Fabio Cannavaro once hacked down Diego Maradona on the training ground – and was rewarded by the great man as a result...
Answering readers' questions in the latest issue of FourFourTwo, Cannavaro – who captained Italy to World Cup glory in 2006, winning that year's Ballon d'Or – recalled the incident from his time as a ballboy at Napoli, where he would make his professional debut in 1991.
"Diego was unique – simply exceptional," the former Real Madrid, Juventus and Inter Milan defender enthuses. "He was different and he was the number one. It was a privilege to be a ballboy during his time at Napoli. I had the honour of facing him in training, too, as I was in the under-19s. I was a lucky child.
"One day, I made a rude tackle on him and one of the club directors told me off. He [Diego] immediately replied that it was all good and that I should carry on playing my way. At the end of the session, I asked him for his boots and he gave them to me."
Quite the story to tell the grandkids... There's just one thing missing: the boots themselves.
"I don't have them anymore!" Cannavaro exclaims. "It was a pair of Puma Kings, which I wore down in adoration. Back then, having a pair of Puma Kings was a dream for any young player, and mine were given to me by Diego himself! I wish I still had them."
Still, if the success of Cannavaro's career is anything to go by, his little coming together with one of the most legendary players of all time served him well.
He could do with something to kick-start his managerial career in Europe, mind you: after a string of jobs in Asia – including as boss of the Chinese national team – the Azzurri lasted barely fourth months in charge of Serie B outfit Benevento last season.
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Tom Hancock started freelancing for FourFourTwo in April 2019 and has also written for The Analyst and When Saturday Comes, among others. He supports Wycombe Wanderers and has a soft spot for Wealdstone. A self-confessed statto, he has been known to watch football with a spreadsheet (or several) open...