Gigi Buffon slammed those calling for a generational shift. “You have to judge people on what they are doing, not what they could potentially do.”
The Italy and Juventus captain spoke to the Corriere della Sera newspaper about the dire first round World Cup exit in Brazil.
“Before the World Cup we knew we weren’t the best, but still thought that we were mature and reliable enough to reach the Last 16, at the very least.
“The initial victory over England gave us false hope. Before this World Cup Italy were a team appreciated for their entertaining football, but here we looked like a side without ideas.
“That is in no way a criticism of the Coach. Cesare Prandelli is a good man and a great tactician, so I am sorry he resigned. He brought the fans closer to the Nazionale with patience, sentiment and hard work. He won that challenge.
“The idea of adopting a new style of playing with the men at his disposal was right. In three competitions, we twice finished on the podium. The blame in a huge debacle like this is to be spread out between everyone. No single person was at fault, but everyone was.”
Straight after the defeat to Uruguay, Buffon was highly critical of the young players who didn’t step up, appearing to point the finger in particular at Mario Balotelli.
“I have never been afraid to express myself,” the goalkeeper told the Corriere della Sera. “Sometimes opinions burst out of me like sneezes.
“I expressed an idea that I am still convinced of now, but in 20 years of my career I’ve never attacked a teammate. Imagine if I could’ve done that in such a moment. Besides, Balotelli is 24, so he’s certainly not a young player.
“When I was 24 I hated people acting like big brothers or extra fathers with me. I have a father, a mother and two sisters already. So Balotelli needs no advice from me, he needs to listen to his family. If I had something to say to him, I’d do it directly.
“I often hear ironic comments on the ages of Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Barzagli and also Buffon. Idle chatter passes by and the facts remain on the field: the players who break their bones for the cause are always the same ones, every time.
“Those who tell us to think carefully if we want to continue should look at who is still the focal point of this Nazionale. You have to judge people on what they are doing, not what they could potentially do. This is how you build men, otherwise you risk looking like an idiot.
“Often youngsters have so much responsibility and expectation heaped upon them, but are fragile underneath. I’ve heard since 2010 that this Italy side is old. If you are young and have the talent to become a champion, you don’t play for the Nazionale after three or four games. You have to earn your stripes in Serie A.
“I played for the Nazionale two years after my Serie A debut and realised it was an honour and not an easy burden to shoulder. Now after three good performances a player gets into the squad and takes everything for granted.
“I agree with what De Rossi said. In these competitions it is your strength of character as a man that makes the difference.”
Buffon may well have been referring to Mattia Destro, who was asked to accompany the Italy squad to Brazil as an alternate to the list of 23 in case of injury, but told Prandelli he’d “have to think about it.”
Meanwhile, Pirlo said he’s prepared to reconsider international retirement if the new Coach wants him in the side.
“If he is made to feel important, then Pirlo can still be fundamental,” concluded Buffon. “Someone of his talent doesn’t deserve to end this career with a failed World Cup.”