x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Al Ahli 'will benefit' by Fabio Cannavaro moving upstairs

Final whistle on playing career, but Italian defender will stay on at Dubai Pro League club as technical director.

Fabio Cannavaro has called time on his playing career with Al Ahli due to persistent problems with his right knee.
Fabio Cannavaro has called time on his playing career with Al Ahli due to persistent problems with his right knee.

Abdullah Al Naboodah, president of Al Ahli, yesterday insisted that the signing of Fabio Cannavaro had not been a waste of money after the Italian announced his retirement from playing.

The former Real Madrid and Juventus player, who turns 38 in September, will remain with the Dubai club as a technical director for the next three years, but his injured right knee means that he has been forced to quit the game 12 months earlier than he hoped.

A year ago, Cannavaro was signed on a free transfer to a two-year contract reportedly worth as much as Dh22.5 million per season. The 2006 Fifa Player of the Year arrived in a blaze of publicity and was immediately declared the best-known player ever to compete in the UAE's domestic league.

But he played in only 16 of 22 league matches for Ahli, who finished in eighth position in a season which saw David O'Leary dismissed as manager. Cannavaro was injured on March 24 and missed all but two of Ahli's final eight league matches.

Al Naboodah said that Cannavaro, the winning captain of Italy's 2006 World Cup winners, could still make Ahli better.

"Nineteen years of experience will definitely benefit the club," he said. "Fabio is a World Cup winner and played at the highest level in Europe. All that on his CV will benefit us at Al Ahli.

"I always said Fabio is one of best assets this club has ever got in terms of professionalism, in terms of attitude and in terms of teaching the younger generation. Everything he brought to this club still remains. He has been great for the club."

Cannavaro's announcement, which came five years to the day that he lifted the World Cup in Germany, did not come as a surprise, even if he said last month that he planned to play one more season.

"I'm very sad. Football is everything for me in my life," Cannavaro said. "However, I intend to stay here for the next three years, as a director.

"It's not a simple thing. Everyone says it has to come. But when it comes, it's a decision you have to face. I came back to Dubai to continue training. Unfortunately, the medical examiner didn't permit me to continue. I tried to get it better during the holidays but when I realised that I felt pain after a simple jog, I understood that I could go on no longer. My knee just wouldn't hold out. The cartilage has given way."

Cannavaro will work closely with Ahli coach Ivan Hasek over the coming years, a role he will relish.

"I would like to thank the club president and fans of Ahli who have been exceptional," Cannvaro said.

"This is a new adventure now and I am thankful to Ahli for letting me continue as a technical advisor and looking forward to it.

"I hope that in this new career I will be able to give the club what I gave it in my previous role as a player. It's a team that has a good future and I will discuss the details of my position with the president soon."

Cannavaro is the only defender to be voted World Player of the Year, winning after Italy conceded only two goals at the World Cup.

He played in four World Cups in a his 19-year professional career, and holds the Italian record with 136 international appearances.

ncameron@thenational.ae