• Defender and keeper have played together at Juventus for last 12 years
  • Chiellini made his Italy debut in 2004, seven years after Buffon
  • Chiellini on Buffon: “He’s a role model for his team-mates, both young and old alike” 

Giorgio Chiellini can barely remember the last time he lined up in the Juventus defence without having Gianluigi Buffon behind him. Gigi was already there when Chiellini signed for Juventus and he was already there when he made his Italy debut. It feels as if he has always been there.

“I’ve been through highs and lows with Gigi for 12 years,” Chiellini told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview about the veteran keeper. “Obviously, the happy times and the tense moments we’ve shared before big games are the things that will stay with me the most.”

The central defender will have one other happy memory of Buffon, as he recalled with a cheeky grin: “I played against him before I played with him, and I was lucky enough to score past him too.”

The 33-year-old defender is better qualified than most to explain why Buffon should win The Best FIFA Goalkeeper 2017 award: “I think he deserves it because he had an amazing season and because the saves he made took us to the brink of winning every trophy we were in contention for.”

After completing an Italian league and cup double, Juve were only denied a historic treble by Real Madrid in the final of the UEFA Champions League, a game they lost 4-1.

Gigi is a leader during the big moments in any season, on the pitch and off it,” added Chiellini. “Everyone, whether they’re a team-mate or an opponent, says he makes the difficult things look easy.”

Though the two have trained, travelled and prepared for many, many games together, Buffon has never changed, as the dependable centre-half explained: “Gigi is an extrovert. He’s always smiling and there are no airs and graces about him. He’s always a role model for his team-mates, both young and old alike.”