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Italy’s Euro 2008 campaign ended on Sunday when they crashed out at the quarter final stage to Spain on penalties. Carlo Garganese asks who the Azzurri’s best player in Austria and Switzerland was…

Below is a list of five nominations in no particular order. I will then pick my favourite before leaving it up to you, the readers, to decide.

1) Gianluigi Buffon – With the exception of a minor mistake in the build-up to Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s ‘offside’ goal in the defeat to Holland, Buffon was consistently superb in all of Italy’s four games. The Azzurri would have been eliminated in the group stages had he not performed a miraculous penalty save from Adrian Mutu in the draw with Romania. In the next match against France, he pulled off a world class fingertip stop from Karem Benzema. The 30-year-old kept a second successive clean sheet in the 0-0 quarter final draw with Spain, and even saved a penalty in the shootout, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to go through.

2) Christian Panucci – Played the opening game against Holland at right back and really struggled. However he then moved into the centre for the Romania clash, and he formed a superb partnership with Giorgio Chiellini as Italy only conceded one goal (following a freak mistake by Gianluca Zambrotta) in their next three matches. Panucci was tactically excellent, and organised the backline into a virtually impenetrable unit against Spain. He also scored a crucial equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Romania.

3) Fabio Grosso – Scandalously only on the bench against the Dutch, Grosso changed the game after being introduced as a second half substitute, bombarding down the left flank. He was Italy’s best outfield player in the draw with Romania, launching wave after wave of attack from full back. He was sound during the matches against France and Spain, hitting the post with a curling free kick against the former. One of the few Italy players who looked physically at full fitness during these Euros.

4) Giorgio Chiellini – Italy put in one of the worst defensive performances in the history of the national team during the 3-0 Dutch debacle. Chiellini didn’t play in this game, and it is no coincidence that the Azzurri backline looked formidable again with the hardman in the team for the remaining three matches. His warrior-like performance against Spain, when he completely owned the terrifying David Villa and Fernando Torres, will live long in the memory.

5) Daniele De Rossi – Yet another player who was inexplicably left out against Holland. De Rossi strengthened the midfield in the Romania game, and would have scored but for a world class save from Bogdan Lobont. In the 2-0 win against France he was the undisputed man-of-the-match, bossing the midfield, and even scoring, albeit fortuitously. Did his job tactically against Spain, but unfortunately his last kick of Euro 2008 was his penalty that was brilliantly saved by Iker Casillas.

My Vote: It is a straight fight between Juventus colleagues Buffon and Chiellini, but ultimately there can only be one winner, and that is Buffon. Only Casillas can stop him from being named as the best goalkeeper at Euro 2008.

What are your views on this topic? Who gets your vote as Italy’s best player at Euro 2008? Is there anyone not on this list who should have been nominated? Goal.com wants to know what YOU think…

Carlo Garganese

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