BY BEN GLADWELL
Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon says he will not be affected by criticism of his performance against Spain on Saturday, saying he has been written off for years.
Juventus star Buffon, 39, accepted he had been at fault in the 3-0 defeat, which effectively ended Italy’s hopes of qualifying for the World Cup directly as group winners, but he said some of the criticism has overstepped the mark.
“In football, everything is subject to opinion, and often opinions can go beyond the truth,” he said. “You’ve got to accept criticism like the change of seasons — it is inevitable, and it’s fine.
“It gets to you if you face real and constructive criticism, but when it comes to just pigeon shooting then you might even hit me but that’s not what I am and not I want to be.
“Since my first mistake seven years ago, people have been saying I’m finished, yet just a week ago I was voted as the best goalkeeper of the Champions League.”
Buffon has reacted well to criticism in the past, silencing his doubters following the Confederations Cup semifinal defeat to Spain in 2013 with a match-winning performance in the third-place playoff just days later.
He has been Italy’s undisputed No. 1 since the turn of the millennium and, according to former AC Milan and Chelsea goalkeeper Marco Amelia, he remains the best.
“Despite the criticism of Buffon, I still cannot see Gigio [Donnarumma] becoming Italy’s No. 1 yet,” he told Radio 24. “At the moment, I still say no. The Juventus goalkeeper is going to be at the World Cup. Donnarumma’s time will come.”
Italy host Israel in their next World Cup qualifier in Reggio-Emilia on Tuesday.
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.