Living legend Gianlugi Buffon has little left to achieve in a stellar career, but this potential record could be the most impressive of his accomplishments
Gianluigi Buffon has seemingly done it all. His 20 year career has been filled with trophies, honors and highlights. At both the club and international level he has been top 3 at his position for two decades. This is a rare feat for athletes of any sport, he joins players like Tom Brady, and Kobe Bryant in that regard. A lesser known honor could be in his reach. That is the all time record for international caps.
Currently the record of 184 international caps belongs to Ahmed Hassan the legendary Egyptian midfielder. Hassan played between 1995 and 2012 for Egypt appearing in 8 African Cup of Nations tournaments. Buffon currently sits at 167 caps tied for 6th with Latvia’s Vitalijs Astafjevs and Iker Casillas of Spain.
With only 18 caps remaining can San Gigi break the record? First and foremost it is important to note that the only active players that can challenge Buffon are both Spaniards, Casillas and Sergio Ramos. Although Casillas has not officially retired from international duty he is unlikely to get many, if any future starts with the Spanish national team. Sergio Ramos is only 30 years old but has quite a bit of ground to make up at 140 caps.
So is it possible? Let’s break it down. Buffon has stated that he will step down from international duty after the 2018 World Cup. Since he is the starting goalie and captain Buffon will likely suit up for nearly all of Italy’s matches in the near future, barring some friendlies.
In 2017 Italy will be playing 9 matches total. 6 world Cup Qualifying matches and three friendlies. My estimate, that if healthy, Buffon will likely play 7 of those 9 matches. That would bring up his total caps to 174. If Italy finish second in their group they will need to play a home and home playoff which would add another two games to that total: 176. If Italy wins their group Buffon would need to play 11 games in 2018 to break the record.
In a tournament year teams usually play 4 friendlies apiece before the tournament starts. That means would have to Buffon plays all of Italy’s friendlies and the national team would have to make a run all the way to the final in the World Cup to break the record. The chances of this are doubful at this point but anything can happen in football. Should Italy fail to play all these games Buffon would have to return for Euro 2020 qualifying in the fall of 2018 which seems unlikely at this point.
Keep in mind though that Italy have made the World Cup finals every 12 years since 1970 (1970, 1982, 1994, 2006). It would be an incredible achievement and would cement Buffon as one of the greatest footballers of all time. The Italian national team should encourage Buffon to pursue this record even if his club career comes to a close. His teammates and his country owe it to him, a living legend.