Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic paid a glowing tribute to Gianluigi Buffon ahead of Wednesday's Champions League match against Juventus, stating the veteran goalkeeper's heart-wrenching farewell from international football was tough to witness.
Buffon returns to Europe's top competition after Italy's ignominious exit from the World Cup, with Sweden's play-off triumph over the Azzurri denying the 39-year-old a fitting career farewell at Russia 2018.
Asked whether he had any consoling word for Buffon at a pre-match news conference, Rakitic suggested it would be ridiculous to assume there is any wisdom left for all-time great top receive on the beautiful game.
"If I have to explain something about football to Buffon that would be a difficult challenge. I don't think I can say anything to him," said the Croatia international, who helped his nation through their own play-off meeting with Greece at a canter.
"Everything he's given to football fans is one of a kind. Any kid out there who writes down a dream team on a piece of paper puts the name Buffon in goal.
"The interview he gave after the game, you wanted to cry along with him.
"There aren't enough words to describe how one feels in situations, like that. It's a shame that a player like him cannot say farewell in the way he wants."
Rakitic scored past Buffon as Barca beat Juve in the 2015 Champions League final and he is looking forward to facing a celebrated opponent for what is likely to be the last time.
"I don’t know how long I have left to go. I hope it's a long time and I look forward to competing against him tomorrow," he added.
"It's a tough moment right now for the Italy national team. Sometimes you have to take a step or two back to take a step forward and I hope they get back to winning in the future."
|Saunders outclasses Lemieux to retain title|
|Chiefs too good for Chargers, Lions win|
|Australia push further ahead in Perth|
|Kroos: Madrid don´t need added motivation for Clasico|
|Howe discussed Liverpool criticism with Begovic|
|Pellegrino: I can´t control Van Dijk future|
|Perez suggests Madrid unlikely to make January moves|
|Packers activate Rodgers for Panthers clash|
|Gonzalez bids emotional farewell to Dodgers|
|Liverpool scouts to thank for Salah capture, says Klopp|
|Substitutes made the difference - Simeone|
|Sarri praises ´extraordinary´ Hamsik as Napoli go top of Serie A|
|Mutual trust at Man City is ´a dream´, says Guardiola|
|Thorley grabs four in Gloucester rout, Connacht trounce Brice|
|Stoger´s small changes getting Dortmund back on track|
|Atletico Madrid 1 Alaves 0: Substitute Torres breaks LaLiga duck to net winner|
|City defeat a ´good experience´ for Tottenham - Pochettino|
|Fury takes pop at ´carthorse´ Joshua|
|Zidane dreaming of sextuple after Club World Cup success|
|Running man De Bruyne makes it easier to manage City - Guardiola|
|Ronaldo and Zidane hoping for Ballon d´Or winner to retire at Madrid|
|Championship Review: Teenage debutant Maja snaps Sunderland´s home drought|
|In-form Neymar is good for all who love football – Emery|
|Napoli´s record goalscorers - how Marek Hamsik compares to Diego Maradona|
|Leinster rally to beat Chiefs, Bath gain revenge over Toulon|
|De Bruyne eyes titles over unbeaten season|
|Ninja Turtles invade pitch during PSG clash|
|Muller, Heynckes buoyed by Bayern Munich´s edgy victory|
|I´m confident, but what does that mean? - Wenger gives cryptic answer on Ozil future|
|Real Madrid win five trophies in a calendar year for first time|
|It´s nice to know - Hamsik plays down matching Maradona´s Napoli record|
|Borussia Dortmund 2 Hoffenheim 1: Pulisic late show extends perfect Stoger start|
|Manchester City 4 Tottenham 1: Silva-less City continue to set the gold standard|
|Hughes fumes at Lanzini ´dive´|
|Torino 1 Napoli 3: Historic Hamsik strike sends Sarri´s side top|
|Dyche credits Burnley´s resolve in battling Brighton draw|
|Conte refuses to discuss Chelsea interest in ´really good player´ Van Dijk|
|Real Madrid 1 Gremio 0: Ronaldo free-kick secures Club World Cup glory|
|Silva refuses to question Watford´s attitude amid dismal run|
|Wenger hails Ozil´s decisive ´gem´|
|City´s record run unfairly overshadowing Chelsea form - Conte|
|Murray ´normally very reliable´ from the spot - Hughton|
|Stoke City 0 West Ham 3: Returning Arnautovic has the last laugh|
|Rennes 1 Paris Saint-Germain 4: Two goals, two assists for Neymar|
|Hamsik matches Maradona´s all-time Napoli scoring record|
|Apologetic Spalletti had forgotten losing feeling at Inter|
|We stick to the plan – Valverde not risking Dembele before January|
|Watford 1 Huddersfield Town 4: Deeney sees red as Hornets´ slump continues|
|Chelsea 1 Southampton 0: Alonso extends Blues´ home run|
|Arsenal 1 Newcastle United 0: Ozil stunner sees hosts edge back to winning ways|
|Brighton and Hove Albion 0 Burnley 0: Murray pays the penalty for Seagulls|
|McGregor says MMA, not Pacquiao, is next on agenda|
|Stuttgart 0 Bayern Munich 1: Ulreich denies former club with last-gasp penalty save|
|Gattuso tries to shrug off Donnarumma, FFP controversies|
|Inter 1 Udinese 3: Leaders leave door open for Napoli as unbeaten run ends|
|Al Jazira 1 Pachuca 4: Jara & Sagal inspire Mexicans to Club World Cup third place|
|Benteke winning over Palace fans after penalty nightmare - Hodgson|
|Allegri defends ´extraordinary´ Dybala after Nedved criticism|
|I didn´t owe Palace team-mates, Benteke claims|
|Carmelo Anthony ready for MSG return, calls New York ´home´|
|Five (not altogether serious) ways for England to avoid Ashes whitewash|
|I´ve never considered leaving PSG, insists Draxler|
|Leicester City 0 Crystal Palace 3: Benteke, Eagles end drought|
|AC Milan´s Fassone requests UEFA help over FFP|
|AC Milan have ´no intention´ of selling Donnarumma|
|Bravo sees no way back into West Indies set-up|
|Reggie Bush ´done´ with NFL career|
|A-League Review: Jets keep up pressure, Wanderers get rare win|
|I´m just happy I have all my fingers - Kvitova reflects on rollercoaster 2017|
|Schalke send Coke on loan to Levante|