Gianluigi Buffon has once again enjoyed a stellar season, captaining Juventus to a third consecutive league title for only the second time in club history. The goalkeeper is undoubtedly among the best in the world, revered by his peers and envied by supporters of almost every other side.
He will head to the World Cup in Brazil with no fewer than 18 clean sheets to his name, a remarkable return from his 32 Serie A appearances this term. Yet the tournament may well prove to be the last one for the 36-year-old, despite the protests of his agent Silvano Martina last year.
He told La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t ESPN) that Buffon’s high fitness level and professionalism meant “he could make it to 40 and play at the World Cup in 2018!” The player knows he is in the twilight of his career, however, candidly discussing his age in an interview with FIFA.com in May 2013. He said:
Time stops for no man. I made my debut when I was 17 and now I’m 35. I can’t stop the clock from ticking, but I’m very much at peace with myself and I’m not worried about it. The future belongs to the youngsters and I’m just trying to pass on the experience I’ve acquired over the years.
With that view in mind, over the following pages are five youngsters who could eventually prove to be the heir to Italy’s most-capped player of all time.