Cannavaro named European Footballer of the Year
November 27, 2006 6:52pm CST
Italy's World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro has been named European Footballer of the Year. The Real Madrid defender beat out countryman and Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, with Arsenal and France striker Thierry Henry third, to win France Football magazine's prestigious Ballon D'Or. Last year's winner Ronaldinho, the Barcelona and Brazil playmaker, was fourth. Cannavaro, who played previously with Juventus, is the first Italian to win the award since Roberto Baggio 13 years ago. "My season at Juventus was just outstanding. I played 37 matches and scored four goals, all decisive," Cannavaro said. "It is late recognition for our World Cup victory. It is thanks to my Italy teammates that I have been able to show my qualities on the pitch. I want to thank my Juve teammates too. "I would like to show the trophy to Naples as it is a very special city, where I grew up. I used to play football in the streets of Naples. I would love to show it to the kids who are in difficulty over there." The award is normally given to forwards or midfielders, making the centre-back's achievement in polling 173 votes from European football journalists to win the prize, even more notable. The 33-year-old had an impeccable World Cup as he led Italy to glory in Germany, as the Azzurri conceded just two goals in seven matches. His tussle with Henry in the final was particularly memorable and, on the night of his 100th cap, Cannavaro came out on top as Italy won 5-3 on penalties when the game ended 1-1 after extra time. He was part of the Juventus team that lifted the Serie A title in 2005 and 2006, although both crowns were subsequently removed and the club demoted to the second division for their part in the league's match-fixing scandal. Renowned for his peerless ability to read the game, the Naples-born star started his career with hometown club Napoli in 1992 and began a seven-year stint at Parma in 1995. He was at Internazionale from 2002-04, then spent two seasons in Turin, before joining the exodus from the disgraced club with a post-World Cup move to Real Madrid. Buffon, who received 124 votes, was a key component in Italy's mean defence and also a member of Juventus' 2006 title-winning team. Henry received 121 votes.