Zidane, Gerrard, Lineker - sad farewells for legendary names
After Gianluigi Buffon's dismissal against Real Madrid on Wednesday, we look at some of the star names who saw their swansongs fall flat.
Have we seen the last of Gianluigi Buffon in the Champions League? If so, Wednesday's red card against Real Madrid was a miserable end to the goalkeeper's rocky relationship with the competition.
Juventus great Buffon was dismissed for his reaction to referee Michael Oliver after the English official awarded the hosts a crucial penalty in the closing stages of a titanic quarter-final clash at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored from the spot to clinch Madrid a 4-3 aggregate victory, knocking the Italian side out after they astonishingly fought back from a 3-0 home defeat in the first leg to level the tie.
With the veteran keeper hinting he could be set to retire at the end of the season, he may never get his hands on the trophy. The 40-year-old was three times the bridesmaid - losing Champions League finals in 2003, 2015 and 2017 - but never the bride.
Here, we look at some other famous footballers who failed to get the send-off they deserved.
1 - Gianluigi Buffon has been sent off in the Champions League for the 1st time in his career (117 games). End. pic.twitter.com/0QpObjUmNC— OptaJean (@OptaJean) April 11, 2018
A 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace was hardly the Anfield swansong Gerrard had hoped for, as the Eagles dared to ruin the party. However, the midfielder had no idea things would get even worse in his 710th - and final - appearance for Liverpool in May 2015. Gerrard did score in the season finale away at Stoke City, but it provided scant consolation in an embarrassing 6-1 loss for Brendan Rodgers' side. The visitors conceded five in the first half as they succumbed without a fight in the skipper's last outing for his boyhood club before heading off to the MLS to finish his career with the LA Galaxy.
Maldini was a rarity in modern football; a one-club man who came through the ranks and remained loyal throughout his career. However, his last home game at the San Siro did not go according to plan. The Rossoneri lost 3-2 to Roma and, while the majority of the crowd applauded the defender during his lap of honour, the Curva Sud left a lasting impression by unveiling a huge Milan shirt with No 6 on the back, along with the words "There is only one captain, [Franco] Baresi". Maldini's strained relationship with sections of the club's support soured an otherwise glorious association that saw him play for the Serie A giants for 25 years.
Tempted out of international retirement, Zidane was the architect of France's unlikely run to the 2006 World Cup final. Having squeezed out of their group, they saw off Spain, Brazil and Portugal in the knockout rounds to set up a showdown with Italy. The scene was set for Zidane to lift the trophy as captain of his country before hanging up his boots. It started well enough - he scored a seventh-minute penalty to open the scoring - but ended prematurely when Marco Materazzi's provocation led to an unforgettable incident. In the second period of extra time, Zidane reacted to some choice words by headbutting the defender in the chest. Dismissed by referee Horacio Elizondo, the playmaker was helpless as Les Bleus lost in a penalty shoot-out.
Euro 92 was a miserable tournament for England and Lineker. While the team flopped - losing 2-1 to Sweden in their final group fixture to miss out on the semi-finals - their captain failed to score and was even substituted in his last appearance for his country. Lineker was visibly annoyed when manager Graham Taylor decided to take him off in the 62nd minute, leaving the skipper to watch on from the bench as his team conceded in the 82nd minute. Lineker ended his international career on 48 goals, one shy of Sir Bobby Charlton's then-record for England. He will forever look back on a missed penalty against Brazil in a pre-tournament friendly with regret, but try not to mention Swedes - or turnips for that matter - in his presence.
A two-time Ballon d'Or winner who played for Barcelona and Real Madrid, not to mention both Milan clubs, Ronaldo was a footballing force of nature in his prime. By the time he reached Corinthians in 2009, though, the Brazilian was a shadow of his former self. Serious injuries had taken their toll and the forward was in poor physical shape. Ronaldo had hoped to help Corinthians win the Copa Libertadores for the first time in 2011, but instead was part of a team including Roberto Carlos who were infamously knocked out by Colombian club Deportes Tolima in a qualifier. After receiving the brunt of the fans' frustrations, including nicknaming him "O Gordo" (The Fat One), Ronaldo took his ball home, announcing his retirement ahead of schedule.
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