Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon says Lionel Messi 'an alien'
Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said his club will be up against "an alien" when they face Barcelona in the Champions League final on Saturday, part of his high praise for the Argentine striker.
'Messi is an alien that dedicates himself to playing with humans," the Juve captain told The Guardian. "The only hope is that this Saturday he will be from earth, like the rest of us."
Buffon said that the Barcelona strike force of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez was "the strongest in the world" even though he said he believed that the Italian defense would be enough to contain the threat.
"We will try to use our weapons, not to stop them but to limit their danger," he said.
Barcelona and fellow Argentina star Javier Mascherano also had high praise for his teammate and said there are times when Messi is just unstoppable, and no defender in the world can prevent him from scoring.
Speaking to reporters on Monday Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini had suggested that the solo goal Messi scored against Athletic Bilbao in last Saturday's Copa del Rey final victory, when the Blaugrana 10 danced past four defenders before scoring, would not have been possible in Italy as the defending in Serie A is better than in Spain.
Asked about Chiellini's comments at the official pre-final 'open day' at Barca's Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper, Mascherano said that there were times when Messi got the ball and could basically do with it as he wished.
"There are some situations, that when Leo has the ball, he just depends on himself, not on who the opponent is," the Argentine said. "But obviously this is a collective game. But he has the capacity, the gift, the talent, to do things others cannot."
Mascherano added however that he understood what Chiellini had said, and was not interested in feeding any cynical media-created controversies.
"You can understand it, as in Italy the style is much more tactical, where it is more difficult to find spaces," he said. "I believe Chiellini was talking in that way. In football when you see something said, you should not just read the headline, but look at context of the article, where it is coming from."
Even with Messi in such outstanding form, and Barca having regularly blown away opponents in all competitions through recent months, there was nothing predictable about Saturday's final, Mascherano warned.
"Unbeatable does not exist in football, you can win or lose, and either of the results could happen," he said. "We have the ability to win, but also opponent in front who could make us lose. We will try and minimise all details, leave the minimum possible up to fate, so that the game moves to our side. But this is a final, and lots of things can happen, that are out of your control, and could make you lose the game."
Mascherano pointed to his albiceleste teammate Carlos Tevez as one of Juve's main dangermen, due to his winning character and big match temperament.
"Carlos is one of the best players I have shared a pitch with," he said. "He has a fearsome character, he is a winner, always leaves a mark in every team he's played in. If you are playing against him you must be very careful. He is a player who likes to play in these type of games, and one of most important players in that team."
Mascherano was less keen to get into any debate about his teammate Luis Suarez facing Chiellini for the first time since the infamous biting incident at last summer's World Cup, and also again coming face to face with Juve left-back Patrice Evra, with whom he has also had controversial run-ins in the past.
"It is important game for Luis, but not for that, as that is in the past," the former Liverpool player said. "Luis is old enough, with his career trajectory, you do not have to say anything to him. He is responsible for his own attitude and behaviour."
Mascherano lost a Champions League final when at Anfield in 2007, and then won the competition in 2011 after joining Barcelona the previous summer. Asked if losing this particular fixture was the hardest defeat to take in football, he recalled his experience in last summer's World Cup decider against Germany, before adding that yes, the prestige from winning the top club competition was something huge for all players.
"No the worst is to lose a World Cup," he said. "But apart from that the feeling, to win any trophy, is always a nice feeling. It is reward for all work done during competition, for all the year's work. The Champions League, the feeling is nice, but it gives you a different prestige. That, for a football player, is one of the things you play for, to win this prestige is very important. Hopefully on Saturday our careers can have more prestige than before."
Barcelona have faced Italian sides twice prior in the European Cup final, defeating Sampdoria at Wembley in 1992, and losing 4-0 to Milan in 1994.