Gianluigi Buffon has said he stands by his criticism of Michael Oliver, who he accused of having a “garbage bin” for a heart after the referee awarded Real Madrid a late penalty against Juventus in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.
Buffon was sent off for his protests at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium but has defended his strong words after the match, during an interview with Italian TV, per BBC Sport: “The content remains and I stand by all of it. I’d say them all again—maybe with a different type of language.”
The goalkeeper also received support from his manager, Massimiliano Allegri, per the BBC: “If on one occasion he said the things he did, in a situation as tough as Wednesday night’s, that is understandable and I challenge anyone to react differently.”
Bianconeri star Buffon remains defiant about his verbal evisceration of Oliver, who gave a penalty when Medhi Benatia fouled Lucas Vazquez deep into stoppage time. Cristiano Ronaldo scored from the spot to send Madrid into the semi-final, 4-3 on aggregate, despite Juve winning 3-1 on the night.
Rather than backtrack on his original description of Oliver as lacking in character and courage, made in an interview with Mediaset Premium (h/t Football Italia), Buffon defended his words as an honest statement: “You find a way to speak, right or wrong, that at times can seem excessive—but this is me, I am Gigi Buffon.”
Oliver’s decision to show Buffon a red card after the 40-year-old goalkeeper had aggressively remonstrated with him brought the curtain down on the World Cup winner’s Champions League career.
In this context, Allegri defended Buffon: “I don’t know if it was correct or not, I don’t care. But Buffon was also sent off and therefore denied the opportunity to save the Cristiano Ronaldo penalty. Gigi’s reaction is to be understood.”
Allegri and Buffon standing firm on their criticism is controversial given the negative attention Oliver has received since. Another report from BBC Sport (warning: contains NSFW language) detailed how police are investigating threats made to the referee’s wife, Lucy, via text message, as well as abuse put forward by some on social media.
Jacqui Oatley of the BBC and ITV has called on Buffon to issue an apology amid this treatment:
And *still* the abuse of referee Michael Oliver’s wife continues. Time for an apology from @gianluigibuffon for the comments he made post-match. This has to stop. https://t.co/84IM92yzuC
BT Sport and BBC Match of the Day‘s Gary Lineker also encouraged Buffon to calm the atmosphere around this contentious incident and those involved:
These vituperous attacks on Michael Oliver and his wife are repugnant. Big admirer of Buffon but his behaviour since has been inflammatory and out of order. Oliver was doing his job and hard to argue against his decisions. Understand the emotion but time to defuse it, Gianluigi.
Meanwhile, David Conn of the Guardian felt Buffon had no ground to complain after his aggressive actions:
Gianluigi Buffon is in the wrong; out on the parks referees are subjected to abuse & violence, stars need to set an example. https://t.co/qeXq1qKNgj
By refusing to walk back his previous comments, Buffon has missed a chance to set the kind of example Conn is hoping for.
He’s also kept the focus on an ugly chapter of his otherwise illustrious career while failing to reduce the intensity of the spotlight on Oliver since Wednesday.