Gigi Buffon has immense respect for Monaco, but the Juventus goalkeeper has his eye on Kylian Mbappé. “I was in a World Cup before he was even born.”
The first leg of their Champions League semi-final is at the Stade Louis II on Wednesday at 19.45 UK time (18.45 GMT).
“I’ll let you in on a little secret,” Buffon told the UEFA.com interviewers.
“After about 30 minutes of the game Monaco played away to Manchester City, I sent a text to my director telling him: ‘This lot can reach the Final, they are excellent.’
“That shows you how much we respect them and their quality. This is not a team that reached the semi-final because of a fluke.
“Monaco play a very attacking, vivacious and sparkling style of football, having quality and in some areas also a lot of experience. We know that if we want to earn another chance at winning the Champions League, we must first overcome another obstacle just as tough as Barcelona.
“Maybe Monaco aren’t considered on the same level as Barcelona in terms of notoriety, but the problem is that performances on the pitch showed they are.”
Remarkably, 39-year-old Buffon has still not conceded in the Champions League knockout ties this season, keeping clean sheets against Porto and the mighty Barcelona.
Now he’ll face off against Radamel Falcao and 18-year-old sensation Mbappé.
“He was born in 1998, right? I had already taken part in the World Cup in France before he was born. This is the joy of life, the great thing about lasting for a long time. You get the meet kids who weren’t even born when you already had a good chunk of your career behind you.
“The other day, I worked out that I managed to connect practically three generations. I used to play with those born in the 1950s and 60s, then I’ll end up playing against those born after the year 2000. It’s an enormous stretch of time.
“It’s stimulating knowing that you’re facing the future Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar. Maybe in 10 years, when I have hung up my gloves, they will be the seasoned champions and I’ll have the memory of playing against them at the start of their careers.
“In any case, Mbappé is an incredible talent and also seems like a good kid, so that will really help his career and I hope it’ll be a luminous career, at that.
“If it is, he won’t need to get through against us… He’ll have many other opportunities to win this trophy in future. He does have similar characteristics to Thierry Henry, such as playing for Monaco, that very easy, smooth and elegant running style.
“At his age, he’s already better in front of goal than Henry was at the time. He scores in almost every game with remarkable consistency and that’s not easy for one so young to be so cool-headed.”
Once again, this tie is pitted as the Juventus defence against Monaco’s sparkling attack, so who will win out?
“All the elements in a sporting challenge are decisive. Experience is an ingredient that will certainly have its say in this game, but enthusiasm and the confidence of youth could also be crucial.
“It might not hurt them to play with enthusiasm and shrug off the pressure. In a game like this, that can really help.”