AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini joined a chorus of ex-players in slamming Ballon d’Or chiefs after former Italy teammate Gianluigi Buffon was left off a long list of potential winners of FIFA’s prestigious trophy.
Buffon, considered one of the world’s best goalkeepers, modestly admitted his surprise on Friday by saying he believed he felt himself to be “among the top five” goalkeepers in the world.
But Maldini said Buffon’s absence from the 59-man longlist, which was leaked on Friday and includes seven players each from Barcelona and Real Madrid, means the prize has lost credibility.
“The trophy loses value when it just comes down to pleasing clubs and federations,” the retired Milan great told La Gazzetta dello Sport on Saturday.
Maldini said players who did not deserve to be nominated included goalkeepers Claudio Bravo (Barcelona) and David Ospina (Arsenal).
“Come on, how is this possible? It’s absurd. There are players there just because of their name,” he added.
“Gigi deserves to be on the list for what he has achieved and how he has achieved it. At nearly 38 years old, he is still one of the three best goalkeepers in the world.
“Ok, I accept Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich) and (Thibaut) Courtois (Chelsea), but Bravo and Ospina?
“Normally a team’s results are taken into account and Gigi was one of the pillars of a team that made it to the Champions League final as well as winning the Serie A title.
“Did you see his save against Dani Alves in (the) Berlin (final)?”
The Ballon d’Or longlist will be cut to 23 names in December before the awards ceremony is held in January 2016.
The last goalkeeper to win the prestigious award was Russian legend Lev Yashin in 1963, and although Buffon was not considered a potential winner the impact of his absence from the list has reverberated around Italian football.
When the news emerged Friday, Gazzetta’s front page included a picture of a shocked-looking Buffon with the headline ‘Buffonata’, which roughly translates to ‘farce’ or ‘blunder’.
Buffon was imperial last season as Juventus kept their composure throughout an ambitious campaign to win their first league and Cup double in 20 years and qualify for their first Champions League final in 12 years.
Although the Turin giants lost out to Barcelona (3-1) in the final, Buffon was feted throughout Italy for his performances.
Former Juventus striker Paolo Rossi said Buffon had appeared “rejuvenated”.
“I thought he was extraordinary. It was like he was rejuvenated, 15 years younger,” said Rossi.
France coach and former Juventus midfielder Didier Deschamps also told the sports daily: “It doesn’t make sense.”
Former Italy goalkeeping legend Dino Zoff, meanwhile, said: “With (Cristiano) Ronaldo, (Lionel) Messi and (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic there’s no way he would win, but with 59 names on the list he should be on it.”
Buffon, 37, a Ballon d’Or runner-up in 2006, has been named Serie A’s top goalkeeper nine times and won the Yashin Award in 2006 after he conceded only two goals in seven games, and kept five clean sheets, on his way to helping steer Italy to the World Cup in 2006.
With 150 appearances for the Azzurri, Buffon is Italy’s most capped player.