Italy might have found an heir to Gianluigi Buffon, with Paris Saint-Germain keeper Salvatore Sirigu again likely to deputise against Costa Rica in Recife, but the Juventus veteran is still the first choice for Alessandro Nesta.
Former Azzurri centre-half Nesta, our Sony Team Ambassador following the fortunes of Italy in Brazil, said: “Sirigu is a good goalkeeper, but I still think Buffon is the one. There are many other good goalkeepers around, but Buffon is still definitely on top.”
The two have been friends and colleagues for many years, and he added: “I grew up with Buffon, we were mates in the youth team and we played in the Under-21 team. He was a very crazy guy, he was 19 years old, made superb saves and was very instinctive.
“Now he has changed, he has become more mature, more reflective. You can see it in his interviews. He’s improved with the time in my opinion.”
Italy captain Buffon is the record appearance holder for his country with 140 caps. However he was unable to add to that tally when an ankle injury ruled him out of the 2-1 win against England, and again he looks likely to be on the sidelines as Italy bid to secure qualification for the knock-out stages.
But Nesta is sure Buffon, 36, is more committed than ever to the cause. “You can see it in his interviews, even in the last match (against England) you witnessed how he feels about the team,” said Nesta. Buffon went on to the pitch to warmly embrace stand-in Sirigu, who had made an assured World Cup debut.
Sirigu knows he will step aside once Buffon is fit and Nesta added: “It’s very important to have him in the team, because a good goalkeeper doesn’t only rescue the result with a brilliant save, but can also anticipate your moves. Gigi has a good understanding with his defenders and is always involved in the game.
“Sometimes you may take a risk, but you know that behind you, there’s Buffon who has already anticipated everything and comes to the rescue. He’s the kind of keeper who gives confidence to the rest of the defence, and that’s very important.”
Once Buffon hangs up his gloves, could he become a coach like that other legend between the sticks, Dino Zoff? “He could do anything,” added Nesta. “Last week I read an interview where he declared himself ready to be an entrepreneur, or something like that.
“Gigi is a very smart guy, I rate him very highly and I believe he can do whatever he wants to. Then, of course, staying in football may be the easiest way.”