Sunday February 2 2014
The Cannavaro variable

Dave Taylor pays tribute to Paolo Cannavaro, the local lad whose love for Napoli was not entirely reciprocated.

Well he’s gone. After seven consecutive years of utter devotion to the cause, Paolo Cannavaro has left Napoli and signed for Sassuolo. “Napoli will always be in my heart, but it always has been,” said the 32-year-old, who grew up in the area around the stadium. “As a child playing in the streets with the other ‘urchins’ I used to dream about playing in the San Paolo someday and I am very proud to have done so.”

It is this heart, this feeling that the fans loved and like his former teammates they knew he possessed the irreplaceable values only a Neapolitan can have for his team. “Paolo will always remain as our captain,” insisted Gokhan Inler only last month.

More than anyone else Canna represents the remarkable rise Napoli have experienced these past seven years, a journey which reached its zenith when he led them into their first Champions League game.

Making his debut in Serie B in 1998-99 as a raw 17-year-old, he was sold purely for financial reasons to Parma the following summer. He returned in 2006-07 and rose to the challenge of taking them from Serie B to the very top of Serie A. Former Coach Walter Mazzarri made him captain in 2009 and in all this time he rarely missed a match until this season. This is where the mystery deepens.

After Coach Rafa Benitez said he trusted Paolo at the start of the season. he only played him in three games, which resulted in two wins, a draw and just two goals conceded. Then the fateful defeat by Roma came in mid-October. Canna gaveaway a free-kick, from which Roma scored and then he conceded a wrongly-given penalty, which was converted after he was sent off. OK anyone can make a mistake and although Raul Albiol is number one in central defence, in all honesty are Miguel Britos and Federico Fernandez better than Cannavaro? Not according to World Cup winner Marco Materazzi. “Paolo is no less talented than any of the other players in that role,” he said.

Celebrated for his leadership qualities and decisive tackling, Paolo’s acute awareness fitted in well with Napoli’s counter-attacking policies. Yet with Rafa’s change of system and President Aurelio De Laurentiis’ change of mind, it appears he is no longer needed. “My client has given so much to Napoli, but many unpleasant incidents have occurred during the last three months,” said his agent Furio Fedele. “And if we want to find a negative side to Benitez’s tenure, it’s his rapport with Paolo.”

So why wasn’t he playing? Once it was warranted, but then it turned whimsical. Surely it can’t have anything to do with not wanting to pay his wages, can it? There was a clause in his contract, a “mysterious” one by all accounts, that highlighted a few anomalies. With 18 months still left on his contract it’s reported that if his appearances dropped below a certain number (apparently 15) his wages would have been cut by 50 per cent.

It is pretty difficult to believe Napoli would stoop that far surely, but after all De Laurentiis seems to have little respect for him. Following Gonzalo Higuain’s fall in Capri when he needed 10 stitches DeLa told students who secretly filmed him that Paolo was an idiot: “Higuain had just arrived and what does this a*****e Cannavaro do? He gets this boat that was paid for under the table, goes to Capri and he even makes him trip on a rock.”

It gets curiouser and curiouser. Canna was an untouchable until this season and many believe he’s been treated unfairly. “Discrediting Paolo in such a short time didn’t seem right because he’s done a lot for Napoli,” insisted Materazzi. Paolo’s brother, Fabio mysteriously added: “It was a mistake to stay, he had a chance to leave in September and the opportunity was there but it was not done for corporate reasons.” The Ballon d’Or winner also tweeted a sarcastic thanks to “those who made you feel like a stranger in your own home.”

As much as fans may dislike the idea that the bandiera of the last decade has left, it is probably best for all concerned, but it could have be done in a better and much nobler way. 

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Have your say...

He'll get fired first lol.
on the 13th February, 2014 at 7:04pm
CORRECTION! ON MY PREVIOUS POST....... I meant Rafa Benitez coached Liverpool not Tottenham "oops"!. Just goes to show you I don't like following EPL!.
on the 8th February, 2014 at 2:32am
@Anno ,Rafa Benitez had a solid national team caliber defender, And tossed him away just for one bad game.Look Napoli lost again to Roma. I guess Paolo wasn`t the problem. Tottenham all over again, Rafa`s going to balloon this team`s budget and when he get`s no result I guess he`ll BAIL.....On to the next team!..
on the 7th February, 2014 at 4:39am

Right on all counts. I don't think De Laurentis had any interest in sending anyone to Inter tho.
on the 5th February, 2014 at 7:29pm
Things change. A player loses his edge, a manager doesnt like an attitude. All small talk. I think Higuain is an important player who will need a lot of love for him to keep scoring goals. PC was a liability in that Roma match. You saw him come out early, without a team mate around him. He didnt hold on his team; he went out in front and looked bored. Like a film director needs to make love with his actors to get the best performance, Rafa will need to do the same for this Napoli team.
on the 5th February, 2014 at 10:48am
A very very underrated player if you ask me. He's a classic italian defender a true "grinta" he would have fit well with Juve system. But Inter could surely have used him. He should've been called up to the national squad also. Typical unsung bad.
on the 5th February, 2014 at 3:26am
Quite satisfying, yes ;)
on the 4th February, 2014 at 2:31am
Why is it good for me? Was it good for you too? ;-)
on the 3rd February, 2014 at 6:29pm
I don't like whats going on at Napoli. They field few, if any Italians and they seem to be doing worse under Rafa. I don't like his tactics either. With the players they brought in there should be better results. I'm afraid DeLa made a bad choice choosing a coach. As the season progresses the results seem to go against them.
on the 3rd February, 2014 at 5:02am
Paolo Cannavaro has been great over a period of time. He was never the best. He had the best season last year. That's all true.
on the 3rd February, 2014 at 1:00am

Good for you.
on the 3rd February, 2014 at 12:54am
Calling him the Best CB in Italy is sweet, but untrue. Not just last year, but any year.
I view him as a fair, dependable and sympathetic player, who should have been treated better by Napoli.
on the 2nd February, 2014 at 8:57pm
Much respect for Paolo and his handling of the situation, I also must take this time to jokingly notify you all in advance that Napoli will no longer take precedent as my favorite club(write a article if you want). Even though I genuinely believe they have the best chance in Serie A of progressing through European competition. Its been a good four years where in which I rediscovered my passion for the game. Best of luck to Maggio and Insigne, but like Paolo, its time for me to go!
on the 2nd February, 2014 at 7:46pm
I can't remember reja donnadoni or mazzari ever taking real offence to cannavaro as a player hence why I disbelieve that it is a attitude problem. I might assume that rafa think cannavaro isn't good enough or suited to his formation, which is fair enough however to lose a player of his quality and not replace him when the team is short in that position is just bizarre however this is rafa he makes these kind of mistakes.
on the 2nd February, 2014 at 7:39pm
It's worth noting because, again, I don't know how much better this guy could have been. He was a top 5 CB in Italy each of the last 5 years. He was top 3, behind the Milan combination, in 10-11 and 11-12. Last year, he was the best CB in Italy. He's not his Brother, but about 10 players ever were.

De Laurentis is a great owner, in many ways. But he's overwhelmed by what he doesn't understand. Complex 4-2-3-1? The least complex formation there is.

Paolo, you have made yourself world-class.
on the 2nd February, 2014 at 6:59pm
He's not the most talented player, but he's been the best CB in Italy over the last 5 years. Shame that Prandelli didn't give him a shot. Probably feels he only plays at that level in Mazzarri's system.

This is why Benitez isn't a good coach. He seems numbers and he sees his system. He sees who fits. For him, players don't win games. He doesn't seem full of himself, but he's not good for teams like Napoli. Maybe at Madrid his style would be counter-balanced by their stars and could work.
on the 2nd February, 2014 at 6:56pm
Just when Napoli need tried and tested defenders they let one of the best go! Their defence has been suspect and never more so than today against Atalanta. I agree that Benitez has treated him pretty poorly, also De Laurentiis.

After a poor run of results lately,
the Benitez wheels are looking a bit shaky on the track at present. Avanti Napoli, Avanti Napoli!!
on the 2nd February, 2014 at 6:15pm
Hugely underrated player in my view and Benitez has treated him terribly. Why of the 22 players which Galliani has moved around since the summer did milan not go for paolo? Did you see boneras attempt to tackle immobile??? I like sassuolo and what they're trying to do in their first season. Hopefully paolo will help them stay up
on the 2nd February, 2014 at 12:56pm

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