Juventus' Gianluigi Buffon deserves to win Ballon d'Or - Gerard Pique
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique says Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is more than deserving of becoming the first goalkeeper since Lev Yashin to win the Ballon d'Or.
Yashin, who won the Ballon d'Or in 1963, is the only goalkeeper to ever land the coveted individual prize, but there are growing claims for Buffon, 39, to be given the award this season due to his role in Juve's success.
Massimiliano Allegri's side have already wrapped up a Serie A and Coppa Italia Double and face Real Madrid in the Champions League final on June 3, having conceded just three goals in 12 games in the competition so far.
"[Lionel] Messi is the best player in the world and the best player in history and he can win more Ballon d'Ors yet," Pique told Mediaset.
"But if we look at trophies won [this season], then it would be nice if Buffon would win [the Ballon d'Or]. He's won the Scudetto, the Coppa Italia and he can still win the Champions League.
"He would deserve it for the career that he's had, for this season and because it would be great to see another goalkeeper win it after Yashin."
Barca's Champions League hopes this season were ended by Juve at the quarterfinal stage and Pique says it would be great to see the Italian side now go on and beat Madrid in the final in Cardiff.
"Juve have been doing really well for years now because they have great players like Buffon, who has a great desire to win this trophy for the first time, and Dani Alves, who is a former teammate [at Barcelona] and it would be great if he could win it," he said.
"They're without doubt one of Europe's biggest clubs. They're the strongest in defence, as they showed in the two games against us, where we were unable to score. [Giorgio] Chiellini, [Leonardo] Bonucci and [Andrea] Barzagli are very capable."
Pique has a final of his own to prepare for and is expected to be available to face Alaves in the Copa del Rey showpiece on Saturday.
After missing Barca's last two La Liga games of the season with a stomach virus, the defender will return to training with his teammates on Wednesday.
And looking further into the future, Pique expressed a desire to retire at the Camp Nou, despite previously suggesting he could be tempted to finish his career in Major League Soccer.
"I'm very happy at Barcelona," he said when asked if he could see himself playing in Italy. "They are the club of my life and I would like to continue playing with the Blaugrana.
"I'm thinking about ending my career with Barcelona. Maybe when I was younger, if I'd never had this career with Barca, I could have tried [playing in Serie A], but now I cannot see myself away from Barcelona."
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.