
|09/03/2004||Juventus||Deportivo de La Coru¤a||2003/04||Last 16|
|08/12/2009||Juventus||FC Bayern Mnchen||2009/10||Group Stage|
|10/04/2013||Juventus||FC Bayern Mnchen||2012/13||Quarter Final|
|16/03/2016||Juventus||FC Bayern Mnchen||2015/16||Last 16|
|11/04/2018||Juventus||Real Madrid||2017/18||Quarter Final|
|06/03/2019||Paris Saint-Germain||Manchester United||2018/19||Last 16|
It was not until 2015 that Buffon got a second crack of the whip in a Champions League final. Still with Juventus, and now regarded as the best goalkeeper of his generation, many were keen to see him lift the final piece of his puzzle.
Barcelona, on the other hand, had other ideas. Within four minutes, Ivan Rakitic had put them ahead and despite Alvaro Morata levelling things up, the Spaniards went on to win 3-1 in normal time. The third, a Neymar shot, crept through Buffon’s legs.
By now, Buffon had competed in 11 Champions Leagues, but was still without a winners’ medal. The following season, Juve were dumped out in the last 16, but in 2017 they were back and romped through to the final.
They won their group, beat Porto, Barcelona and Monaco on the way to the final, before meeting Real Madrid in Cardiff. This, of course, was the Ronaldo show.
It was a long wait for Buffon’s next final, where Juve were beaten by Barcelona in Germany
Two years later it was the Cristiano Ronaldo show in Cardiff as Buffon lost a third big final
Cristiano scored twice as Real romped to a 4-1 win and Buffon’s Juve really had no chance on a night where the Spaniards became the first team ever to win back-to-back Champions Leagues.
It was Real who knocked them out in 2018 too, and now at the age of 41 Buffon was heading into his 15th Champions League campaign with time running out.
With a healthy 2-0 lead over United going into this week, many backed them to progress with ease and head into the last eight with a great chance of going deep into the competition once more. Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani on their books, superb players in abundance, but once more they fell short.
Marcus Rashford’s last-gasp VAR-assisted penalty has confirmed another year of failure when it comes to Buffon in Europe’s premier competition… and with the goalkeeper in his twilight years, who knows if he’ll get another chance.
The veteran keeper spilled a shot to allow Romelu Lukaku to score against him on Wednesday
Buffon has now had 15 attempts at winning the Champions League but is still without a medal