CARSON, Calif. — Carlo Cudicini has watched Gianluigi Buffon perform, for club and country, since Buffon's Serie A debut at 17, and there's no question he's an admirer.
So it would be a thrill, of course, to go up against the great Italian goalkeeper when the LA Galaxy take on Juventus in an International Champions Cup doubleheader on Saturday at Dodger Stadium, and he's hopeful he can do that.
An ailing back might kill the opportunity, but facing off against the two-time defending Serie A champs is a bit of a reunion for the Galaxy's 39-year-old netminder.
“It's always nice to play against your own — some of them — old mates, and it's always good to speak a little bit of Italian,” said Cudicini, who developed at AC Milan, the club for whom his father played. “I'm an AC Milan supporter, so, of course, Juventus and Inter Milan are the two big rivals. And Juventus is a great club, especially in Italy. They've won so many titles, have got such a great history. It's a game that's always nice to play.”
Cudicini, who also spent time at Lazio and a few smaller Italian clubs before heading to England for a dozen years, has met Buffon once “with the national team” but has cheered him on plenty of times, most memorably when Italy won the World Cup in 2006.
“He's been, after Dino Zoff, probably the best goalkeeper that Italy has ever got, and probably in the world,” said Cudicini, who joined the Galaxy in December and has started 20 of their 22 league games this season. “He started so young — if I remember well, he played his first Serie A game when he was 16 or 17, and now he's 35. He's still there, he's still doing fantastic.”
Zoff was a legend and a chief contributor to Italy's World Cup title run in 1982, when Cudicini was 9. The designation of Italy's greatest goalkeeper, between Zoff and Buffon, isn't a simple decision.
“It's always difficult to speak about players that were playing in different eras, no?” Cudicini said. “But Dino Zoff played until he was 41, 42. He won the World Cup when he was 40. He was such a hero for all the Italians, my generation and probably the one also before me. And Gigi is the following one. He won a World Cup in Germany and everyone really declares him as the best goalie in the world.”
Cudicini had been scheduled to play 45 minutes in the Galaxy's ICC opener Thursday night in Glendale, Ariz., a 3-1 loss to Real Madrid, but he felt a twinge in his back in training Wednesday and “we prefer not to risk,” so Brian Rowe went the full 90 in the nets. A decision on whether he can play against Juve, which follows the Real Madrid-Everton match at Chavez Ravine, won't be made until Saturday.
“I feel it's better. I don't know, we'll see tomorrow, if it improves a little bit more, then it will maybe again be the 45 [minutes] each ...,” Cudicini said. “Of course, you hope to, but you want to be sure you're 100 percent OK.
"You don't want to risk, first of all because at the end of the day, these are important games for us, but what you're looking for is the [next league] game against Dallas [on Aug. 11]. You want to be sure you're ready for that game.”