Should Gianluigi Buffon persist with his plans, Tottenham – by eliminating Juventus from the Champions League – can hasten the career end of a goalkeeper widely considered among the greatest of all time.

The Italian, 40 years old and the biggest casualty of the Azzurri's failure to qualify for this summer's World Cup, has long made it known that he will only play on beyond this seasonΒ if his team win the Champions League. It’s the most significant trophy to elude him in a glittering career.

Buffon, whose longevity has more than justified Juve spending what was then a divisive world-record €52m for a goalkeeper in 2001 (and, incredibly, still is in euros), was in Italy's squad way back at the 1998 World Cup. Yet while some consider him the finest ever, others don’t believe he’s even the best of the modern era – which has been a golden one for those representing the last line of defence.

10. Hugo Lloris

Lloris gained wider recognition for his exceptional abilities after moving to the Premier League with Tottenham in 2012. In the years since Spurs spent Β£11.8m recruiting him from Lyon, the 31-year-old France international (94 caps and counting) has demonstrated to a wider audience that he's as brave as he is understated. He’s also one of the best with the ball at his feet; a quality increasingly in demand.

9. Julio Cesar

Once described by none other than Italian great Gianluca Pagliuca as the world's finest, Cesar took the first-team place of Inter’s Francesco Toldo (who was such an assured keeper that only the misfortune of his career coinciding with Buffon’s prevented him earning greater international respect). Cesar also proved to be the composed, consistent Brazil goalkeeper that Taffarel, Marcos and Dida could never quite be, earning 87 caps for the Selecao.

A late-career spell at QPR proved ill-fated and in January 2018, aged 38, Cesar returned to Flamengo, the club at which he began his career. However, his greatest moment came during the 2009/10 season, when he was so influential in Inter's historic Treble that he was named UEFA's Club Goalkeeper of the Year.

8. David de Gea

Manchester United's long-term successor to Edwin van der Sar, and in his national side to Iker Casillas, the 27-year-old De Gea has had some large gloves to fill. Yet after a tricky early spell, he has become United's greatest strength in the difficult times that have followed Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement. For Spain, his ability has meant that Casillas's decline wasn’t the trauma it could have been.

Has he even reached his peak yet? If De Gea can develop the savvy to kill moments of danger, as Van der Sar (to use one obvious example) so often did, he will rivalΒ Manuel Neuer as the best in the world at present. If he isn't already.Β 

7. Victor Valdes

The first of the modern-day 'sweeper-keepers', Valdes was also a significant strength in perhaps the greatest team of all time: Pep Guardiola's Barcelona of 2008-12.

In that spell the 36-year-old – once oddly under-appreciated – won his second and third Champions League titles, amid a wider total of 14 major honours. He was also so consistent that he surpassed the great Andoni Zubizarreta as the goalkeeper to have made the most appearances for the Catalan club.