In UEFA Champions League history, only three German players have ever managed to find the net for three different teams in the tournament: Michael Ballack, Thorsten Frings and Hans-Jorg Butt.
The curious titbits do not stop there, as the latter of that trio was a goalkeeper. Butt scored three times from the penalty spot for Bayer Leverkusen, Hamburg and Bayern Munich and, even more incredibly, each of his goals came against the same team - Juventus - Bayern’s opponents in this season's Champions League quarter-finals.
“I enjoy looking back on all of the games against Juve, as they were always special occasions,” said the 38-year-old, speaking to FIFA.com ahead of this week's return fixture. “I made my Champions League debut against them with Hamburg in 2000. I’m sure the fans can still remember the unbelievable 4-4 draw,” he continued.
“At Leverkusen we managed to knock Juventus out on the way to the final [in 2002]. With Bayern, the 4-1 victory in Turin was the turning point in a difficult season [in 2010]. At the end of that campaign we won the double and reached the final in Madrid. That’s why my penalty to make it 1-1 was probably one of the most important I’ve scored.”
While Butt has since hung up his goalkeeping gloves, his Juventus counterpart, Gianluigi Buffon, is still between the sticks at the club. “We swapped shirts when I played against Juve with Leverkusen in 2002. After the game with Bayern we said goodbye to each other and wished one another all the best. He’s a very likeable guy,” said Butt of the man he scored the latter two of his aforementioned spot-kicks against.
The Hamburg game alone, was enough to secure all future fixtures with Juventus a special place in the former custodian’s heart. “Even now when I hear the radio commentary it gives me goosebumps,” Butt added.
As a penalty expert, he has no preference when it comes to taking or saving them. “It’s actually a lot of fun doing both, especially when it’s decisive in a game,” Butt told FIFA.com, smiling. “I played as a striker for a long time until I realised that my chances of success were much greater as a keeper.”
The positional change certainly paid off for the Oldenburg native. Butt played in over 400 matches between 1997 and 2012, while his 26 goals make him the highest scoring goalkeeper in Bundesliga history. Alongside winning the German championship and DFB Pokal in 2010, Butt was involved in three Champions League finals (2002, 2010 and 2012) as well as a FIFA World Cup™ Final (in 2002, although as third-choice keeper he did not take to the pitch).
Butt considers it a major advantage to have been at both ends of the firing line as “it helped me put myself in the other players’ shoes in each situation”.
At Bayern, Manuel Neuer is without doubt a worthy successor to Butt as a shot-stopper with an eye for goal. Neuer converted his penalty in last year’s Champions League final shootout, although it was not enough to stop Chelsea winning the title in Bayern’s own back yard.
Butt will be keeping his fingers crossed for his former team-mates ahead of Wednesday’s match in Turin, but is confident that the Bavarians’ 2-0 advantage earned in the first leg will help them advance to the semi-finals.
Given Butt’s past exploits against the Italians, Bayern could do worse than to nominate Neuer rather than David Alaba or Arjen Robben as their chief penalty taker. And for Buffon, could the prospect of facing another sharp-shooting goalkeeper from Germany stir up bad memories, handing the visitors a potential psychological advantage?