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How the Champions League has eluded Gianluigi Buffon.

On three occasions the goalkeeper has been forced to trudge past the Champions League trophy, his anguished reflection staring back at him from the polished surface of the trophy which lies just tantalisingly out of reach. It's a story which has been playing out for 15 years, a story of near misses and heartbreak.

2002-03 Milan 0-0 Juventus: (Milan win 3-2 on penalties) Old Trafford, Manchester

Gigi Buffon would win a plethora of awards this term including UEFA Goalkeeper of the year, Serie A ‘keeper of the year, and of course the Scudetto. Bear in mind that Kylian Mbappé, who faced Gigi in last years semi-final for Monaco, was four years old at the time. That tells you all you need to know about Buffon’s longevity.

Even so, many moons ago this Champions League final would see an all Italian affair and it was partly down to the heroics of the Juventus custodian that his team made in to Manchester. Buffon saved a Luis Figo penalty in the semi-final against Real Madrid to help his team go through 4-3 on aggregate to face the Rossoneri.

In the final he was instrumental, saving a Filippo Inzaghi header early in the first half before the game went to penalties. Despite saving two in the shootout the Bianconeri lost 3-2.

“I was so close to winning it,” Buffon proclaimed afterward. “I saved two penalties in that final, Strange things happen, In sport and life, those who deserve it more probably end up getting the rewards.”

2014-15 Juventus 1-3 Barcelona: Olimpiastadion, Berlin

If it was meant to happen anywhere surely it was Berlin? After all Gigi Buffon had won the World Cup here with Italy just under a decade previously. The omens looked good. He had won the usual Supercoppa Italiana, a number of individual awards, and by now Serie A was a given for Juventus. Massimiliano

Allegri had taken over from Antonio Conte and, with an extra element of tactical expertise, had steered his team to the final. Once again Buffon Real Madrid were defeated in the semi-finals and it didn’t escape anyone’s notice that the similarities to 2003 were incredible - apart from one.

In Berlin Juve would face a Barcelona that had Lionel Messi, Neymar et al ready and waiting. The 3-1 defeat may have been sad for Buffon, but he couldn’t argue against it. Indeed, the game would have been over by half-time were it not for some crucial interventions from the Bianconeri goalkeeper.

A brief second half rally aside, the Old Lady simply succumbed to Catalan supremacy.

“In 2015, we lost it at that moment, when Barcelona were on the ropes,” Buffon later acknowledged. “We let in a goal on the counter-attack, Messi hammered a shot on goal, I diverted it and Suarez scored.”<