Formidable in the air and a fine tackler who gives away very few fouls, centre-back Andrea Barzagli is viewed by Italy coach Cesare Prandelli as a defensive stand-in of the highest quality.

 

Since joining Juventus in 2011, he has played regularly alongside Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci in a three-man back line, and the trio have developed an understanding crucial to their performances with La Nazionale.

 

Hailing from Tuscany, Barzagli turned professional at the age of 17 in 1998, but he had to wait until 31 August 2003 to make his Serie A debut, featuring for Chievo in a 1-1 draw against Brescia. The solid stopper impressed during his time at the Verona club and, 15 months later, after tying down a regular starting place with Palermo, he was handed his first Italy cap in a 1-0 defeat of Finland.

 

Barzagli quickly proved his worth at international level and helped his country clinch the 2006 FIFA World Cup™, yet his career took a serious dip following the 3-0 loss to the Netherlands at UEFA EURO 2008, particularly as he suffered a severe knee injury in training shortly afterwards.


The experienced defender, who turned 32 on 8 May, decided to take his talents to Wolfsburg to get himself back on track, before eventually returning to Italy to sign for Juve. After three years out in the international cold, he was then awarded an Italy recall on 2 October 2011, and he now boasts over 40 caps, enjoying a starting berth in a three-man rearguard or a place on the bench if Prandelli opts for 4-4-2.