Between the Lines: Gianluigi Buffon has lost respect for his quotes on referee Michael Oliver

Gianluigi Buffon referee
Gianluigi Buffon confronted Michael Oliver after the referee awarded Real Madrid a last-minute penalty
Rohith Nair
Modified 12 Apr 2018

It was nearly perfect. Real Madrid and Juventus played out what was set to be a Champions League epic that was eventually ruined by a last-minute penalty when Medhi Benatia fouled Lucas Vazquez in the box.

It was then that the tale turned sour and the 92 minutes prior were quickly forgotten as the focus quickly shifted to two decisions - the penalty itself and the red card shown to Gianluigi Buffon.

Was it a penalty?

As Vazquez waited to chest the ball, he was clearly pushed from behind by Benatia. Whether he made contact with the ball or not shouldn't even be debated.

He had definitely made contact with Vazquez who fell to the floor, giving referee Michael Oliver no choice but to point to the spot. It was clearly a penalty.

If Juventus had lost the plot by conceding the foul, they soon lost their heads. Captain and goalkeeper Buffon confronted the referee and arguments were thrown at his face in fury. Because there were so many players jostling to get in Oliver's face, Buffon made contact and that was when Oliver had enough to produce the red card and send off the Italian.

Real Madrid penalty Juventus Benatia Vazquez
Juventus defender Medhi Benatia fouls Real Madrid's Lucas Vazquez in the box

In what could be Buffon's final Champions League game of his career, he was sent off for the first time ever in the competition. It wasn't even a second yellow card - it was a straight red.

Wojciech Szczesny could do little to stop Cristiano Ronaldo's thunderbolt into the top corner and Real Madrid had sealed their progress to the semi-finals with a 97th-minute strike to win 4-3 on aggregate.

Also read: Real Madrid 1-3 Juventus: 5 Talking Points

Buffon loses his cool in post-match interviews

After the game, Buffon was asked to comment on the penalty decision and the red card and he was vociferous and candid with his opinion. In time, he may come to regret what he said when he watches the replays of the chaotic final minutes of the game.

"It was a 10th of a penalty... The team gave their all but a human being cannot destroy dreams like that at the end of an extraordinary comeback on a dubious situation.

A 10th of a penalty? Dubious situation? Dear Gigi, with all due respect, there are no grey areas when awarding a penalty. It is either a penalty or it isn't.

His attack on Oliver was clearly uncalled for and this was an answer borne out of emotions immediately after the game rather than clear thinking. Oliver did not destroy dreams, The Juventus defence did.

Alex Sandro did not play a high line allowing Ronaldo to make a run to the far post. If Sandro had been on the same line as the rest of Juve's defence, both Ronaldo and Vazquez would have been offside.

Real Madrid penalty Juventus
Alex Sandro plays Ronaldo offside allowing Real to win the penalty when he heads it back to Vazquez
"Clearly you cannot have a heart in your chest, but a trash can. On top of that, if you don't have the character to walk on a pitch like this in a stadium like this, you can sit in the stands with your wife, your kids, drinking your Sprite and eating crisps."

This is where Buffon should hang his head in shame. All the respect Buffon has earned in recent years has come crumbling down with one single statement.

Unfortunately, some of the fans have taken this statement at face value and blindly supported Buffon in his misguided endeavour to get some sort of justice. The fact that Buffon is 40 and every neutral fan's favourite legend does not mean the rules work differently when he is on the pitch.

Referees do not officiate with their hearts, Gigi. They do so with their mind - with the whistle in one hand and the rule book in the other. They do not have a sense of occasion. They look at the game with an objective view.

Objectivity will always trump romanticism. It must!

And in this case, Oliver was absolutely right to award the penalty. Surrounding the referee and pushing him is a strict no-no and the red card was well and truly deserved.

Juventus players confront referee Michael Oliver
Juventus players confront and jostle referee Michael Oliver

Everyone came out and supported Oliver when he sent off Angel Di Maria for pushing him in anger in an FA Cup tie. Why not now? How is this any different?

And what was said in the arguments that followed the penalty decision? Will we ever know?

As a veteran of over 1,000 games in his career, Buffon's behaviour was unacceptable. As a leader, his actions more so.

Also read: Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero questions Buffon criticism of referee Oliver

Buffon brings up incidents from the first leg to justify bias

Where Buffon then completely lost the plot was when he brought up decisions from the first leg in Turin to justify his outrage against the referee from the second leg.

"He should have seen what happened in the opening tie. It's a controversial, super controversial decision taken by a person who should have not refereed the game because of lack of personality and sensibility.
"You cannot ruin the dreams of a team. Real Madrid deserved to go through over the two legs, I wish them the best and it has always been an honour for me to face this club, but objectively we at least deserved to go to extra time."

What happened in the first leg is not on Oliver, Gigi. The referee is well-qualified and had the right personality to officiate this game. His decision was sensible. Unfortunately, your over-the-top reaction was not.

Buffon red card
Buffon receives a red card for his protestations

Objectively, Juventus played very well over 90 minutes at the Santiago Bernabeu to claw their way back into the contest. But one mistake - at the worst possible moment - turned the tie irreversibly in Real's favour.

"I do not understand why they are protesting. They have fouled Lucas [Vazquez] from behind, if they do not give away the penalty, it is a goal." - Cristiano Ronaldo

With Buffon reportedly set to retire at the end of the season, this may have well and truly been Buffon's final European fixture.

Also read: Maybe I could end my career like Zidane - Words come back to haunt Buffon

It is a sorry end to a career that deserved a European title to complete his trophy cabinet. Unfortunately, that is one medal he may now never get his hands on.

Read more of our Between the Lines features here.

Published 12 Apr 2018
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