Buffon slams reports of breakdown in Benatia relationship
Gianluigi Buffon has rubbished rumours claiming he has fallen out with Juventus team-mate Medhi Benatia, accusing the media of attempting to manufacture division.
Reports in Italy suggested the pair were involved in an argument in the aftermath of the 1-0 defeat to Napoli on Sunday which trimmed the champions' lead atop Serie A to one point.
Fingers were pointed at Benatia for failing to prevent Kalidou Koulibaly from heading home a 90th-minute winner, while less than two weeks earlier he came under scrutiny for conceding a decisive stoppage-time penalty in Juve's exit from the Champions League quarter-finals at the hands of Real Madrid.
Buffon was shown a red card for vociferously protesting official Michael Oliver's decision in that match, but the veteran goalkeeper insists he has no issues with Benatia, slamming the reports as "false gossip".
"It attempts to destabilise an environment and undermine the confidence and togetherness of a group," Buffon told Juventus TV.
"As normal as this is and as something that has always happened since I've been at Juventus, I find it both logical and correct to speak up and that is what I've done.
"Nobody, at least in my 17 years at Juventus, has taken it upon themselves to point the finger at another team-mate, blaming them for a defeat, and this will never happen while I am captain of this team.
"I would like to add that Medhi is an extremely respectful, polite person, who is contributing to the cause and forms a part of this exceptional group.
"I'm sorry that I'm forced to point this out but I have to do it, because in the light of certain news stories, if not slanderous, at least false, I believe that a clarification is due to protect the group and Medhi, who is a fantastic guy."
Despite the late loss to Napoli, Juve remain in the box seat to win a seventh successive Scudetto and will also contest the Coppa Italia final against AC Milan.
And an impassioned Buffon called for unity between players and fans.
"Otherwise we end up playing into the hands of our opponents and of those who, in our rare moments of difficulty, have always looked for biased news to cause us problems, without ever succeeding," he added.
"At this time, I want the team and the Bianconeri world to unite as one and create that wall of protection which allows us to take on these 20 days like a true Juventus team."