Cannavaro retires from football on medical advice

Italian football great Fabio Cannavaro announced his retirement

from football on Saturday, five years to the day after captaining

his country to the 2006 World Cup title.

The 38-year-old Cannavaro said medical checkups in Italy in June

and earlier this month revealed his right knee would not hold up

for the second and last year of his contract with Dubai club Al

Alhi.

”I’m very sad. Football is everything for me in my life,”

Cannavaro said. ”It’s not a simple thing. Everyone says it has to

come. But when it comes, it’s a decision you have to face. I came

back to Dubai to continue training. Unfortunately, the medical

examiner didn’t permit me to continue.”

Cannavaro is the only defender to be voted FIFA world player of

the year, winning in 2006 after Italy conceded only two goals at

the World Cup. He played in four World Cups in a 19-year

professional career, and holds the Italian record with 136

international appearances.

Cannavaro, who served as a ballboy in host Italy’s 1990 World

Cup loss to Argentina, made a name for himself with Parma between

1995 and 2002, helping the central Italian club to the 1999 UEFA

Cup title.

Along with Azzurri teammates Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta,

he was a member of Italy’s golden age of defenders. Short in

stature for a center back at 1.77 meters (5-foot-9 1/2), Cannavaro

was an excellent man-marker and composed in possession.

At his first World Cup in 1998 he was an understudy to Giuseppe

Bergomi, a member of Italy’s squad which won the 1982 World

Cup.

Cannavaro had a tough act to follow when he took over as captain

from Maldini after the 2002 World Cup. He won the team over,

though, with his ever-present smile and laid-back Neapolitan

approach.

He played superbly in all seven matches at the 2006 World Cup

and was added the Golden Ball award to go with his FIFA prize as

the best player. The photo of Cannavaro holding the trophy aloft

became the defining image of the tournament.

He retired from international football after Italy failed to

progress out of the group stage at the 2010 World Cup.

During that tournament, Cannavaro often appeared a step too slow

and was responsible in part for the two goals Italy allowed,

against Paraguay and New Zealand. His disappointing performance

followed on the heels of a final season at Juventus in which he

often appeared past his prime.

But even after that disappointment, Cannavaro chose to focus on

the positives of his sparkling career by saying ”what we did in

2006 can never be erased.”

Cannavaro signed with Al Ahli last year after Juve wouldn’t

extend his contract. He also played for Real Madrid and Inter

Milan.

He is one biggest stars to play in the United Arab Emirates, but

his presence did little to help Al Ahli. The 2009 champions

finished eighth last season, with Cannavaro injured for the last

seven games of the campaign.

Speculation had been rife in the media that he was set to quit.

But until Saturday, Cannavaro and Al Ahli had both denied he would

retire, with the player saying in June he expected to return next

season.

In late June, however, Al Ahli said it was signing Chilean

playmaker Luis Jiminez, giving the club five foreign players and

putting it above the league cap, which allows one foreigner from

Asia and three from the rest of the world.

”First, besides being a great player, Fabio Cannavaro is a

great person,” former Italy coach Marcello Lippi told Italian Sky

TV. ”He had an extraordinary career crowned by the World Cup

victory. I talk often with Fabio and he was satisfied by this

experience in Dubai, even though he realized he wasn’t playing for

a very competitive squad.”

Al Ahli president Abdullah al-Naboodah said he is happy

Cannavaro will stay at the club as a technical adviser for the next

three years.

”Nineteen years of experience will definitely benefit the

club,” al-Naboodah said. ”Fabio is a World Cup winner and played

at the highest level in Europe. All that on his CV will benefit us

at Al Alhi.

”I always said Fabio is one of best assets that club has ever

got in terms of professionalism, in terms of attitude, in terms of

teaching younger generation. Everything he brought to this club

still remains. He has been great for the club.”

Associated Press writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed to this

report.

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