x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Cannavaro's second wind not a breeze

Having hung up his boots in the summer, Fabio Cannavaro is learning the ropes in his new position with Al Ahli and his new career in football - technical adviser.

Fabio Cannavaro says he has not trained as consistently now that he has hung up his boots. His job as technical adviser brings other challenges.
Fabio Cannavaro says he has not trained as consistently now that he has hung up his boots. His job as technical adviser brings other challenges.

DUBAI // Fabio Cannavaro has reached what rock stars might disparagingly term the "greatest hits" phase of his career.

The former Italy captain's glorious youth is now well behind him, but he is still just about fit enough to be wheeled out for the odd all-star match for a good cause.

Cannavaro officially hung up his boots this summer, midway through his last professional contract, in favour of a move upstairs at his Dubai club side, Al Ahli.

Injuries had taken their toll on the celebrated former Juventus centre-half.

The offer of a new role as technical adviser to an Al Ahli club who, like the rest of the UAE football, are still finding their feet in the professional era, was both timely and gratefully received.

"It is a new role for me, acting as a technical adviser to the chairman, which means trying to bring my experience to provide as much help as I can," Cannavaro, 38, said. "It is a new role and I am just getting used to it, but I have time on my side and want to improve and make sure I contribute to the club improving."

Cannavaro will return to the playing field again next week, having agreed to take part in a match to raise money for child victims of the conflict in Libya.

He will join an impressive cast, including former teammates such as David Trezeguet, Pavel Nedved and Marco Materazzi, with Diego Maradona also apparently set to play.

Cannavaro insists he has not missed playing since he retired in the summer, after the daily grind of more than 20 years as a professional.

Tuesday's game will be his second since then.

He played for the New York Cosmos in a testimonial match for Paul Scholes at Old Trafford in Manchester in August, and he says the prospect of this game is less nerve-racking than that was.

"I played for many years at the highest possible level, so at the moment I don't really miss it because I played so much," he said.

"I still enjoy playing with my kids and with my friends. If I'm honest, I haven't been constant in my training since I stopped playing, so I'll have to train a bit more before the game.

"This one will be a little easier to play in [than the Scholes Testimonial] as there are many players who [also] haven't played for a while."

Jehad Muntasser, a former Libya international who serves as Cannavaro's interpreter at Ahli, is grateful to have the 2006 world player of the year on hand to assist with his charity fixture.

"Fabio's presence creates an awareness among these football stars, and they have all expressed a desire to help in any way they can," Muntasser said.

pradley@thenational.ae