Turin (Italy) (AFP) – Barcelona’s Croatian international Ivan Rakitic said Tuesday he would love to tell Italian goalkeeping great Gianlugi Buffon to take his place in the 2018 World Cup.

Rakitic will meet Buffon in Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Juventus in Turin, just a week after Buffon tearfully retired from international duty as Italy crashed out of the World Cup.

“I feel like telling Buffon to go in my place, as what he’s done for football is incredible, simply unique,” said midfielder Rakitic when asked why Italy failed to advance from their World Cup play-off against Sweden while Croatia eliminated Greece.

“When a child writes out his ideal team, he always puts Buffon in goal. It’s really a shame he isn’t able to finish his career by competing in a sixth World Cup and I’d honestly love to give him that chance. 

“I saw the pictures of him after the match against Sweden. It makes you empathise with him whatever your team. It’s a real shame that a player like that doesn’t have the chance to play his final World Cup.”

Buffon, 39, later replied on Twitter.

“Dear Ivan, as a goalkeeper I might still play but playing for Croatia as a midfielder in your place might not be a great idea: Joking apart, your words have been a great gift.”

Buffon — who earned a record 175 caps for Italy over 20 years — had been targeting a record sixth World Cup appearance in Russia. He announced his international retirement after the 1-0 play-off defeat which saw Italy miss the World Cup for the first time in 60 years.

Playing likely his final season with Juventus, Buffon has one final ambition: to win the Champions League, after finishing runner-up twice in the past three years.