Italian legend: Juventus star is the 'greatest'

Gianluigi Buffon has compared the "genius" of Andrea Pirlo to that of Roberto Baggio and believes that the Italian is unstoppable.

The Italian goalkeeper has heaped praise on midfielder Pirlo and believes that the Azzurri's game against England is "not a play-off".

“Pirlo is a genius. Together with Baggio, I think he’s the greatest talent that Italian football has produced in the last 25 years,” the 36-year-old said speaking to the Guardian.

The Juventus teammates won Serie A this season and head into the World Cup with Italy as the two oldest players in the squad, and their experience will be vital.

Buffon also stated that Pirlo can not be stopped as his ability to produce a moment of magic at any time can catch any side out.

“You can try and adopt the right countermeasures to contain him. But you know that in any given moment he can break the bank and everything you thought you knew [about stopping him] is worthless.”

Italy face England in their opening game of the World Cup in just over a week, but the legendary shot-stopper does not believe that the game is a decider for who progresses through the group.

“It’s the first game. Then there’s another two. It’s an important game. Not a play-off," he said.

England crashed out of Euro 2012 in the quarter-finals on penalties to the Italians in what was one of the most one-sided 0-0 draws seen in recent years.

Pirlo was at the heart of everything that day, and his incredibly calm Panenka penalty in the shootout typified his class.

The Three Lions will need to contain the 35-year-old in their opening clash to have any chance of getting something out of the game.

Buffon has never lost to England in his career and will hope that the record stays intact past the pivotal meeting next Saturday.

“I’ve never lost to England? Nor against Germany. I've played them five times and never been beaten."

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch