NAPLES: Italian goalkeeping legend Gianluigi Buffon said Monday that making his European debut for new club Paris Saint-Germain at home in Italy against Napoli was like an electric shock for him.
“I know the San Paolo Stadium very well and above all I know the feeling that there is between the team and its fans,” said the 40-year-old former World Cup winner ahead of Tuesday’s game.
“Being able to return to the Champions League after my disqualification in a match so important in Italy and Naples is something that inevitably gives some major shocks.
“It’s very emotional! If I chose to continue to play at 40 years it’s because football generates emotions like nothing else.
“I’m really lucky to be able to return to Italy, against Naples, in a Champions League match.”
Buffon was suspended for PSG’s opening three European games for his behaviour and comments towards the referee during Juventus’ quarter-final loss to Real Madrid last April.
Napoli and PSG played out a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Paris, with the Italians second in Group C on five points after three games, one behind leaders Liverpool.
PSG face the prospect of potential early elimination as they sit third with four.
A defeat in the heated atmosphere of the San Paolo and Paris could find themselves four points behind the top two with two games to play, including a home clash with Liverpool later this month.
“It will be very difficult to win because the Napoli I saw in the first leg is a team to be respected,” said Buffon. “For us, it will be important not to lose, because then there are still two games to make up.
“I hope after this forced exile to be able to have a good match and to be useful to my teammates and the team’s cause.”
New PSG coach Thomas Tuchel is counting on Buffon to help keep cool heads in Naples.
“Gigi (Buffon) will help us, he already knows the stadium and the atmosphere and he’ll be a big help in the dressing room,” said Tuchel at Monday’s press conference.
“Gigi is coming back from a ban and he deserves to play in Italy against a team he knows.”
In Naples, Buffon will meet up again with old friend Carlo Ancelotti, who brought the goalkeeper to Juventus back in 2001 – the start of a glorious 17-year career in Turin.
“Carlo is a special person but he is also a great coach who has won everything in his career,” said Buffon.
“He brought me to Juventus, even though he soon left. And then the following year he defeated us in the Champions League final.”
Napoli are counting on Ancelotti’s European credentials – Champions League titles with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007 and once with Real Madrid in 2014 – to pull them through against PSG, who have the two most expensive players in history in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
“It’s always a pleasure to meet him again, to see that he is motivated despite his age, I have great respect for the professional and great affection for my friend,” Ancelotti said earlier.
“The group remains very balanced and uncertain, which is a very positive thing for us,” estimated the Italian coach.