Hunger to defy critics drove us: Juventus captain Buffon

Turin, April 23 (IANS) Juventus’ iconic captain Gianluigi Buffon on Friday said that their will to prove their critics wrong motivated the side as they turned the tide to sit on the verge of a fifth consecutive Serie A title despite a poor start.

Juventus were in 12th place after a loss to Sassuolo in Week 10 in October, having started the season with just three Serie A wins, three draws and four defeats.

That was followed by 23 wins in 24 rounds, plus a 0-0 against Bologna on February 19, putting them within touching distance of a fifth consecutive Scudetto. They are nien points clear of second placed Napoli with four games left.

Buffon famously blasted his teammates in public after their defeat to Sassuolo — which remains the last Serie A loss they suffered, going on to complete an extraordinary comeback.

“It was a very simple discussion we had. We all thought the same thing: if we didn’t win the Scudetto, or worse if we continued the disastrous way we started the season, people would’ve said all sorts of things,” the legendary goalkeeper was quoted as saying by football-italia.net.

“They would say that the reason for our collapse was the big players who had left, that we weren’t motivated anymore, that we were sated, that the players were now too old and past it. Everything. We wanted to prove them wrong,” the 38-year-old added.

“We made a few calculations and said that, ultimately, winning 25 or 26 games was not impossible. We’d done it the year before. We shook off the fear and started this wonderful climb.”

Juventus’ poor start was also due to the several personnel changes the club witnessed in the summer.

Three key personnel — playmaker Andrea Pirlo, attacking midfielder Chilean Arturo Vidal and Argentine striker Carlos Tevez departed and forward Mario Mandzukic (Atletico Madrid) and midfielders Hernanes (Inter Milan), Sami Khedira (Real Madrid) and Paulo Dybala (Palermo) were the big signings for Juventus in the summer and the new players took time to settle down.

World Cup 2006 winner with Italy and former AC Milan star Pirlo, 36, is now playing for Major League Soccer (MLS) side New York City FC, while former Manchester City and United marksman Tevez, 31, left for his childhood club Boca Juniors.

Vidal, 28, went to German heavyweights Bayern Munich on a 36 million euros ($40.73 million) four-year deal.

However, Buffon remained and with him the pride of representing Juventus. “The captain is someone who puts his experience at the disposal of the others, especially the younger players, and tries to find the right language to express the responsibility of wearing the jersey of your club and national team,” the World Cup 2006 winner said.

“You must be recognised and also work for your teammates.”

–IANS

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