A LOOK BACK: A seething Gianluigi Buffon was at the centre of one of Cristiano Ronaldo’s most iconic Champions League moments when Real Madrid infamously edged past Juventus in 2018
But on April 11 2018, Gianluigi Buffon threatened to steal CR7’s limelight with one of modern football’s most infamous post-match outbursts. The legendary Italian goalkeeper unloaded on referee Michael Oliver, who controversially awarded Real Madrid with a 93rd-minute penalty to prevent Buffon’s Juventus from completing a sensational comeback at the Santiago Bernabeu.
While it was Bianconeri defender Medhi Benatia who barged into Los Blancos forward Lucas Vazquez for the calamitous foul, an enraged Buffon went ballistic at Oliver after the English official blew his whistle and pointed to the spot. The veteran, 40 at the time but still going strong for Parma today, was shown a straight red card for dissent, denying him the chance to stop Ronaldo from scoring and take the second leg to extra-time with the scores 3-3 on aggregate.
While Buffon’s words on the pitch got him in trouble with Oliver, his comments to the media made more headlines, particularly with his 17-year association with Juventus coming to an end just weeks later. “To award such a doubtful, or super doubtful penalty, just ahead of the final whistle and destroy the work of a team who gave absolutely everything you have to have a rubbish bin instead of a heart,” Buffon declared.
“You need to be prepared for a game like this. You have to watch the first leg and see that a similar foul was not punished with a penalty for Juventus in Turin. And especially you need personality to referee a game like this. If you don’t have personality, you better watch the game from the stands with your wife and your kids while eating fries.
“What did I say to him while I was protesting? I could say everything in that moment because when you take such decision in a certain moment of the game it means you don’t know what sport is.
“A human being cannot decide the elimination of a team with such decision. When I don’t feel that I’m good enough, I put myself in a corner. He should do the same. It’s a matter of sensibility. It means you don’t know where you are, which teams are playing, you don’t know s***.
“If you have the cynicism to award a penalty like that in the 93rd minute, you are not a man, you are an animal.”
Behind Buffon’s eyes was pure anguish, having never lifted the Champions League in his glittering career and the Bianconeri losing the final to Real a year earlier, smashed 4-1 in Cardiff. Sulking down the Bernabeu tunnel past manager Massimiliano Allegri, who notably defended his goalkeeper, former Arsenal No.1 Wojciech Szczesny stepped onto the pitch as his replacement.
The Poland international – now Juventus’ first-choice – stared down future teammate Ronaldo, who’d – up until that point – endured a frustrating night which largely consisted of watching Los Blancos concede three unanswered goals, seeing their 3-0 lead from the first leg in Turin cut down. Szczesny – tasked with being the hero within seconds of entering the fray – guessed right, but the five-time Ballon d’Or winner had simply put too much power on his strike to give the Pole even a hint of an opportunity to save.
Cue the shirtless celebration.
Ronaldo wheeled away as the scoreboard ticked to 4-3, with the rifled effort one of his 140 Champions League goals. It’s up there with the best considering its context, although his iconic bicycle kick in the first leg easily eclipses the pressure penalty.
Having already dispatched Paris Saint-Germain at the round-of-16, Ronaldo and co got the job done against Bayern Munich in the semi-finals to set up a clash with Liverpool in Kiev – often remembered for Loris Karius ‘ clangers which allowed Real to win their 13th European crown, a third on the bounce too.
Even by then, May 25, Buffon’s words were still making headlines, with UEFA probing the incident and Oliver’s wife receiving death threats amid a tirade of sickening abuse on social media. The World Cup -winning stopper eventually apologised to Oliver, who Buffon, handed a three-match ban, labelled a “beast” in another interview.
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“If I saw the referee again, I would give him a hug and say that he should have taken more time with that decision,” he admitted. “With the feelings, emotions and disappointment of the situation, I behaved in a way that was not usual for me. After that match, I went beyond the limits with the things I said about the referee and I apologise for that.”
Buffon also put things in perspective only seconds after finishing his extraordinary rant. “Life goes on,” he added, soon to join PSG while Ronaldo made the £100million move to Juventus. “I’m happy and proud of how we played, we made the impossible possible. It’s a shame it ends like this.”