Welcome to Last Word on Football’s ‘Families in Football’ series. Over the next few weeks, we take a look at siblings, cousins and even parents and children that have played the beautiful game. Some have played cup finals together while others have been on opposing sides. Today, we look at Paolo and Fabio Cannavaro.
Families in Football: Italian Brothers Paolo and Fabio Cannavaro
Italian defender Fabio Cannavaro enjoyed an illustrious career in his homeland, in Europe and at international level.
The Naples-born centre back came through the youth setup with Gli Azzurri and went on to make 68 appearances for his boyhood club. However, with the club struggling for finances, they were forced to sell the promising youngster.
Parma were the club to snap him up and it would be the team that Fabio Cannavaro spent most of his career. In seven seasons, the Italian turned out 291 times for I Crociati and won the UEFA Cup, the Supercoppa Italia and Coppa Italia on two separate occasions.
From there, Cannavaro spent two seasons with Inter Milan before spending a further two seasons at Juventus. The defender made 169 appearances over four years for the two Italian giants but failed to claim any silverware.
The defender then followed manager Fabio Capello to Real Madrid and it was a successful spell for the Italian. He won back to back La Liga titles along with some memorable personal accolades during his time in Spain, including the FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon d’Or in 2006.
After three seasons in Madrid, Fabio returned to Juventus but spent just one season in Italy before joining UAE League side Al-Ahli. The defender scored twice from 16 appearances before announcing his retirement due to a serious knee problem.
At club level, Fabio Cannavaro made 695 appearances, while also earning 136 caps for Italy. During his time with Gli Azzurri, the defender won the 2006 World Cup and came runner up in Euro 2000 with defeat against France in the final.
Like his older brother, Paolo Cannavaro came through the academy at his home town club, Napoli. He made his debut for the Serie B side at 17 before also making a switch to Parma. Paolo’s debut for Parma came when he replaced his brother as a substitute in a 4-1 victory against Lecce.
The defender then spent a season on loan at Verona. He netted his first professional goal and made 25 appearances before returning to his parent club.
Despite featuring largely on the bench upon his return, he eventually found game time easier to come by and was a key part of the squad that reached the 2004/05 UEFA Cup semi-final.
After 128 appearances, he returned to Napoli who were back in Serie B but pushing for promotion to the top flight. Along with Juventus, who had been relegated due to the match-fixing scandal known as Calciopoli, the club secured promotion back to Serie A.
Following their promotion, Cannavaro was made captain of his boyhood club. He would make 278 appearances and win the club’s first silverware in 20 years as they lifted the Coppa Italia in 2012.
After seven and a half seasons with Napoli, Cannavaro joined newly promoted Sassuolo on loan until the end of the season. The defender helped I Neroverdi avoid relegation and signed for the club in the summer. He stayed for four more seasons before retiring in 2017.
Unlike his brother, Paolo failed to make a senior appearance for Italy. However, he did turn out 30 times at various youth levels from U16 to U21 but never scored.
Games They Played Together and Against
Paolo and Fabio Cannavaro only took to the field four times together at Parma before Fabio left to join Inter Milan. The duo played in a Coppa Italia quarter-final win over Inter (6-1) and a 3-2 UEFA Cup victory over PSV Eindhoven. The pair also played 90 minutes together in a 5-0 Serie A win over Perugia and a 3-1 loss at Roma.
The Cannavaro brothers actually played on opposing sides more than the same side. Paolo and Fabio met ten times between 2001 and 2010, with Paolo winning four times and three wins for Fabio.
Despite winning Serie A during his time with Juventus, the club were involved in a match-fixing scandal and were stripped of their title. As a result, Fabio Cannavaro was one of several players to depart following their relegation to Serie B.
Fabio also enjoyed huge international success at youth level, winning the UEFA European U21 Championships in 1994 and 1996.