Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas has praised his Italian counterpart ahead of their clash in the opening match of Group C later today. The 31-year-old admits he cannot wait to go up against the Juventus veteran. He told Uefa.com:
“Gigi [Buffon] is a great person. He is a role model for all of us. And he has celebrated big victories: he won the World Cup with Italy [in 2006], he’s won the Italian league various times, the Italian Cup and the Super Cup with his club, Juventus.
“For the whole football world, he is already a legend, and it’s great that he’s continuing to play. For me especially, it was great to grow up and develop my skills alongside such a great goalkeeper.”
Buffon started his career at Parma and after graduating from their youth team, stayed with the club till the summer of 2001 when he was snapped up by Juventus. The 34-year-old has since made around 400 appearances for the Bianconeris, winning the UEFA Champions League Most Valuable Player award in 2003 and the Lev Yashin award in 2006 on the way. Casillas added:
“He started his football career very early. He’s actually three years older than me, but he was successful very quickly and, for eight or nine years, he has belonged to the three, or let’s say five, best goalkeepers in the world. The other top goalkeepers always change, but he is always among the best.”
Spain are bookies favorites to retain their European title and the La Furia Roja skipper knows his players need to focus on their task. He added:
“We have to focus on ourselves. We have players like [Fernando] Llorente on the right wing, or [Andres] Iniesta on the left. Or Xabi Alonso and David Silva.
“Overall, we have 23 very skillful players and we are a strong team that grew up together. We have important players missing due to injuries, such as David Villa and [Carles] Puyol, but we have players who are absolutely able to do their job in their place and to the same high level.”