• Gianluigi Buffon won the inaugural The Best FIFA Goalkeeper award
  • He went 600 minutes without conceding in last season's Champions League 
  • "I always want to face hard challenges, almost impossible ones"

Gianluigi Buffon is used to setting records and reaching milestones, so it was fitting that he should become the first player to win The Best FIFA Goalkeeper at The Best FIFA Football Awards™ 2017. The Italy and Juventus keeper may be heading towards his 40th birthday, but he told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview that he is more ambitious than ever to continue making history.

FIFA.com: How important is it to have an award that recognises what some say is the loneliest player on the pitch, the goalkeeper?
Gianluigi Buffon: Of course it’s great. Our position is fundamental on the pitch. We can be decisive in a win or in a defeat. All in all we are as important as a striker that scores goals. We feel the responsibility to fill an important position on the pitch and all our play can be very positive or very negative during a game. Everyone who watches the game can easily notice it, so a goalkeeper's performance can heavily influence results.

When you were younger did you immediately realise all of the responsibilities that the position brings?
Since I was a child, I always have liked difficult tasks. Every time I've had to make a choice, I’ve followed my nature. I’m the kind of person who always wants to face hard challenges, almost impossible ones. Playing as a goalkeeper is a consequence of my character and nature.

Do you care about your individual records or do you not really look back at them?
When you are closer to the end of your career, of course you think about all of your achievements and records, and you realise the kind of player you are. I’m proud of my 20-year career with the national team and hope to continue for a 21st season too. I think that it’s also extraordinary to play in one of the most important national teams for 21 years; maintaining a high standard of performance and staying strong mentally and physically for a long time. It’s not so common.

Do you realise that with all of these tales that you are a great part of football history?
I never look back at my past, and that probably it was important to me. I know what I have done, and have great respect for it and it’s always in my heart, but I’m always living the present and possibly to the future. I prefer to be focussed on the present. If I think about the past too much it makes me a little sad because I can count how many years passed by, and remember some emotions that you’ll never live again. Too many things have changed, the age, team-mates etc. I don’t want to live in all these deep memories, that now and forever are part of myself, but to date I’m living in the present and thinking only about the future.

Is qualification for Russia 2018 the priority for you right now?
Of course it is. It’s an important target for myself and for Italian football. We must qualify for the next World Cup, for our football history and tradition. The play-off will be tough but we need to qualify.

What did you make of the play-off draw?
Sweden is a difficult one. They play a high standard of football. They don’t give you any gifts on the pitch. You must achieve the win by suffering and by putting in your best effort, because if you are not in your best shape, you can easily lose. I have great respect for them and am curious to see what it will be like to play against them.

Some say that you are the best goalkeeper of all time. What do you think about that?
I like the idea, but I am not the someone who can support that and celebrate myself. Everyone can choose the best - for someone I might be, for someone else I might not. In my case the career and numbers of course tell a lot, but at this level facts are facts and words count for nothing.