Casillas: Buffon is a role model to us all

The Real Madrid and Spain captain has voiced his admiration for Juventus keeper's consistency throughout his career
Spain captain Iker Casillas has paid tribute to Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon in the build-up to their respective sides' Euro 2012 clash on Sunday.

Both keepers have had enjoyed careers adorned with trophies, and are coming into the tournament having won their respective league last season as their careers continue to follow a very similar path.
6/1 A 0-0 draw between Spain and Italy is 6/1 with PaddyPower

The opening match of Group C will see the duo go head to head and the Real Madrid skipper cannot wait to go up against the Juventus veteran, a player that he admires.

"Gigi [Buffon] is a great person," Casillas said according to "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."

The Spaniard went on to praise the Buffon's consistency throughout his career, despite the odd setback here and there.

"He started his football career very early," he continued. "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."

The two last met in competitive competition in the Euro 2008 quarter-final, which ended with both men keeping a clean sheet but Spain progressed in a penalty shoot-out.

However, Casillas admitted that his side might have been a little fortunate on that occasion.

"During the last Euro, we were kind of the favourites against Italy because we'd won all our group matches and Italy had qualified at the last second.

"Nevertheless, it was a close match and the score was 0-0 after 90 minutes. Both teams had chances to win it, but penalties had to decide who would prevail. All the luck was on our side that time."

Spain continue to be the bookies' favourites to lift the European Championship trophy on July 1 and Casillas called for focus from his team-mates if they are to reclaim their title of best in Europe.

"We have to focus on ourselves," he said.  "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," he continued.

"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."