Italy is one of the biggest sports countries in the world. It has produced some of the best sportsmen of all time and continues to produce elite-level athletes. When we look at football, one of the European pinnacles is Serie A, which, despite no longer being the leading league in the continent, remains one of the top three. But which Italian footballers defined their generations and will forever be remembered by the sport’s lovers? 

Roberto Baggio

Baggio is known as one of the most talented and technically gifted football players of all time. He used his vision and unpredictability to create and master the trequarista position. He retired in 2004 as arguably Italy’s most beloved player and was the first player to be inducted into the Italian Hall of Fame. 

The ‘Divine Ponytail’ caused riots on the streets after he left Fiorentina for Juventus in 1990, causing a group heartbreak around the streets of Florence. He ended his career with a Ballon d’Or, a Serie A, a Coppa Italia and a UEFA Cup title. The trophy haul Baggio got doesn’t reflect his level and career and the former striker will continue to be remembered as one of the greatest footballers ever.

Paolo Maldini

Maldini is probably the best defender of all time and will be remembered for his longevity and outrageous defensive skills. He started his long 25-year career as a left-back and quickly became the best in the world in that position thanks to his technically gifted and free-roaming style. He later moved into a classy and composed centre-back winning 25 trophies for Milan, including five Champions Leagues/European Cups and seven Serie A trophies. In today’s game, Milan are much less of a threat than his golden age, with bookmakers like Boylesports always giving them high odds of winning titles domestically and across Europe.

As we already said, Maldini’s longevity was also remarkable. The Rossoneri legend played until he was 41, starting his career in the 80s and featuring in four World Cups. Only in recent years was he overtaken by Gigi Buffon for the most Serie A appearances. Maldini’s reliance, reading of the game, and timing make him stand apart from the centre-backs of his generation, making him a defender who could play in any team at any point in history. 

Gianluigi Buffon

Buffon is a man who will always be mentioned when people talk about the best goalkeeper of all time, for good reason. Like Maldini, Buffon has played since he was a teenager when he made his Serie A debut in 1995. Buffon’s career came with nearly every trophy available except the big one, the Champions League. The ex-keeper broke many records in his career, one being the fee for the most expensive keeper of all time, which was broken in 2001 when Juventus paid a whopping €52m to acquire him from Parma.

The then-controversial transfer fee turned out to be of good value, as Buffon spent 19 years in Turin, winning six Coppa Italia, ten Serie A titles, and even remaining in Serie B as a defending World Cup champion with Italy. Ultimately, he’ll be remembered as one of the most iconic players in Juventus’ history. With 657 games, ten more than Maldini, Buffon is the player with the most Serie A appearances ever.

In 2006, Buffon broke another record by keeping five clean sheets at the World Cup, contributing to the Azzurri’s victory, the fourth in the country’s history.