Who is Italy’s most-capped player?

There are many names that immediately spring to mind when you think of the Italian national team, but one man racked up a number of appearances that is unlikely to be beaten any time soon.

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Gianluigi Buffon celebrates winning the 2006 World Cup for Italy. [@Azzurri_En]

Some of the most famous names in world football have pulled on the Azzurri shirt since the Italian national team’s first game in 1910. They include top scorer Gigi Riva and AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini, who has made the most appearances at World Cup finals, but neither of them top the list of most-capped Italian internationals.

Also absent are historic names like all-time Inter goalscorer Giuseppe Meazza, iconic playmaker Roberto Baggio and Gaetano Scirea, the latter having a 12-year international playing career, partly because of the expansion of continental competitions.

Only 28 official members made up the European governing body UEFA in 1954, and it grew by just four more nations over the next two decades. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the breakup of Yugoslavia, though, by the end of the last millennium, that number was 50, bringing more qualifying matches and more caps for players.

Which player has the most Italy caps?

Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon in action. [@Azzurri_En]

After helping Italy to reach the 1998 World Cup as a 19-year-old debutant during their play-off with Russia in October 1997 and eventually retiring from international duty in 2018, the sheer longevity of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon helps explain his position at the top of the list with 176 appearances.

However, Buffon was also the world’s most expensive goalkeeper – transferring from Parma to Juventus for €53m in 2001 – for good reason, and was fundamental to Italy’s World Cup success in 2006 and run to the European Championships final in 2012 where they lost to Spain.

Had the Bianconeri legend not broken his hand ahead of Euro 2000, the Azzurri may have avoided defeat to France in the final and Maldini, who is third on the list with 126 caps, might have capped an equally trophy-laden career by lifting a trophy with his country.

The lasting impact of 2006 World Cup winners

Including Buffon, half of the Top 10 appearance makers for the Italian national side were wheeling around the Olympiastadion in Berlin moments after Fabio Grosso’s penalty had secured a third World Cup for the Azzurri in 2006 against France.

Captain Fabio Cannavaro has made the most appearances as an outfield player for Italy, with 136 games, and penalty takers Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Pirlo have appeared 117 and 116 times each respectively, and Gianluca Zambrotta is in 9th position two appearances short of a magical 100.

Soccer Football – Euro 2020 – Final – Italy v England – Wembley Stadium, London, Britain – July 11, 2021 Italy assistant coach Daniele De Rossi before the match Pool via REUTERS/Andy Rain

Top 10: Italy all-time caps

  1. Gianluigi Buffon – 176 caps
  2. Fabio Cannavaro – 136 caps
  3. Paolo Maldini – 126 caps
  4. Leonardo Bonucci – 121 caps
  5. Giorgio Chiellini – 117 caps
  6. Daniele De Rossi – 117 caps
  7. Andrea Pirlo – 116 caps
  8. Dino Zoff – 112 caps
  9. Gianluca Zambrotta – 98 caps
  10. Giacinto Facchetti 94 caps