All in the Game: Buffon has plenty of choice words for Oliver

Juventus ’keeper has a lot to get off his chest, Ernesto Valverde forsees the extraordinary

Gianluigi Buffon confronts referee Michael Oliver after he awarded Real Madrid a penalty against Juventus. Photograph: Javier Soriano/AFP

Gianluigi Buffon confronts referee Michael Oliver after he awarded Real Madrid a penalty against Juventus. Photograph: Javier Soriano/AFP

 

Tacconi firmly in Buffon’s corner

While there was no little sympathy for Gianluigi Buffon after that red card against Real Madrid, he got plenty of tellings-off too for his behaviour towards referee Michael Oliver, and for his comments after the game.

“If you don’t have the character to walk on a pitch like this, in a stadium like this, you should sit in the stands with your wife, your kids, drinking your Sprite and eating crisps,” said the exceedingly angry goalie. And then he told a Spanish radio station that “you have to be a murderer to make the last two decisions he made”.

At that point Gary Lineker reckoned Buffon needed to calm down a touch, describing his behaviour as “inflammatory and out of order”. “Oliver was doing his job and hard to argue against his decisions,” he said. “Understand the emotion but time to defuse it, Gianluigi.”

And two Juventus old-boys, Alessandro Del Piero and Andrea Pirlo, also felt Buffon had gone a little too far with his comments, Pirlo saying “I think he exaggerated the part about a crime against the humanity of sports being committed”.

What about another Juve legend, former goalkeeper Stefano Tacconi? He was, well, a bit more supportive. “Knowing I was going to retire, I’d have punched his [Oliver’s] face in. It would have been a great end to a wonderful career.”

Things you’d pay to hear

A debate between Roy Keane and Chuba Akpom on the merits or otherwise of Jack Wilshere.

Roy, as you might know, is not the Arsenal midfielder’s biggest fan, describing him a few weeks back as “the most overrated player on the planet”. It didn’t sound like he’d changed that assessment after the second leg of the Europa League quarter-final against CSKA Moscow, despite Wilshere getting a late equaliser that sealed Arsenal’s place in the last four.

“I’ve never been a big fan,” said Roy on ITV. “The guy’s career is drifting. Has he been offered a [new]contract? If I was him I’d sign it quickly because if he thinks he is going to be getting big offers in the summer . . . ”.

That’s what you might call a ‘burn’. But if it left Jack in need of a pick-me-up, his former Arsenal academy team-mate Akpom, who’s currently on loan at Belgian club Sint-Truiden, very much provided it. Speaking to Belgian magazine Sport/Foot, he declared: “For me, Jack Wilshere is the best English footballer of all time.”

Better than, like, Duncan Edwards, Tom Finney, Bobby Moore, Stanley Matthews and Bobby Charlton. If Roy is given a right of reply, get the popcorn out.

Jack Wilshere in action for Arsenal against CSKA Moscow. Photograph: Grigory Dukor/Reuters
Jack Wilshere in action for Arsenal against CSKA Moscow. Photograph: Grigory Dukor/Reuters

Hearts’ busted flush

May 16th will be the 20th anniversary of Hearts’ Scottish Cup final win over Rangers, one that ended a 36-year wait for a major trophy. To mark the occasion the club has launched a very special limited edition gift for their supporters to buy.

An oil painting of Stephane Adam’s decisive goal? A life-size cardboard cut-out of Steve Fulton lifting the cup? No. “Relive the moment with your very own Limited Edition Heart of Midlothian FC Parade Bus,” says the club’s website. That’s right, a bus. Made of pretendy, not real, Lego.

Before you get your credit card out, there’s something you should know – the bus costs £79. Or €91.12 in real money. It’s a couple of inches tall, like, it’s not a real bus. Which has led to an inkling that this is the mother of all wind-ups, even though April 1st is long gone. “£79? Away and fling s***e at yersel,” as one respondent on Twitter put it.

Others sounded like potential buyers, though, because they had genuine questions. Like “will it fit in my back garden?” and “does it come with the seats or do I order them once I realise they are not there?”

If, another noted, the club manages to sell the 500 buses at £79, “you’d have the transfer value of your entire squad”. Harsh.

Hearts’ limited edition 20th anniversary bus.
Hearts’ limited edition 20th anniversary bus.

Word of mouth (I)

“It seems like we’re already thinking of the semi-finals – no, no, no. I’ve been in football a long time and you know that extraordinary things can happen in football – and we’ve got to ensure nothing extraordinary happens tomorrow.”

– Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde speaking before extraordinary things happened in their game against Roma.

“It was not a penalty for Real Madrid, no! But Lucas [Vazquez] did as I would have done too: grabbed his chance and threw himself over.”

– Well, at least Maradona’s honest.

“Maybe impossible is only a mental construction. Maybe it’s a limit that men put on themselves to fight fear. In 90 minutes, the grand narrative of us and them: we, the poor fallen Italians and they the rich Spanish – masters of technique, tactics and finance –were reduced to ashes. Lies, because only the pitch can tell us a story worth listening to. It is written by people, not algorithms.”

– La Repubblica’s Maurizio Crosetti, a bit chuffed with Roma’s triumph.

“The first goal at Anfield is offside from Salah. The goal from Gabriel Jesus at Anfield is a goal, it is not offside, and it is a penalty on Sterling from Robertson in front of the fourth official.”

– Apart from all that, Pep Guardiola was happy with the officiating.

Quote of the week

“To award such a super doubtful penalty just ahead of the final whistle and destroy the work of a team who gave absolutely everything, clearly you cannot have a heart in your chest, but a bag of rubbish.”

– In time Gianluigi Buffon will forgive Michael Oliver. Or maybe not.

By the numbers - 10

That’s how many marks out of 10 Corriere dello Sport gave all 13 Roma players who featured in the 3-0 win over Barcelona, as well as coach Eusebio Di Francesco. It’s a wonder they didn’t give them all 11.

Word of mouth (II)

“We just need to look and see what’s happened in the last five years - and then do the opposite.”

– Chris Coleman reveals his comprehensive plan to improve things at Sunderland.

“Not taking into account Italian keepers, I would say [Jan] Oblak, [Keylor] Navas, [Marc-Andre] ter Stegen, Ederson, [Manuel] Neuer and Courtois. I hope I did not forget anybody.”

– Gianluigi Buffon names his top five (non-Italian) goalkeepers in the world. To which David de Gea might have said, ‘yoo hoo?

“There is something wrong in that team defensively. It’s a bit like Rory McIlroy – it’s either all duck or no dinner.”

– Eamon Dunphy somehow managing to get Manchester City’s rearguard, Rory and ducks in to the same sentence. Hats off.

“I’m going to insist the baby is called Jack…………. or Jackie.”

– Aston Villa Ultra Prince William on naming his due-very-soon baby in honour of Jack Grealish after the former future Republic of Ireland international scored the winner against Cardiff City. The odds on the baby being a boy shortened somewhat immediately afterwards.

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