Gianluigi Buffon

Opponents' All Time XI

With over 1,000 games under his belt, Gigi Buffon has played against some of the game’s true greats – Football Italia tries to compose a team of his very best opponents.

GK - Iker Casillas

There have been some great goalkeepers challenging Buffon for the title of world’s No 1 over the span of his career, but none more so than his old friend and rival Iker Casillas.

The Spaniard made his debut in 1999, but even so he cites Gigi as an inspiration, and the two have battled on the club and international stage ever since.

At international level Casillas has the upper hand with three wins to Buffon’s one, winning two European Championships and the World Cup in his 167 caps for Spain, beating Italy in the Euro 2012 final.

At club level though it’s Buffon who comes out on top, with six wins to Casillas’ three. They last faced each other in last season’s Champions League, with Juve winning both legs of their Last 16 tie with Iker’s Porto.

RB - Cafu

Cafu is considered one of the best right-backs ever to play the game, and he made 282 appearances for Roma then Milan.

The Brazilian won two Scudetti, in 2001 and 2004, with the former sealed thanks to a 3-1 win over Buffon’s Parma on the final day of the season.

CB - Alessandro Nesta

Along with Fabio Cannavaro, Nesta is widely considered as the best Italian centre-back of his generation.

While Buffon played with Cannavaro for both Parma and Juventus, he and Nesta were only teammates at international level.

Nesta won the Scudetto with Lazio in 2000, before joining Milan in 2002 where he won a further two Scudetti and two Champions Leagues.

The first of those European triumphs came in 2003, with the Rossoneri beating Buffon’s Juve in the final.

CB - Paolo Maldini

One of Italian football’s all-time greats, Maldini is in the 1000 games club alongside Buffon, the only other Italian to have achieved that feat.

Capable of playing at left-back or in the middle, Maldini is arguably the greatest defender ever to play the game and spent his entire career with Milan.

He also amassed 126 Italy caps, a record at the time and a number which puts him third in the all-time appearance list behind Buffon and Cannavaro.

LB - Roberto Carlos

Despite a brief spell at Inter, Roberto Carlos is best known for his exploits with Real Madrid and the Brazilian national team.

Known for his powerful free-kicks, Buffon saved one such effort with his forearm in the 2003 Champions League semi-final, later remarking that he thought the shot had broken his arm.

Roberto Carlos’ kicks have been measured at over 160km/h, and he’s one of only 25 players with over 1,000 official appearances.

CM - Zinedine Zidane

It was Zidane’s world record departure to Real Madrid which saw Buffon join Juventus in 2001, and the pair locked horns on a regular basis both before and after that move.

The Frenchman scored against Buffon in the 2003 Champions League semi-final, and beat the goalkeeper with a cheeky chip in the 2006 World Cup Final.

However, Gigi made a dramatic save from Zizou’s header in injury time, and the legendary midfielder was sent off shortly after for a headbutt on Marco Materazzi.

CM - Andres Iniesta

Another member of that legendary Spain side which won three international tournaments in a row, Iniesta is one of the game’s modern greats.

He set up Ivan Rakitic’s opener in the 2015 Champions League Final, and also helped La Roja get the better of the Azzurri at Euro 2012.

They met again at Euro 2016, with Buffon saving well from an Iniesta volley, drawing wry smiles from both of the great rivals.

CM - Andrea Pirlo

“A player of his level and ability, not to mention that he was free, I think was the signing of the century.”

That was Buffon’s opinion when Juventus signed Andrea Pirlo on a free transfer from Milan in the summer of 2011.

The pair had already won the World Cup together, but they faced off in Serie A regularly when Pirlo was the heartbeat of Carlo Ancelotti’s Milan.

Buffon named the midfielder in his all-time Champions League XI, alongside his Rossoneri enforcer Gennaro Gattuso.

FW - Lionel Messi

Messi is considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, and Buffon once described the Barcelona superstar as “an alien who dedicates himself to playing with humans.”

The Flea actually hadn’t scored past Buffon until this season’s Champions League group stage, when he fired in two excellent strikes in a 3-0 win for Barça at Camp Nou.

Messi’s career record is a quite incredible 591 goals in in 734 senior games for Barcelona and Argentina, not to mention 241 assists.

FW - Ronaldo

When asked by Marca last year to name the best striker he had faced in his long career, Buffon had no hesitation in naming the Brazilian forward Ronaldo.

“He was the perfect player,” Gigi told the Spanish newspaper. “He had power, speed, intuition technical skills and quickness. He was a jaw-dropping player. It seemed like he was created in a lab.”

Ronaldo scored 59 goals in 99 appearances for Inter, before moving to Real Madrid after being top-scorer at the 2002 World Cup.

He returned to Italy for a brief stint at Milan, scoring nine times in 20 games before moving back to his homeland.

FW - Cristiano Ronaldo

Lionel Messi’s great rival, the 'other' Ronaldo has scored against Buffon for Real Madrid in each of their Champions League meetings.

The Portuguese found the back of the net twice in last season’s Champions League Final, having also scored in each of the previous four encounters.

The only time CR7 has failed to score past Buffon was a friendly between Italy and Portugal in March 2004 in which he came off the bench to win his fourth cap.

Ronaldo’s duel with Messi has been the defining battle of the modern era, and he’s managed 624 goals and 202 assists in 888 games.

Asked in August at the Champions League group stage draw for his favourite goal in the competition, the Real Madrid forward replied “the last one, past this old man” with a gesture toward Buffon and a laugh from both men.