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Thursday 16th May 2002

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has condemned club-mate Lilian Thuram for failing to grasp the team ethic in his first season at Juventus.

"The club creates great champions and not the opposite," he explained. "Juve has a different mentality to other squads. Thuram hasn't understood this.

"I think Lilian will leave Italy," added Buffon of the £22 million France defender, who is much admired by Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson.

Thuram revealed last month that he would seek a transfer to United or AC Milan this summer if Juve coach Marcello Lippi kept playing him at right-back rather than in the centre.

And the Scudetto-winner added on Thursday: "The most important thing was to act as a professional, but it is not a title that will make me forget my plight.

"It was a decision that was very, very difficult to accept, for the good of the team. I don't envisage continuing with the same conditions at Juventus, but the officials know that very well.

"There is talk between people who know exactly what they want. Me, I want to have fun, so I would like to change my role."

The defender commented last month: "If Sir Alex Ferguson or Carlo Ancelotti call and say: 'You can play in the middle,' I will consider my future. I have no doubt that I am a central defender, but as a player I can only do what the manager wants."

Thuram denied that playing on the right for Juve was no different to fulfilling the same role for France.

"There is a big difference," he said. "I play fewer matches for the national team than with my club and it is easier for the France coach to move one player and let me play centrally. With Juventus, all ten would be messed around.

"This is the first time I have played so many matches as a right-back," he added. "I am not used to it and, even though I think I have had a good season, I am sure I can do better in the middle.

"My team-mates understand the effort I have put in. They know I have been trying to accept the new situation and working hard. I have got much better at crossing, for example.

"But now I want to understand what the future holds. I will have to discuss a lot of things with Lippi. I have been ready to sacrifice myself before, but now I want to enjoy my football again in my proper position - and as soon as possible."

United are short of centre-halves after releasing Ronny Johnsen, while Ferguson is trying to persuade Laurent Blanc to play one final season before retirement.

The Scot enquired about Thuram before his £22 million move from Parma to Juve last summer and would jump at the chance to land the elegant Frenchman a year on, providing funds were available.

Milan are in a similar situation, with veteran Billy Costacurta possibly on his way out. Ancelotti also knows about Thuram's prowess from their time together at the Ennio Tardini stadium.

If Thuram goes, Juventus will need to find a replacement. "I know that Alessandro Nesta and Fabio Cannavaro are well liked," Buffon said. "One of the two could come, but I don't think both."

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i really had a lot of respect for thuram and i always thought that he was more professional than he is acting at the moment.

who does Thuram play for, his club or himself??

the way i see it, at juve, where there is an abundancy of world class centre backs, Thuram should accept that he can play right back better than anyone in the team, not to mention the planet.

he is not very professional, i wonder if he wasnt happy in the WC98 when he played at right back and scored those two goals??

i never heard him complain then.

Thuram is better right back than central defender.

let him leave, Man U can have him. Wonder if he will stuff up like every other defender at that club does. i think they jinx defenders and keepers. Taibi, Barthez, Blanc.....they were good until they joined Man U :D
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