“The best players in the world want to be playing for the top teams in the top three leagues – no more than five or six teams in Europe. It’s a very elite list and Manchester City have to accept the fact [that] they are not one of them.” –Gianluigi Buffon
Gianluigi Buffon has unexpectedly made a very public judgment of Manchester City and their immediate hopes of signing the world’s best players. It was rumoured that the experienced Italian shot stopper was subject to City’s attentions prior to the signing of Shay Given however he has offered his rationale behind finding any such move undesirable:
“I read that City were interested in me last summer. I don’t know if anything was tabled but there is no way I could have considered it. I couldn’t justify leaving one of Europe’s most famous clubs for a team that are not playing football at the highest level.”
Whilst the admission that Manchester City are not at the premier echelon of world football is fair, the inconsistency of his justification at this moment in time should not be understated; Juventus currently sit seventh in Serie A without the prospect of Champions League football next year. Couple that with an aging contingent of proven players (Cannavaro, Del Piero, Trezeguet and Buffon himself counts in this list) and a sustained mediocrity in Europe since the all Italian final in 2003 sees the current Juventus clinging to the successes of old.
Juventus though are definitely one of Europe’s most famous clubs: Under Marcelo Lippi they won the Scudetto five times in eight seasons and reached the Champions League final an unbelievable four times (three in succession in 96’, 97’ and 98’). Buffon himself has two Serie A winner’s medals and a Champions League Final appearance with la Vecchia Signora so, yes, the club boasts a history in European football that only the finest clubs can match. Their recent history however leaves much to be desired: stripped of two Serie A titles and relegated to Serie B amid allegations of match fixing has hardly enamoured Juve to the football world of late. If we were to analyse both club’s current situations the blue side of Manchester seems a far more optimistic destination than the black and white of Turin. Manchester City are contesting for the final Champions League place; a feat which would indelibly progress the club’s European allure and espouses future promise with an unrestricted purse from which to strengthen the squad.
Buffon’s words may simply be a hollow attempt by player and agent to create a slight stir and remind any of Europe’s elite that he’s still around. Irrespective of motive, the topic in question should surely have been dismissed with more tact considering Juve’s poor season and Manchester City being on the cusp of achieving a first in the club’s history.
Buffon did at least concede that involvement in the Champions League would vastly improve the club’s stature but isn’t this something every fan already knows? It is a curious thing when players voice such opinions but perhaps even more curious that writers, myself included, devote more time to the matter. Do City have a long way to go? Yes, of course they do. But even if they miss out on the top four this season at the very least they are a club headed in the right direction – in the infancy of something with potential – compared to a Juventus side whose time has peaked and are now in a state of timid regression unless trenchant changes are made in the boardroom and on the field.
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