Cannavaro can

Italian captain Fabio Cannavaro was there when his country needed him time after time in Germany and he was often the man to LAUNCH ATTACKS, writes ANDY HAMPSON.

Captain Fabio Cannavaro led World Cup champions Italy by example in Germany. Cannavaro was one of the best players in the tournament, as Italy overcame a shaky start to progress and claim glory.

He was already the team's captain and most-capped player but as a result of success in Germany his stature has grown even more. With Juventus demoted from Serie `A' as a result of a match-fixing inquiry, La Liga giants Real Madrid recently announced that Cannavaro, along with Juve's Brazilian midfielder Emerson, had been signed up by the club.

Cannavaro is short for a centre-half but he makes up for his lack of height with power, aggression and great anticipation. He was there when Italy needed him time after time in Germany and he was often the man to launch attacks. He finished second in the voting for player of the tournament to Zinedine Zidane, a fine reward for his consistency over the past decade.

Cannavaro was born in Naples and first made his mark with his hometown club, Napoli, which he had been connected with since the age of 11. He made his debut in the 1992-93 season having signed professionally a year earlier. He made just two appearances in that campaign but became more of a regular in the next season, playing in 27 games.

His burgeoning reputation attracted interest and after four seasons with Napoli he moved to Parma in 1995. It was there he really began to show his class and he earned his first Italy cap early in 1997. He would go on to represent his country in the next three World Cups as well as the European Championships of 2000 and 2004. With Parma he won the UEFA Cup and Italian Cup in 1999 and represented them in the Champions League but moved to Inter Milan in 2002 in a GBP14.75million deal. He spent two seasons at the San Siro before being signed by Juve for close to GBP7million.

He won his first two Serie `A' titles with Juve in 2005 and 2006 but as a result of the match-fixing investigation, both have now been discredited, pending appeal.

For everyone connected with Juventus, the past few weeks have been a difficult time. The club became engulfed in scandal when it was alleged in the Italian press earlier this year that phone taps had caught then general manager Luciano Moggi discussing refereeing appointments with Italian Football Federation officials. The resulting investigation into match-fixing also involved AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio. It was always likely they would receive heavy punishment and Cannavaro, as well as a number of his team-mates, had to travel to the World Cup with this shadow hanging over their futures.

Cannavaro is married to Daniela, with whom he has two sons, Christian and Andrea, and a daughter, Martina. Cannavaro is well known for his photogenic looks and flowing locks — although these have now been shaved off — and topped a poll for the sexiest footballer at the World Cup. Cannavaro's brother, Paolo, is a footballer with Parma. They played together for two seasons before Fabio moved to Inter. He also has a sister, Renata.

With many Italian players, Ferraris are a passion. Cannavaro previously owned a Ferrari 575 Maranello.

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FACTFILE Position: Defender Date of birth: 13/09/1973 Italy Caps: 100 Italy Goals: 1 Italy debut: v Northern Ireland, January 1997 Moment to remember:

Cannavaro always regarded Parma's UEFA Cup success as one of his finest moments but that has now been eclipsed by the World Cup win. Italy rode their luck before eventually coming through the final on penalties but the achievement was immense.

Moment to forget:

The World Cup final win over France in Berlin eased the memories of Italy's loss to the same team in the Euro 2000 showpiece. Italy had been on course for victory until conceding a late equaliser and then losing to a golden goal. Cannavaro was unimpressed with the French, and particularly their towering defender Marcel Desailly, who elbowed him late in the game. "I thought Desailly had become a man, but he's remained a horse, trotting along with blinkers on," Cannavaro said. "The French had no respect for the defeated. They are extremely arrogant."