Juventus stalwart Gianluigi Buffon has backed Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer to become a goalkeeping great as the clubs prepare to meet in the Champions League.
Last season’s beaten finalists and the German heavyweights, Serie A and Bundesliga title-holders respectively, clash in the round-of-16 first leg in Turin on Tuesday.
While Buffon, 38, is regarded as one of the finest goalkeepers of his generation, Neuer’s comfort in possession has seen him come close to reinventing the position as an advanced ‘sweeper-keeper’.
“I’ve seen a lot of goalkeepers over this long career and I’ve been fortunate enough to admire some very solid goalkeepers with great reliability and quality,” Buffon told reporters.
“Manuel Neuer is among them and he’s a goalkeeper who plays in a very brave manner, that is undeniable. He is a key figure for Bayern.
“Of course when I talk about goalkeepers I think of Iker Casillas, Petr Cech, Oliver Kahn and others so you have to evaluate many elements and not just look at this moment in time.”
Bayern have beaten Juve on their last two visits to Italy, winning 4-0 on aggregate in the quarter-finals en route to winning the competition in 2012-13.
Juve, who lost 3-1 to Barcelona in last season’s decider, have improved in Europe over recent seasons and Buffon claimed his team-mates will not underestimate the German champions.
“I expect a very complicated game, because we respect Bayern and consider them a very strong side with no weaknesses.
“However, we are also growing and on this journey of victories over the last four or five years we have found a solidity in Europe. Compared to three years ago, we are more aware of our own strengths and of Bayern’s quality too.
“When we met them three years ago, we thought it was perhaps a simpler task than it proved to be. They turned out to be practically unbeatable.
“They have always been among the two or three contenders in Europe and even when things went badly, they still got to the semi-finals.
“This means that in five or six years they have earned their place on at least the podium of Europe’s best teams.”
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