Gianluigi Buffon was the neutral's favorite ahead of the 2017 Champions League final, but the Italian was once again left empty-handed. Was this the 39-year-old's last chance?
While Real Madrid celebrated, Gianluigi Buffon was forced to watch on. This season in 11 Champions League games, the 39-year-old kept 8 clean sheets and conceded only three goals. By the end of his 12th appearance though, he had conceded more in 90 minutes than he had in the entire tournament before Saturday night.
Afterwards, Buffon lamented a "massive defeat" after Juventus played a brilliant first half. "We’re very disappointed, but you have to overcome all adversity if you’re going to win this trophy," the keeper is quoted as saying on Juventus' website.
There was a moment where Juventus had the chance to overcome that adversity, but before they could, Real Madrid had added a third and Buffon's hopes of winning the one title that has long eluded him faded from view.
Pavel Nedved, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Francesco Totti are among the great players of the modern era who have never won the Champions League, and Gianluigi Buffon remains a name on that list. Two penalty saves in the 2003 final weren't enough, and he stood no chance against Lionel Messi in Berlin two years ago. In Cardiff, he and Juventus came up against the most effective of machines in the form of Real Madrid (and Ronaldo) and crumbled.
Buffon's humble and respectful manner remained afterwards, but his disappointment was hard to hide. Perhaps that's because the Italian legend knows that was his last chance to claim the greatest of club titles. While largely beyond reproach for Real Madrid's goals, Buffon, like Juventus, looked a step too slow. It was the goalkeeping giant's last chance at the big-eared trophy, and it looked it.
Buffon made his debut back in 1995, has since played over 1000 games, kept over 400 clean sheets, won eight Serie A titles and a World Cup. He has played with players born in six different decades. He's the most capped Italian and, of all Italians, only Paolo Maldini has played more Champions League games than Buffon (108). At halftime, he may have felt he could add European champion to his staggering list of achievements, but it wasn't to be.
It is hard to remember a time without Buffon, but the final in Cardiff reminded us all that the end of this brilliant keeper's career surely can't be far away. The Italian remains one of the headline reasons to tune in to a World Cup, the first name people think of when Italy comes up in conversation and still the most expensive player ($42 million) in his position. Missing one piece of silverware should not tarnish his legacy when the time finally comes.