Cannavaro at the crossroads

Italys World Cup-winning captain under pressure ahead of the 2010 edition

Cannavaro at the crossroads

Big Worry: Fabio Cannavaro’s recent form is a cause for concern for Italy.

The 36-year-old, Italy's most capped player with 132 appearances, has lost many of the attributes which made him stand out in Germany four years ago and has endured an error-strewn season with a dreadful Juventus side this year.

His pace, poise and positional sense have all suffered.
He would almost certainly have retired from international football two years ago had he not been ruled out of Euro 2008 with injury.

His desire to bow out in a big tournament means he has soldiered on until South Africa but retirement, perhaps from the game completely, could follow when Italy's campaign ends.

Experience, the fact that he plays club football with Italy defensive partner Giorgio Chiellini and the full backing of coach Marcello Lippi are the reasons he remains in the team.

"You can't judge the quality of a player only on age and technical ability," Lippi said in a recent interview.

"Enthusiasm, experience, charisma, wisdom, international experience...they all need to be considered."

Also in Cannavaro's favour is the lack of top-class options to replace him within Serie A, once a bastion of great defending talent but now a wasteland for those searching for the next Franco Baresi or Paolo Maldini.

Cannavaro has barely given an interview this term having rejoined Juventus after Real Madrid made it clear last year that his diminishing powers meant they were not going to keep him.

Juve fans were not impressed by his return, accusing him of ditching the club when they were demoted for match-fixing in 2006, and his welcome was lukewarm.

The Turin club have since lurched from one bad result to another, which will not have helped Cannavaro's confidence.

For Italy though, he will always give his all and the fact that he is small for a centre back never seemed to matter during his glorious summer of 2006.

A repeat is not expected but he will at least add another World Cup campaign to a glowing resume full of achievements.

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