Gianluigi Buffon taking nothing for granted in UCL semifinal vs. Monaco
Gianluigi Buffon says playing in the Champions League makes him "feel young" ahead of Wednesday's semifinal meeting with Monaco -- but is wary of the challenge their in-form opponents will bring.
Buffon, 39, has won almost everything over the course of a career which has spanned two decades. He has lifted the World Cup, seven Serie A titles, three Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup but, despite playing in two finals, the Champions League is still missing from his collection.
He can move closer to completing the collection by beating the Ligue 1 leaders on their own patch, and he says he hopes to play in the competition many more times in the future.
"Playing in the Champions League makes me feel young, whether I win it or not," Buffon told a news conference. "I know that in games like this, I am able to show my real essence; probably what I was born for. It's a huge emotion and joy. I get so emotional for this, no matter whether I or we win this competition or not.
"So I don't think I am owed anything at all. If we are to win it, nothing would change because I have a contract until 2018 and I still have lots of objectives."
Buffon warned that Monaco's youth and energy will provide a stern test over the course of the tie.
"Tomorrow and over the two legs, experience of knowing that a place in the final is played for over 180 minutes could give us an advantage, but since they are young and show a lot of vitality when they play, I think that they have the enthusiasm that healthy youthful innocence brings," Buffon added.
"I know what it feels like when you play games as if you are unbeatable and indestructible and that is precisely how they are feeling now. Monaco are not in the semifinals by fluke. They have beaten big teams like [Manchester] City and [Borussia] Dortmund. They have great value.
"They are enthusiastic also because Monaco are flying in the league. Wins give you belief. They have a really good coach who has them playing attacking football, which you can do well when you have players who have extraordinary quality."
Buffon says they have much more depth than just two star names, Radamel Falcao and Kylian Mbappe.
"Monaco have scored bucketloads of goals, but Mbappe hasn't scored all of them," he said. "Falcao and the other lads are also true threats. I have total respect for Monaco because they are strong and their attitude makes them unpredictable."
But in an interview with SportMediaset, Buffon compared the 18-year-old Mbappe to some of the best players in the world.
"In 1998 I went to the World Cup in France, and he was born," Buffon joked. "It's beautiful and motivational to play against a future [Lionel] Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar... he's an incredible talent, he's a lad with his head screwed on and that will help him a lot. I wish him a stellar career."
Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri warned that Monaco must be taken seriously.
"They are in the semifinals of the Champions League and they are top of Ligue 1, ahead of Paris Saint-Germain," he said. "Let's not forget that Paris were considered as one of the favourites to win this competition, so I think that says it all."
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.