Marco Ballotta will celebrate his 44* birthday on 3 April. The party is unlikely to be in his home town of Bologna, where his wife and daughter live and would dearly love to see him, but in Rome, where Ballotta plays in goal for Lazio. “The granddad of Europe” read the headline in a German sports magazine about Ballotta, the oldest player in the history of the UEFA Champions League and Italy’s Serie A. “I can’t remember anything about my professional debut,” says Ballotta with a laugh. “Was it against Livorno? In January 1985? Or February? No idea. But it was definitely for Modena.” The man with the thinning hair has played for nine different clubs to date. “Records, appearances and statistics don’t interest me,” he says. “I take each year as it comes and it’s gone pretty well so far.” Ballotta has considered retiring on several occasions but has so far been unable to draw a line under his career: “Obviously I know it can’t go on forever, I’m going to have to call it a day some time. Perhaps in ten years.” So Ballotta’s wife and daughter will have to wait a little longer for him to return to Bologna for good.