Graziani hails 'wonderful monument' Buffon


Francesco Graziani says Gianluigi Buffon remains one of the best goalkeepers in the world as Italy prepare to launch their Euro 2016 campaign.

Graziani played 64 times for the Azzurri between 1975 and 1983, but few can match the longevity of Juventus star Buffon, who is Italy's most capped player on 157 appearances.

The 38-year-old is set to start his eighth major international tournament as Antonio Conte's team face Belgium, Sweden and Republic of Ireland at the European Championship.

And former Torino, Fiorentina, Roma and Udinese forward Graziani has offered a ringing endorsement of his country's long-serving custodian.

"Still today, along with [Manuel] Neuer and a few more, Buffon is the best in the world," he told Omnisport.

"He starts to watch his identity card with dread but goalies age better than the other players. 

"Gigi was, is and will be a wonderful monument for football. What satisfaction he gave us with his style of play. But most of all as a man: never a quarrel or a wrong word. He is ... a player for youngsters to look up to."

Graziani struggled to pick a leading contender to lift the Henri Delaunay Trophy, but does believe the Poland side containing Bayern Munich marksman Robert Lewandowski could spring a surprise.

"There is not one clear favourite," he said.

"I'd say Germany, as they impressed me recently. Spain are in a transitional phase but are still a threat. Italy, Spain, Germany and France, who boast some extraordinary up-and-coming youngsters, are [all] in contention. 

"England? They always have the odds on their side and then see their chances wrecked by problems. 

"Another team that is very competitive and that could be a surprise, but not quite anymore, is Belgium. They have fantastic players scattered around Europe's top leagues. Last but not least - Poland. They could be an untameable squad."