Ivan Rakitic is not the only footballer to have heaped praise on Gianluigi Buffon recently, but his words regarding the Italian goalkeeper in the buildup to Wednesday night’s UEFA Champions League group stage clash between FC Barcelona and Juventus have reverberated more clearly than perhaps anyone else.

Buffon in recent days has been the subject of many an interview question in the world of professional football, coming in the wake of Italy’s elimination from the qualifying phase for the 2018 World Cup, which will be held next summer in Russia.

The 39-year-old Italian legend thus will be missing out on his final chance at World Cup glory, a fact that evoked feelings of sorrow among his many peers.

Rakitic, in his pre-game press conference, even entertained the thought of giving up his spot with Croatia in the World Cup and offering it to Buffon. Buffon responded humorously on Twitter, and then tweeted following the scoreless draw and their embrace on the field after the game. “Tonight was a point, but a good point. It is always a pleasure and an honor to meet and play against great champions like Ivan Rakitic," Buffon wrote in Italian.

Here is the full exchange:

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