The extent of the furore caused by Gigi Buffon's reaction to the Real Madrid penalty has gone too far - but the Italy number one should apologise in full.
Make no mistake - what the 40-year-old did was wrong. Although understandable in the heat of the moment, his initial, aggressive reaction to Michael Oliver's decision to award Los Blancos an injury time spot-kick in last week's Champions League quarter final second leg was wrong. He was deservedly shown a red card for foul-mouthed dissent and with it, the chance to save Cristiano Ronaldo's winning penalty.
It was also wrong of Buffon to heap ridicule on Oliver post-match, accusing the Englishman of having “a rubbish bin for a heart” and that he should have been “in the stand...eating crisps and drinking Sprite” rather than officiating a match between two heavyweights of world football.
Buffon's hysterical comments caused Oliver a great deal of offence - both professionally and personally - culminating in the sad news that he and his wife had received death threats in the days that followed the controversy at the Bernabeu. Though obviously not the perpetrator of that crime, Buffon must see that his comments were the catalyst for the events that followed.
Finally, it was wrong of Buffon to stop short of a full apology when questioned on the matter in the build up to Juve's Serie A match with Sampdoria on Sunday. Though the goalkeeper admitted he would have used 'different words' to criticise Oliver with the benefit of hindsight, he by and large stood by his comments - comments that did a lot of damage to the reputations of both Oliver and himself.
This is not to say that Buffon must admit Oliver was right to award the spot-kick. Although in my opinion it was the correct decision, football was, is and always will be the world's most hotly-debated sport. The Juve shot-stopper is fully entitled to disagree with the decision and criticise it if he sees fit.
Though petty and not at all to be condoned, neither was Buffon's on-field reaction to Oliver's decision unique in the slightest. What's more, it received the punishment it warranted at the time. It wasn't pretty to watch and undermined the various ongoing campaigns from football's governing bodies to show officials greater levels of respect, but Buffon is far, far from alone in having crossed that line.
To suggest, as some have, that the veteran's legacy will be tainted when he hangs up his gloves for good because he showed dissent is absurd. Comparisons to Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt on Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup are equally ludicrous. Shouting at a referee after a contentious decision is hardly the same thing as GBH.
Buffon is also far, far from alone in criticising match officials in the aftermath of a closely-fought contest. What he should apologise for are his choice of words and - most importantly - the ramifications that they caused for Oliver on a human level.
Buffon justified his post-match rant by saying his passionate outburst was merely a case of his being who he is - 'I am Gigi Buffon.' That is the problem. Those who are pointing to his famous comment that he wouldn’t have told the referee Sulley Muntari’s ‘phantom’ goal was over the line, even if he had seen it behind his head, are missing the crux of the matter.
It would be easy to apologise unreservedly and sweep the whole thing under the carpet, but he wouldn’t mean it. It would’ve been easy to say he’d confess to the Milan goal, but it wouldn’t have been true. Honesty is not always the best policy and it certainly isn’t when dealing with the delicate diplomacy of international football.
If he could be the Gigi Buffon who, as Max Allegri rightly said, has by and large been an exemplary and classy role model throughout his glittering 20-year career, it would draw a line under this media storm that has been howling ever since.