Over 22 years since a debut clean sheet against AC Milan, Gianluigi Buffon celebrates his 40th birthday this Sunday.
There may only be two clubs on the legendary goalkeeper’s resume but sustained excellence over more than two decades has filled his trophy cabinet with individual and team honours.
The former Parma prodigy has rubbed shoulders with the very best in world football throughout that time, forming part of World Cup and Serie A-winning sides.
In honour of Buffon’s special day, we have compiled a star-studded group of former team-mates for a dream XI.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) January 24, 2018
GOALKEEPER: GIANLUIGI BUFFON
Who else has the pedigree to don the gloves in such a side?
A five-time member of the UEFA Team of the Year, he boasts more Serie A clean sheets than any other player and, as captain of his country from 2010 until his retirement last November, would have no trouble bringing this team together.
RIGHT-BACK: LILIAN THURAM
Having been joined by Buffon at Parma after his switch from Monaco in 1996, Thuram followed his team-mate in making the move to Turin ahead of the 2001-02 campaign.
The 142-time France international, part of the side that tasted glory at the 1998 World Cup on home soil and won Euro 2000, spent five seasons at Juve before rounding out his career with a spell at Barcelona.
CENTRE-BACK: FABIO CANNAVARO
Buffon’s inheritance of the Italy armband from Cannavaro in 2010 completed the striking symmetry of their careers.
They both made their Parma debuts in 1995, did the same for Italy in 1997 and were reunited at club level when Cannavaro, one of few defenders to win the Ballon d’Or, joined Juve in 2004. They also lifted the Jules Rimet trophy together in 2006.
CENTRE-BACK: ALESSANDRO NESTA
A long-time rival at club level, Nesta was part of the famous Milan defence that beat Juve in the 2002-03 Champions League final – he scored his penalty against Buffon in a 3-2 shoot-out victory – and triumphed again four seasons later.
He was named in the Team of the Tournament at Euro 2000, which Buffon missed through injury, but the 2006 World Cup success will undoubtedly be the highlight of his career.
LEFT-BACK: PAOLO MALDINI
With admirable longevity, loyalty and leadership, classy defender Maldini set the path that Buffon has so impressively followed.
The long-time Rossoneri skipper, a seven-time Scudetto winner who also lifted the European Cup on five occasions, is the only player to have managed more Serie A appearances than the veteran Juve goalkeeper.
Paolo Maldini’s debut
One day, you’ll show this video to your kids and tell them the story of how the legend of the began
Un giorno mostrerete questo video ai vostri figli e racconterete loro di come la leggenda del ha avuto inizio pic.twitter.com/VTItBPZ0gP
— AC Milan (@acmilan) January 20, 2018
CENTRAL MIDFIELD: ANDREA PIRLO
Has there been a more iconic duo of the modern era?
Pirlo was already at the top by the time he swapped Milan for Juve, but he saved plenty of his play-making brilliance for Buffon and friends as the Bianconeri re-asserted themselves as Italy’s top club with a run of successive Scudetti that now stands at six.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD: PAVEL NEDVED
Nedved’s blend of athleticism, tenacity and well-rounded technical ability made him close to the complete midfielder.
He helped Czech Republic to the final of Euro 1996 and his value to Juve was summed up by a Ballon d’Or victory in 2003.
ATTACKING MIDFIELD: FRANCESCO TOTTI
Buffon said it would have been “ruining a masterpiece” to have kept out some of the goals the talismanic Totti scored against him for Roma.
They were certainly on the same page in the international arena, helping their country conquer the world in 2006.
ATTACKING MIDFIELD: ROBERTO BAGGIO
Less than two years after a 17-year-old Buffon held Baggio and Milan scoreless, the pair were sharing the same shirt for Italy.
Two of the Azzurri’s greatest were in the same squad at the 1998 World Cup, remaining team-mates until Baggio retired in 2004.
115 goals in , here’s a selection of the very best.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) December 28, 2016
ATTACKING MIDFIELD: ALESSANDRO DEL PIERO
He stands as an equal in the pantheon of Juve luminaries.
Buffon and the artistic Del Piero combined to help the Bianconeri finish top of Serie A on five occasions, while they lined up for Italy together for over a decade and experienced the top prize of winning the World Cup together.
STRIKER: DAVID TREZEGUET
Like Thuram, the sharp-shooting Trezeguet was an international rival turned trusted team-mate.
The France poacher arrived in 2000 and enjoyed 10 prolific seasons at the opposite end of the pitch to Buffon, sticking with the club throughout the Calciopoli scandal. He left Turin having scored 171 goals in 320 matches.
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