Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli extend Juventus contracts to 2018
Juventus president Andrea Agnelli paid tribute to Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Barzagli after the pair extended their contracts with the Turin club until 2018 on Wednesday.
Buffon, 38, and Barzagli, 35, will continue to wear a Bianconeri shirt for the next two seasons -- with Buffon now set to remain at the club past his 40th birthday -- and Agnelli says they both have the opportunity to become legends, having already made history in Turin.
"It's a bit emotional for me because I have two World Cup winners beside me; two players who have won five Serie A titles in a row," Agnelli told a news conference arranged to announce the deals on Wednesday.
"What I want to underline, more than the fact that Gigi is a champion, are his human qualities and the real privilege I've had these years is to have Gigi as captain of Juventus and Italy, because he takes responsibility and makes the difference on and off the field.
"Andrea has joked with me a few times about being the best signing we've ever made, and I can only repeat this -- he would deserve not 10 but 100 times more of the spotlight that he hasn't been given. He is one of the greatest defenders of his generation. When I think of Thiago Silva, [Gerard] Pique and John Terry, Andrea is certainly up there with them.
"We are extremely proud to have had him here and we've got a further two years together, up to 2018, and our aim has got to be to win the Italian league again, but we know we have the strength to dream of doing even more in Europe."
Buffon has won seven Serie A titles and been close to winning the Ballon d'Or during his 15 years at the club, but he says he does not have any regrets about not being named the best player in the world.
"In all honesty I don't feel any sense of injustice at not winning the Ballon d'Or," he said. "I know I've had a brilliant career and I know I've gone close to winning it, deservedly, and if I haven't won it then it's only my fault because I should maybe have done better in certain situations."
Barzagli continues to be regarded by many as Italy's best defender, but he feels he can still get better, and that wearing the black and white Juve shirt gives him the motivation to do just that.
"I'm really proud of myself today and emotional, because the thing I always wanted to prove was that I could play in a prestigious club like Juve," he said at Wednesday's news conference. "Five-and-a-half years ago, I arrived here with a bit of fear of having to face a stadium and fans like these.
"Five years on, and we've won many games, we still want to continue and I'm delighted to have renewed for two years. Of course it's nice to be considered [Italy's best defender], but I don't feel and I will never will feel I am the best defender around. In fact, I have the motivation to become it because I can still improve. I try to remain at the top physically and keep learning from my teammates and opponents.
"We've got a great history of defenders in Italy, but that doesn't mean a [Paolo] Maldini, [Franco] Baresi or [Alessandro] Costacurta will be born every 10 years. Times are changing a bit and people like me are struggling more as the ball's moving a lot faster."
He has nevertheless proven capable of keeping up with the best of them to earn a new two-year deal, and Agnelli hopes that in the next two seasons, both Buffon and Barzagli will be able to add a European trophy to their list of honours.
"I can only express my pride at this fifth straight Scudetto win, and these two lads as well as the others have gone down in Italian football," he said. "There is just a bit of bitterness for going out of the Champions League, but the game against Bayern Munich proved how strong we are and confirmed that the previous year was not a one-off, but that Juventus really are starting to position themselves as one of Europe's best clubs.
"We were on a par first with Barcelona [in last season's final] and then with Bayern, which were the two best games in the Champions League this season -- perhaps together with Borussia [Dortmund] against Liverpool as the best games in Europe this season.
"We can now go beyond history and become legends with a sixth straight Scudetto, and to reach the international aim that not just me but the fans know that wherever we play in Europe, we have a chance -- that is a dream that we know we can realise."
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.