Gigi Buffon is in no rush to hang up his gloves. The Italy goalkeeper turned 36 in January, but he is under contract at Juventus until 2015 and has already begun negotiations on a 12-month extension. His agent, Silvano Martina, recently told reporters that he expects Buffon to stay on at the club for another four years (source in Italian).
Even the player himself, though, will not know how realistic that assessment actually is. Goalkeepers can typically prolong their careers much further than their outfield counterparts, but once decline does set in, it is often painfully swift. Nor will Juventus retain any player just for sentiment’s sake—a point made forcefully when they declined to renew Alessandro Del Piero’s deal in 2012.
So whilst it is possible that Buffon will indeed carry on at the top level for several more years, it is also conceivable that this summer’s World Cup could be his last major international tournament. Already, Italians are beginning to ask who will succeed him as their country’s No. 1. Here we take a look at the potential candidates.