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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Highs and lows of Fabio Cannavaro

Cannavaro's failure to call it a day at his peak takes nothing away from his status as a legend of the modern game who was perhaps denied his due

Fabio Cannavaro
  • Image Credit: AP
  • Fabio Cannavaro
Dubai: Much like his last season playing for Al Ahli, Fabio Cannavaro's retirement last Saturday passed relatively unnoticed. But here Gulf News takes a deserved look back at the highs and lows in the career of arguably the world's greatest defender of all-time.
As pinnacles go, that 2006 World Cup penalty shoot-out win over bitter rivals France not only granted Italy their fourth trophy but topped off a spectacular year for Cannavaro who picked up the World and European Player of the Year awards (the first time a defender had ever done).
He was also ruled Serie A footballer, Italian footballer and Serie A defender of the year. On top of this his name appeared in both European and World X1 dream teams for 2006.
All this success had culminated from many years of hard-work and consistency for Cannavaro at his clubs and country, in a career that took him full circle from cleaning Maradona's boots at Napoli to lifting the same trophy Diego did 20 years on.
Most-capped record
Having won the U21 European Championship in 1994 and 1996 it was certain Italy had a team for the future, but Cannavaro's personal involvement in that fact was only enhanced with a coming of age treble in 1999 at Parma winning the Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana and the Uefa Cup. He would go on to win the Coppa Italia again in 2002.
A post World Cup winning wind-down would see him win back-to-back La Liga titles at Real Madrid (2007, 2008) and the Supercopa de Espana in 2008, as his tenure saw him start and leave Real between two Galactico eras. In 2009 he surpassed Paulo Maldini as Italy's most-capped performer (136) a title he still holds.
That same World Cup win ended a bittersweet year in Italian football, which had been rocked with revelations of a referee-rigging scandal. The main culprits were Cannavaro's Juventus. The club and thus Cannavaro were stripped of their 2005 and 2006 Serie A winning titles, fined, relegated and ruled out of European tournaments for a season.
The pain
Beating the French on penalties in 2006 did much to deter from this gloom but it was also significant coming off the back of Euro 2000, where Cannavaro's Italy were rumbled by a cruel last-minute equaliser and a golden goal from Trezeguet. This agony arguably gave Italy the determination to sink France on football's biggest platform six years on.
Cannavaro followed Capello to Madrid after the World Cup and Juve scandal but received the ire of Italian football fans who had deemed him a deserter in their hour of need, albeit a deserter who had just won them football's ultimate prize.
With the league titles revoked, it means Cannavaro ended his career having technically never won the league in his native Italy. Two drug scandals also shook Cannavaro in 1999 and 2009, the first after a video was leaked from the night before the Uefa Cup of the star injecting himself with Neoton and the second occurred when banned substance cortisone was detected. Both cases were quickly dropped.
What will ultimately overshadow Cannavaro's excellence however was his inability to call it a day earlier.
Crashing out of the World Cup 2010 group stages drawing with Paraguay and New Zealand and losing to Slovakia certainly dented his pride from four years earlier. Also being rated one of the worst performers for Juventus in the previous season and then joining Al Ahli and finishing in the same league position as they had the year before (eighth), didn't help matters.
Retiring a year ahead of contract and being linked with a move to Swindon or QPR, before doctors ruled his knee-injury career-ending, wasn't quite how his swansong was meant to be sounded out.

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