Fabio Cannavaro is widely lauded as one of the greatest defenders of his generation.
The former Parma, Juventus and Real Madrid man won multiple titles across a glittering domestic career, as well as the World Cup with Italy in 2006. He remains the last defender to win the Ballon d'Or, which he achieved following the latter success.
Yet few football fans know that he could easily have inspired AC Milan to success instead of the aforementioned clubs. As a youngster, Cannavaro had the chance to play for another Italian giant, only for them to reject him due to his relatively-short 5ft 9 stature.
"I will tell you something that you surely don’t know. At the start of my professional career, I didn’t move to AC Milan because of my stature," Cannavaro tells FourFourTwo in an exclusive chat. "Years later, the Rossoneri general manager, Ariedo Braida, came to me and said, 'Fabio, I have to admit that I didn’t think you would turn out to be such a great player – I thought you were too small for that. I have to apologise to you, as I didn’t finalise a move for you because of your height.'"
Cannavaro believes, despite Milan's former reservations, his height was of little disadvantage throughout his playing days, owing to other traits which made up for this size.
"I have always made the most of my characteristics to cope against taller strikers," he tells FFT. "I could anticipate what would happen next and jump in front of them; I was also explosive, so I could jump quite high. I was born in Naples, which is a city that forces you to adapt to things, and this is exactly what I did on the pitch: I adapted to reality."
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Ed is a staff writer at FourFourTwo, working across the magazine and website. A German speaker, he’s been working as a football reporter in Berlin since 2015, predominantly covering the Bundesliga and Germany's national team. Favourite FFT features include an exclusive interview with Jude Bellingham following the youngster’s move to Borussia Dortmund in 2020, a history of the Berlin Derby since the fall of the Wall and a celebration of Kevin Keegan’s playing career.