Fabio Cannavaro is convinced: it is time to find oneself in Europe, where “real football” is. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Italy, Spain, England or anywhere else. It doesn’t matter at all whether he’s in the top or second division. It is important for a 48-year-old that this is the right job.
“I think I’m ready,” he says. “I’ve had very good jobs in Asia, but the best clubs, the best managers are in Europe and if I want to be one of the best, I have to compete with them.”
Cannavaro’s qualities as a player are indisputable: the last defender to win the Golden Ball, the man who led Italy to victory in the 2006 World Cup, not to mention the Champions League duel with Real Madrid and the Uefa Cup with Parma. What about the Cannavaro manager? At least to an English audience, this is – if I borrow a phrase – a familiar stranger.
This is what Cannavaro wants to address. And so in an extensive interview for the Telegraph Sport he opens his own recent talks with Everton and Watford, why are people wrong if they reject his achievements as a coach in China, what it’s like to be a manager like playing the piano, spend up to 14 hours a day working on his ideas – and, just for good, how close he was to join Chelsea while he is still an actor.
“I was proud that Everton and Watford took me into account.”
Everton first. The surprise was that Cannavaro was shortlisted to succeed Rafael Benitez, but while Frank Lampard was who eventually secured a roleis an enthusiastic Italian in the interview.
“I met the owner [Farhad Moshiri] and he was so clear with me, ”he says. “I explained to him my philosophy, my strategy. Of course, it’s understandable when you have a chance to take the remaining Lampard [in England], who knows better than me, maybe the Premier League… Sometimes when people think of me, maybe they think I don’t know the league, that I have no experience in Europe, but it’s football. I know what’s going on in clubs, in locker rooms. But no, I was proud that Everton and Watford also asked me for an interview, and I really appreciate that. “
Watford followed Everton after firing Claudio Ranieri. “They talked to me in front of Roy Hodgson [was appointed] but they quickly needed a coach, ”Explains Cannavaro. “They told me that they want to find a coach in a few days and of course he is a coach with experience in the Premier League, he knows the players. But it was an honor to talk to them and it is important that I start these conversations.
There were discussions with other clubs – especially Fiorentina – and an offer to take over as Poland’s coach, but he turned it down as he wanted to reduce his day-to-day leadership. His desire to return to the game is balanced by the awareness that this must be the right job.
“I know I can’t make a mistake right now. I have to choose the right club – in England, Italy, Spain, “says Cannavaro. “Now everyone wants great results in a short time, so I have to be confident in the club. Even if it’s a small club, I don’t care because I just want to be a coach so I can share my experience. I’m really sure I can do a good job. “
“Now is the time to return to Europe”
There is skepticism as to why Cannavaro, after retiring in 2011 after a season for the UAE club Al-Ahli, has stayed in the Middle East and Asia. Was it about the money? He insists not. Instead, speaking through his resume, his career path is logical and ambitious – first he wanted to be a sports director, then he realized he wanted to be a coach, and going to China made sense as the call came from Marcello. Lippi, who considers him the best he has worked under and who was the main one when Cannavaro led Italy to victory in the 2006 World Cup.