Nearly 19 years after his senior Italy debut, and with more than 150 caps to his name, Gianluigi Buffon remains as talismanic as ever heading into UEFA EURO 2016.
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At a glance
Nearly 19 years have passed since Gianluigi Buffon's Italy debut, when he came on as a substitute in a play-off for the 1998 FIFA World Cup. He made one astonishing save against Russia as the Azzurri drew 1-1 in snowy Moscow and has never looked back.
Now the most-capped player in the history of the Italian national team, the 2006 World Cup winner is still performing superbly. If proof were needed, he recently set a record by going 973 minutes without conceding for Juventus in Serie A.
Italy's first choice during UEFA EURO 2000 qualifying, Buffon missed the finals after fracturing his hand in a pre-tournament friendly against Norway. Four years later, Buffon's Italy did not lose a game in the group stage yet still failed to advance to the knockout phase.
They did pass the first hurdle in 2008, however, Buffon keeping out a crucial penalty in a 1-1 draw with Romania and claiming a clean sheet in the deciding victory over France. He also shut out eventual champions Spain for 120 minutes, before Italy lost that quarter-final on penalties. The Spanish again denied the Azzurri four years later, this time in the final. Buffon had enjoyed a splendid tournament, though, notably stopping Ashley Cole's spot kick in the last-eight shoot-out against England.
What he offers
Importance for Italy
It is enough to watch the way he sings the national anthem to understand the team's importance to Buffon. A real leader, he is one of the most respected players in the game and his enthusiasm is contagious. He continues to direct a defensive line featuring several Juve team-mates and remains as agile as ever.
Debut: Russia 1-1 Italy (29 October 1997, World Cup qualifying)
EURO final tournament (Italy record)
Goals: 0 (Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano, 3)
Record: W4 D7* L2
*Includes defeat by Spain on penalties in UEFA EURO 2008 quarter-finals and shoot-out victory against England at same stage of UEFA EURO 2012