Buffon announces retirement with European caps record

Gianluigi Buffon won his 175th and final Italy cap on Monday, a record for a European. Could that soon be under threat, though? We check out the top ten.

©Getty Images

Gianluigi Buffon won his 175th and final Italy cap on Monday as a goalless draw with Sweden confirmed the Azzurri's play-off exit and brought a premature end to a stellar international career.

In his honour, we look at the ten Europeans with the most international appearances.

  • World record: Ahmed Hassan (Egypt) 184
Gianluigi Buffon: An Italy legend
Gianluigi Buffon: An Italy legend

Gianluigi Buffon (Italy) – 175 Buffon set a new best of 168 caps in March against Albania, his 1,000th professional match. That achievement surpassed the moment he beat Dino Zoff's national record of 111 caps in 2011. "When I made my Italy debut back in 1997, getting to this total was just a dream for me," he said at the time. Buffon lifted the 2006 FIFA World Cup with the Azzurri.

Iker Casillas (Spain) – 167*
A goalkeeping marvel at Real Madrid, and still soldiering on with Porto, Casillas has made clear how special it is to play for Spain. "Responsibility. Pride. Satisfaction. Happiness. Commitment. Respect for those who have preceded me. An infinity of words – and doing everything for the Spanish fans," he said. With David de Gea established as first choice, however, Casillas has been unable to add to the 167th cap he won last June.

Vitālijs Astafjevs played for Latvia at UEFA EURO 2004
Vitālijs Astafjevs played for Latvia at UEFA EURO 2004©Roman Koksharov

Vitālijs Astafjevs (Latvia) – 166
"I love football and have always loved it," said the journeyman midfielder after he played his final international, aged 39, in November 2010. Astafjevs's personal pinnacle came when he represented Latvia at UEFA EURO 2004. "We worked a miracle, everyone was amazed," he said. "That was true happiness."

Martin Reim (Estonia) – 156
"There is no way I could go on playing until I die," said midfielder Reim as he made his farewell appearance – aged 38 – in 2009, ending a 17-year run in the national team. Save for a brief spell with Finland's KooTeePee, the Flora Tallinn stalwart spent his entire club career in his homeland. 

Lothar Matthäus (Germany/West Germany) – 150
A UEFA European Championship winner in 1980 and a World Cup winner in 1990, the midfield colossus bestrode two eras of German football. Diego Maradona said of him: "He is the best rival I've ever faced. I guess that's all you need to know."

Spain's Iker Casillas (left) and Sergio Ramos
Spain's Iker Casillas (left) and Sergio Ramos©Getty Images

Sergio Ramos (Spain) – 148*
The youngest European to reach 100 caps, at the age of 26 in March 2013, Ramos certainly has time to break more records, with two UEFA European Championships and one World Cup title already to his name.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) – 147*
It wouldn't be a top ten without Ronaldo, would it? Now 32, it is 14 years since Ronaldo made his senior international bow ahead of UEFA EURO 2004, helping the Portuguese hosts to runners-up spot. Picked up a winners' medal in France last summer and his tally of 79 goals means he is second among Europe's all-time top international goalscorers.

Former Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane
Former Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane©Sportsfile

Robbie Keane (Republic of Ireland) – 146
Keane bade farewell to international football in August 2016 having scored 68 goals over 18 years with the Ireland team. Only Ferenc Puskás, Ronaldo, Sándor Kocsis and Miroslav Klose have managed more.

Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Ukraine) – 144
UEFA EURO 2016 was the end of the line at international level for Tymoshchuk, who reached 100 caps in 2010. In 2011 the midfielder was voted Ukraine's best post-independence player.

Anders Svensson (Sweden) – 143
The midfielder and free-kick specialist called off his international career in November 2013, noting: "It's time for me to step aside and make room for younger players." 'Taco-Anders' – nicknamed after his favourite food – featured at two World Cups and two UEFA European Championships.

Thomas Ravelli (Sweden) – 143
The goalkeeper with the distinctive stare thrived on the biggest stage. "When I had to play with a knife to my throat, then I played the best matches," he said. "I needed that pressure."

*yet to retire from international football

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