By Mark Doyle
Gianluigi Buffon has hailed Italy coach Cesare Prandelli as "the spokesman of the nation" for the way in which he has helped "unite" the country's football fans.
Since taking charge of the Azzurri after the 2010 World Cup, Prandelli has made a point of taking his players to visit cities and towns hit by natural disasters, while he is also renowned for adopting a strong stance on issues such racism and corruption.
Consequently, Buffon feels that Prandelli deserves to be recognised as one of the most important and influential public figures in Italy.
“Prandelli has demonstrated that he is a very intelligent and capable person,” the Azzurri captain told Goal.
“He is a tranquil person who has managed to interact and engage in dialogue with the people, even about the problems of our country.
“He has made himself the spokesman of the nation, giving clear signals like having the presence of the national team in whichever area of the country was undergoing particular problems.
“And these are signals that certainly help unite the Italian football fans with the team.”
Prandelli, of course, will be hoping to emulate Marcello Lippi by leading the country to World Cup glory this summer.
Buffon was a part of the side that triumphed in Germany eight years ago and he is desperate to collect a second winners' medal, not least because his hopes of doing so in South Africa in 2010 were ruined by injury.
“I have won a World Cup, but I don't know if a recipe for winning it again exists,” the 36-year-old goalkeeper mused.
“Surely what exists is the opportunity, because after winning in 2006 I didn't have a chance to be a protagonist again, given the fact that in South Africa [when Italy were eliminated in the group stage] I only managed to play one half before leaving the pitch for injury.
“Now I have another possibility, which I have to take advantage of to the fullest in order not to have any regrets."
Buffon is expected to lead Italy when they continue their World Cup preparations with a friendly against Spain at the Vicente Calderon on Wednesday evening. Kick-off is at 22:00CET.
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