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Cannavaro headed for Al Ahli, club says

The 36-year-old defender and captain, who helped Italy to the 2006 World Cup title, has signed a two-year deal with the Dubai club.

DUBAI // Fabio Cannavaro, the 2006 World Cup winner and World Player of the Year, will become the biggest name to grace the UAE Pro League next season after signing a two-year deal with Al Ahli of Dubai. Ahli, the 2008-09 Pro league champions, yesterday officially announced the capture of the 36-year-old centre-back, who will captain Italy's title-defence at the World Cup, starting on June 11, and Abdullah al Naboodah, chairman of the club's new board, hailed it as one of the biggest deals in the history of the club. "We announce that we have signed 2006 World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro for two years," he said in an official statement. "This contract with a player like Cannavaro is one of the major deals for us, considering the player's experience and talent. He is also a leader on the pitch as he led Italy to victory at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. "He will be leading his team again at the World Cup in South Africa in a few days. "He has also worn the jerseys of famous clubs like Real Madrid and Juventus, and was also voted the world's best player in 2006." The club have not released any financial details about the deal, but reports in Italy claim Cannavaro could be earning Dh4.5 million a season, plus bonuses which could amount to as much as Dh22.5m. After winning the league title, Ahli endured a disappointing time last season, finishing eighth and seeing as many as four different coaches take the dugout. They also lost to Auckland City, the part-timers from New Zealand, in their first match at the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi. At the end of the season, there was a change in the club's board and the new management are bringing their chequebooks out in a bid to turn around their fortunes. According to speculation in England, Ahli are also trying to secure the services of Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, and the Cannavaro coup could be the first of several new arrivals. "I'm happy to sign for Al Ahli," Cannavaro was quoted as saying on the club's website. "I always thought of moving to live in Dubai as I love it and I have achieved my dream by moving to Dubai and play for one of its big clubs like Al Ahli." Cannavaro, who will retire from international football after the World Cup, became a free agent at the end of Italy's Serie A season after Juventus decided against extending his one-year contract. He had reportedly attracted interest from AC Milan and other Italian clubs, but has chosen to take on a new challenge abroad. Before returning to Juventus, Cannavaro spent three seasons with Real Madrid in Spain. He started his professional career at his home-town club Napoli in 1992 before moving on to Parma and then Inter Milan. His career peaked in 2006, when he lifted Italy's fourth World Cup and received the Ballon d'Or - for the European Footballer of the Year - and the Fifa World Player of the Year award. He is Italy's most-capped player with 132 appearances for the Azzurri. arizvi@thenational.ae

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