Fabio Cannavaro – The Career of an Italian Legend


On Saturday (9th July), Fabio Cannavaro decided to draw the curtains on a long, successful career. The Italian defender is the country’s highest capped captain and just 5 years ago he led Gli Azzurri to their 4th World Cup.

Fabio began playing football for the local Naples based club Bagnoli, but it didn’t take the Napoli scouts long to spot his talents. When approached, Fabio quickly agreed to be part of the set up at the Serie A team who were his childhood team. He spent the early part of his career as a ball boy, watching and even getting to meet his heroes such as Diego Maradona and Ciro Ferrera.

After many outstanding performances for the reserves, Cannavaro was promoted to the First team and made his debut in 1993 against Juventus, already fulfilling the dream of playing for his childhood club.

The post-Maradona era proved to be tough for Napoli, as they struggled for funds and were forced to sell Cannavaro to Parma. He enjoyed great success there, winning the UEFA Cup and Coppa Italia and receiving several individual awards. He spent 7 years at Parma before Inter Milan finally decided to make a move for the talented defender, offering a whopping €23 million for him which Parma happily accepted.

His time at Internazionale was short-lived however as he spent just two seasons at the club. His first season was successful, most notably reaching the Semi-Final of the 2002-03 Champions League. His second season was hampered by injuries and was sold to Juventus in a part exchange deal at the end of the season.

In joining Juve, he was re-united with ex Parma teammates Lillian Thuram and Gianluigi Buffon. The three, along with other defenders such as Gianluca Zambrotta, Giorgio Chiellini and Nicola Legrottaglie went on to form one of European Football’s strongest rearguards.

He had highly successful career during his time at Juventus, on the individual front in particular. He won the Scudetto in 2005 & 2006 with Juve. He also lead the Italian National side to the 2006 World Cup in Germany, which resulted in a number of accolades for the defender. He was named as both the FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or winner 2006 and was also named the Serie A and Italian Player of the Year. His time with the Bianconeri ended on a negative note as Juventus were found guilty of match fixing and were relegated to Serie B with the club also being stripped of the two Scudetti won under Fabio Capello.

Capello decided to bring Cannavaro to Real Madrid for €7 million shortly after being appointed as manager. He had a successful time at the Bernabeu, winning back to back league titles in in 2007 and 2008. With his injury problems resurfacing, his contract was not renewed and Cannavaro returned to Juventus on a Free Transfer in 2009.

He only spent one season there and despite a strong start to the season, Juventus only qualified for the Europa League. Despite being without a club, Cannavaro still captained Italy in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Their campaign was considered embarrassing given the quality in their squad and looked like a group they should easily have topped. Their misery was almost compounded when New Zealand outclassed the Italians and came agonisingly close to a shock victory. Italy failed to progress past the Group Stage and didn’t win one game. Cannavaro decided to retire from International football on this note.

On the look out for a new club, the defender eventually accepted an offer from UAE club Al-Ahli. Cannavaro made just 16 appearances for the club as his injuries were becoming frequent. He announced his expected retirement last Saturday, hanging up his boots after the doctors informed hi, he could no longer continue playing due to a serious knee problem.

In the summer of 2009, Fabio made his 126th international appearance, facing Brazil in the Confederations Cup. This leveled Paolo Maldini’s record number of caps and later on in the summer, Cannavaro beat this record in a game against Switzerland. Today, the World Cup winning captain retires as Italy’s most capped player, with 136 games for the Azzuri under his belt.

Although this article highlights the many highs of his career, Fabio also had two controversial moments involving drugs. Before the 1999 UEFA Cup Final, a video was released of Cannavaro being injected with Neotin, a substance which is used in cardiac surgery to protect the heart during periods of stress. Neotin is not a banned substance so therefore no action was taken against the player.

In 2009 it was announced Cannavaro had failed a drugs test. As a result of this, the centre-back was banned for his national team’s visit to Ireland to play in a World Cup 2010 qualifier. Juventus claimed the drugs were medicine for a severe allergic reaction from a bee sting and was not for performance enhancing. Another test was taken, and results showed he had in fact been taking the drug for medical reasons and all charges were dropped. Of course not all sports people could play the ‘I had an allergic reaction’ card when being caught using performance enhancing drugs. Take a look at Diego Maradona in the 1994 World Cup, does this look like a man who’s recovering from an allergic reaction or is just off his head on a substance ?

Probably the most terrifying goal celebration you will ever see

So Fabio Cannavaro’s retirement almost feels like a chapter in Italian football has been closed, it’s hard to imagine there’ll be another defender of his cloth any time soon. He now follows legendary International teammates Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta into life off the pitch and one can only imagine Alessandro Nesta and Andrea Pirlo aren’t very far behind either. One thing is for certain, Fabio will always have the respect of ever player and fan across the world for both his outstanding qualities as a player and how he always showed himself to be a very likable person.

As always, thoughts and opinions are always appreciated on our articles, so please feel free to leave one in the comments section below.

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