Italy’s FIFA World Cup qualifier against Albania on Friday was doubly special for goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon: not only did he set a new European record by winning his 168th international cap, the Azzurri’s 2-0 Group G victory was also the 1,000th competitive match of his career.
“As far as I am concerned, it will be a huge honour,” he had said at the pre-match press conference. “The only thing I can say for sure is that I will not be playing another 1,000 games.”
So far, the 39-year-old has played 612 games for Juventus in all competitions (winning seven Scudettos, two Coppa Italia titles and five Italian Super Cups), 220 with Parma (winning the Coppa Italia, Italian Super Cup and UEFA Cup) and now 168 with Italy (winning the 2006 FIFA World Cup): 612 + 220 + 168 = 1,000. The only other Italian to have reached four figures was AC Milan hero Paolo Maldini.
To celebrate Buffon’s 1,000th appearance at senior level, UEFA.com remembers five of his most celebrated matches.
Parma 0-0 AC Milan
Serie A, 19 November 1995
“When he started training with us I could not believe my eyes,” former Parma coach Nevio Scala said of Buffon. “I had to keep asking my staff whether they were seeing the same things as me.” Buffon made his senior debut for the Gialloblù aged 17 in this game, keeping a clean sheet and making notable saves from Roberto Baggio and George Weah.
Russia 1-1 Italy
FIFA World Cup play-off, 29 October 1997
Buffon’s Italy debut was as spectacular. Sent on, aged 19, to replace the injured Gianluca Pagliuca 31 minutes into the first leg of the Azzurri’s 1998 FIFA World Cup qualifying play-off against Russia in snowy Moscow, Buffon produced a stunning save to thwart Dmitri Alenichev soon afterwards. He could not stop Fabio Cannavaro scoring an own goal, though.
Italy 1-1 France (aet, Italy win 5-3 on pens)
FIFA World Cup final, 9 July 2006
Buffon conceded just twice – an own goal by Cristian Zaccardo and a penalty – as Italy won the World Cup in Germany, notably keeping his side in the hunt with a superb save to fend away a Zinédine Zidane header in extra time. He did not stop any penalties in the shoot-out, but David Trezeguet hit the bar for France and Italy converted all five of theirs to earn Buffon his biggest career prize.
Denmark 2-2 Italy
FIFA World Cup qualifier, 11 October 2013
Buffon was beaten twice as he broke Fabio Cannavaro’s Italian record with a 137th Azzurri appearance. “It’s an important achievement,” Buffon said. “But it will not be my last one. Playing for the national team is a huge thing for me – it’s the most beautiful expression of our football.”
Torino 1-4 Juventus
Serie A, 20 March 2016
During this derby he surpassed Sebastiano Rossi’s Serie A record of 929 consecutive minutes unbeaten, set with Milan in 1993/94, taking the total to 973 before Andrea Belotti’s penalty stopped the clock. Twice a UEFA Champions League final loser with Juventus (v Milan in 2003 and v Barcelona in 2015), he remains the undisputed king of Italian No1s.
Buffon in numbers
479 goals conceded
UEFA Champions League (qualifying included): 101 games, 95 goals conceded
UEFA Europa League: 9 games 5 goals conceded
Serie A: 446 games, 338 goals conceded
Italian Super Cup: 7 games, 7 goals conceded
Coppa Italia: 12 games, 13 goals conceded
Serie B: 37 games, 21 goals conceded
208 goals conceded
UEFA Champions League: 10 games, 8 goals conceded
UEFA Cup: 26 games, 25 goals conceded
Serie A: 169 games, 162 goals conceded
Italian Super Cup: 1 game , 1 goal conceded
Coppa Italia: 14 games, 12 goals conceded
112 goals conceded
57 clean sheets (34%)