ITALY

Donnarumma sights Italy gloves as Buffon sets date

AC Milan's Gianluigi Donnarumma moved a virtual step closer to taking over as Italy's number one goalkeeper after Azzurri legend Gianluigi Buffon said he is likely to retire in 2018.
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Gianluigi Buffon
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AC Milan's Gianluigi Donnarumma moved a virtual step closer to taking over as Italy's number one goalkeeper after Azzurri legend Gianluigi Buffon said he is likely to retire in 2018.

Juventus shot-stopper Buffon earned his 167th cap in a goalless friendly with Germany last month -- when Donnarumma played the second half to make his second Azzurri appearance -- to pull level with retired Spain legend and fellow goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Buffon is now just 17 caps behind world record-holder Ahmed Hassan of Egpyt (184), a tally he may just overtake depending on how Italy fare at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Iker Casillas of Spain speaks to Gianluigi Buffon of Italy

Spain v Italy - Group C: UEFA EURO 2012Iker Casillas of Spain speaks to Gianluigi Buffon of Italy

Buffon to call it quits in 2018

In comments to Premium Sport, Buffon said: "My idea is to leave football as a player after the 2018 World Cup. I'm pretty sure of it."

Buffon said there was "only a remote possibility" he could extend his long and storied career beyond that date.

AC Milan's goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma makes a save.

AC Milan's goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma makes a save.

The rise of Donnarumma

Given the emergence of Donnarumma, a 17-year-old who pushed Diego Lopez aside at AC Milan last season to become the seven-time European champions' number one between the sticks, Buffon's announcement comes as little surprise.

He was largely expected to retire from the game after the 2018 World Cup, where Donnarumma -- now in his second season in Italy's top flight -- could showcase his skills to a global audience.

Buffoon trading in his gloves for a whistle?

Buffon recently became a father for the third time and last month hinted he could go on to coach Italy.

"A coaching role and all that it entails on a daily basis wouldn't appeal to me," Buffon said in an interview with Corriere della Sera.

"But I wouldn't exclude a national team coaching role: I would still be involved in the game but have some freedom to dedicate myself to other things."