Submit

Piqué+ Buffon

May 16 2018
Gerard Piqué
FC Barcelona and Spanish national team
Gianluigi Buffon
Juventus F.C.
May 16 2018

To watch with subtitles in English or Spanish, click the (CC) icon in the video window.


PARA LEER EN ESPAÑOL, HAZ CLICK AQUI

Gerard Piqué
Gigi, thanks for meeting me at the training ground here in Turin. I read a lot about you. I read your parents and sisters are all athletes too.

Gianluigi Buffon
Yes. I come from a family of athletes. I always knew sport was my future, ever since I was a kid. Mum and Dad were both national-level athletes. My two sisters played volleyball in the first division. One even won the volleyball Champions League, unlike me. I was the only one left. As the youngest in a family of famous professional athletes, I wanted to prove my abilities and show them I could also make it. I was lucky to get into football and become a goalie.

Piqué
What’s your first football memory as a child?

Buffon
My first memory? I think I was four. The ’82 World Cup that Italy won.

Piqué
I wasn’t even born!

Buffon
I was too small to understand the World Cup, but I remember seeing all the grown-ups gathered around the TV, excitedly cheering Italy on. I was playing football outside and realised that I enjoyed playing with the ball. I spent the afternoons playing football and listening to them shouting in joy or in despair with the national team.

Piqué
You started in Parma, playing your first match at 17 against Milan, and did not let a single goal in.

Buffon
Yes.

Piqué
A goalkeeper’s dream.

Buffon
Yes.

Piqué
How did it feel to be so young and starting for such an important team as Parma, one of the best teams in Italy at that time?

Buffon
In the mid-’90s, for around 10 years, Parma was one of the best in Europe. In 10 years they won the UEFA Cup twice, an Italian Cup and a UEFA Super Cup. It was a team of the highest level. It was an important match. We were league leaders, drawing on points with Milan, which had some great champions: Baggio, Weah, Savićević, Maldini. I was barely 17 and I had to play. In the morning I was told I would be playing and I’m proud to say I that was not afraid. I remember at that moment I was really happy because it was my chance to show the world who Buffon was, and that he was good goalie. I remember joy beat fear before a crucial match.

Allsport/Getty Images

Piqué
Then at 19 you were capped for Italy’s national team. You went to Russia.

Buffon
It was the fifth or the sixth time coach Maldini had chosen me, but I hadn’t played before, because other goalkeepers, like Peruzzi or Pagliuca, deserved it more. It was the qualifiers for the World Cup in France. We were playing Russia in Moscow. In the 25th minute, Pagliuca got a knock on the knee and he asked to be taken out. I was an enthusiastic kid. I feared nothing. But when I saw I was on, I was not so glad because the pitch was covered in snow. It was such an important match in terms of enabling Italy to qualify. I started to warm up and was on in two minutes. Once on the pitch I concentrated hard. Fear left me, and I concentrated hard for an hour. Five minutes after I came on, Russia had a great chance to score, and I made a great save to my left, which helped me really get into the match.

Piqué
You’ll go down in history as one who has played in five World Cups. Only three people have done this: you, Matthäus and … yes, and a Mexican.

Buffon
A Mexican goalkeeper.

Piqué
How do you feel?

Buffon
Good. Proud. It’s a long haul. It takes a lot to be continuously up to scratch.

Piqué
Is it a lot of work?

Buffon
You need talent, but also effort, to be able to suffer as you do sometimes. It is gratifying, as only a few of us have played in five World Cups. It was great to play two in Europe, one in Asia, one in Africa and one in America.

Piqué
I hadn’t realised!

Buffon
I’ve played on every continent. It would have been special to play in a sixth World Cup, but sometimes you have to be content. I didn’t have the courage to play in a sixth World Cup.

Piqué
In your time playing for Italy, winning the World Cup in Germany in 2006 must have been the best. What do you remember about it? How did you feel?

Buffon
The way we experienced the final of the German World Cup was special for the Italians, apart from the victory. There were lots of Italian immigrants who made us feel like we were playing at home. I remember a lot of happiness, partying, emotional support. We never felt alone. I have two magnificent memories, the semifinal against Germany in Dortmund.

Piqué
2–0.

Buffon
Two-to-zero, but one of the most nerve-racking moments of my life. When I think about it, I feel bad. How can anybody bear such tension and emotion? Against Germany it was terrible. Then winning 2–0 in extra time. When we got to the hotel at 5 a.m. there were 10,000 people waiting.

Piqué
Incredible.

Alessandra Benedetti/Corbis via Getty Images

Buffon
The special thing was that after beating Germany we were calm, like we’d already won the World Cup. It was crazy.

Piqué
It’s not easy to get to the final and celebrate as though you’ve won the World Cup. Yeah, that’s the worst!

Buffon
It was madness. Twelve years later I look at France and can see how strong they were. We thought we’d won, but we had to play a really strong team. A team that makes you think you can beat them gives you the enthusiasm, the strength to beat any opponent. We were on a streak. We feared no one and thought we could beat anyone. Surprisingly, I was less nervous for the final against France. I slept six or seven hours before the match against Germany, and only two before playing France. I remember the discomfort, because of the strong emotions that were hard to take in, so it was hard to rest. It’s not easy. I clearly remember that after our victory we were not able to feel happy — because we had placed so much energy and emotion on the sacrificial altar, so as to speak. The joy of winning the World Cup came long after our victory.

Roland Weihrauch/dpa/AP Images

Piqué
Then there was South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014, when Italy didn’t do well, and you didn’t qualify for 2018. Do you think calcio, Italian football, needs to reassess and look for different solutions to return to the top?

Buffon
I think … something’s wrong. I can’t believe Italy is not producing talent like before. When I joined the national team, there was Baggio, Del Piero, Totti, Inzaghi, Montella, Vieri — great, talented players. In the last 10 years Italy has had a good team. We’re not a bad team at all, but without the talented players we used to have, without a certain class of players, it is difficult to get results, victories. Pride and the sense of belonging have improved over the last 10 years. We have had a poor record, but we did get to the European finals in 2012, a good presence in 2016. Our pride helps us do more than we could hope for.

Piqué
Do you think Serie A, in competition terms, is a bit below, say, the Premier League or La Liga, and that Juventus is the only Champions League team that could win it?

Buffon
Maybe. It might be true. But I also think there are teams and national teams, like France, who always had players abroad. Spain too, they always had plenty of players abroad. Our problem is not the competition, but an individual one, especially for the players.

Piqué
Lack of talent?

Buffon
Yes. Serie A might be lower level, but if you continue to produce good players, they’ll go off to play for Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid. The national team stays high level. But except for Verratti, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain, we don’t have players, except on Juventus, who play for the great teams in Europe. That’s the issue.

Matteo Ciambelli/NurPhoto/Sipa USA via AP Images

Piqué
A turning point in your career, talking about Juventus, is when you were downgraded to Serie B, but you decided to stay with the club. It looked like you stayed at Juventus out of love. But it was also a huge risk. You could have chosen other clubs and competed to win the Champions League, yet you chose to stay and play Serie B. How was it to stay in Serie B? Was it the right decision?

Buffon
When I decided to stay in Serie B I was glad to do so, because I think there are some men, some players, who have the opportunity to give the sport some hope through their decisions, for the public, for the fans. It was a time when somebody like me needed to send a message: That players have feelings too and there is more to life than popularity and money. I would do it again. Then we won Serie B. It was a fun year. And after two good years being second or third came two or three very bad years, when Juventus was unrecognizable. We lost our spirit, our identity, our work ethic. Some years we finished sixth or seventh, and I would say to myself, “Why on earth did I choose this?” But I said that quietly, because I’m usually a positive person, an optimist. I am sure that hard work and good behaviour always do the trick. I’ve always said so. Six years later, when I wore the championship shield again, I was so happy. It was a tough choice. Six very rough years. When you are used to winning … six years not playing much in the Champions League. I didn’t get to play much in European competitions. With a bit of effort, we made a comeback.

Piqué
Did you ever think about leaving during those six years? It is surprising that in your 23-year career you’ve played for only two teams, and both in Italy. Didn’t you think about playing abroad?

Buffon
I would have liked to because I like being around different people, other ways of life, of thinking. It sounded appealing. But deep down I feel very Italian. I know Italy has its limitations, but the world I know makes me smile and I like it. As a figure in sports, I didn’t and still don’t want to leave Italy as long as I don’t have to.

Alberto Gandolfo/Pacific Press via ZUMA Wire

Piqué
You’ve been playing professionally for 23 years. Football has changed a lot, and as a goalkeeper you’ve seen how goalies now play more with their feet. You’ve seen this transition, goalies using their feet more and more, but you don’t really need it.

Buffon
It has been a good change for me, a just change, because football has improved. It is more exciting and less time is wasted. I also think that, personally, it has made me improve, because all goalkeepers have to play more with their feet and play differently. You have to be able to kick and move out to the field. It’s a more complicated job than before. It is better for me, because I’m 40 and I’m still playing, because I like to compete and to improve.

Piqué
A few months ago, you said this might be your last year. But I’ve talked to Chiellini, and he told me that Buffon is not done yet. Any news on this? Am I missing something? Will we be seeing Buffon for another two years?

Buffon
No surprises. I think that at my age you have to evaluate the situation a month, a week, at a time. Because it is important for athletes like you and me, who have always played at the top, to be doing our best, struggling to be the best, to stay at the top. You have to be physically well, because you don’t want poor results for the sake of your pride. I’m Buffon, and that is who I want to be till the last minute. And when I’m not myself anymore, I’ll go. In a couple of months, I’ll meet with the president and we’ll evaluate the situation calmly. I’m very happy at the moment. I’m happy playing, because I love the atmosphere — I’m with my friends and I know I can help on the pitch. The day I can’t, no problem. I’ve had a great career anyway.

Piqué
Are you afraid of retirement? You’ve been a professional for longer than you have not. Are you afraid of retirement, leaving football and starting a new life that is unknown to you?

Buffon
I would be dishonest if I told you I’m not afraid. But deep down I feel calm and at peace because I know I’m naturally curious. And the day I stop playing football I will find a way not to get bored and I’ll stay busy. After all, players like us, who have lived the game intensely, have to keep their minds occupied and have a reason to get up, something to fight for. I’ll never get bored or miss being in the public eye. The only problem is that my life has been organised for me for 23 years. Every morning you are given a timetable. But when you have 24 hours ahead of you with nothing to do, that could be a problem.

Clive Mason/Getty Images

Piqué
Will you stay in the profession? Is there a role you’d like to take when you retire?

Buffon
I’d like to take courses to become a director, a manager or a trainer, and then choose an option without rushing.

Piqué
Lastly, you said football has made you a better person. What would you have been if not a footballer?

Buffon
I surely would have been a worse person. I probably would have been a P.E. teacher, like my parents. I was heading in that direction. I’ve always liked sports and being around children, but football has made me a better person because I’ve always thought the group is more important. It is nice to be part of a group and share victories and defeats. It makes you less selfish. I find that truly beautiful. Being more altruistic and sharing with others is the best thing in life. Being popular has positives and negatives. Negative like when you do something wrong, and it is exaggerated on the TV, in the newspapers. Those consequences from that exaggeration make you think and say to yourself that you don’t deserve to suffer this outcome. “I must try not to provoke them, behave better and be a better person.” These years of confusion with so many problems have helped me improve.

Piqué
As a player, I know football is better with you in it. It was a pleasure having you here today and talking to you. Did you know that when I was 21 I had to choose between Barça and Juventus? I could have shared a changing room with you.

Buffon
Really?

Piqué
Yes. Thanks, very much.

Buffon
Thank you.

Gerard Piqué
FC Barcelona and Spanish national team
Gianluigi Buffon
Juventus F.C.