MANGARATIBA, Brazil (AP) — A hard rain was falling when Gianluigi Buffon paused for a moment during an Italy training session Tuesday.
Leaning forward with both hands on his knees, Buffon appeared to be resting or somehow trying to withstand the rain.
Or perhaps the 36-year-old goalkeeper and Italy captain was reflecting on this: He is only the third player in history to be part of five World Cup squads, along with Germany great Lothar Matthaus and former Mexico goalkeeper Antonio Carbajal.
Buffon first went to the World Cup back in 1998, although he didn't play a second-choice option behind Gianluca Pagliuca. He then took over the starting position from 2002 onward.
"A fifth World Cup is a nice milestone but that doesn't mean I'm satisfied," Buffon said before departing for Brazil. "Both individually and as a squad we're preparing to surprise people."
Buffon, of course, doesn't need to prove anything at this point in his career.
He was one of the driving forces behind Italy's run to the 2006 World Cup title, when he didn't concede a single goal to opponents during normal play over the course of seven matches — letting in only an own goal from Cristian Zaccardo and a penalty from Zinedine Zidane in the final won over France.
He helped Parma to the UEFA Cup title way back in 1999 and has since won five Serie A titles with Juventus — including the last three.
"As the years go by, Gigi still has the same amount of desire," said midfielder Claudio Marchisio, who plays with Buffon with both Italy and Juventus. "He's a great professional, a great friend, and a top-level player. He's a player who is able to give his all in every moment and always offer the right words of encouragement.
"There are players here who are at their first big tournament and he's always there offering the right words of advice," Marchisio added Tuesday.
Now that Buffon is setting records for longevity, it's worth remembering what an early start he had.
Born to members of Italy's national teams in athletics (his mother) and weightlifting (father), Buffon's distant relative Lorenzo Buffon was also Italy's goalkeeper in the 1950s.
Having played in midfield as a kid, Buffon decided he wanted to be a goalkeeper after seeing Thomas N'Kono defend Cameroon's goal during the 1990 World Cup in Italy — when Buffon was 12 — and years later Buffon named his first son Louis Thomas after N'Kono.
In 1991 when Buffon was just 13, Parma purchased his rights and put him in their youth system.
At 17, Buffon made his Serie A debut with Parma, keeping a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw against AC Milan.