Fabio Cannavaro reveals how Diego Maradona REWARDED him for bad tackle

Fabio Cannavaro during a television broadcast
(Image credit: Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images)

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.

Read more 

Quiz! Can you name the top 50 Champions League all-time scorers

Private jets and press conferences: Why Hristo Stoichkov at Parma was doomed to fail in the 1990s

‘Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini conceded just 23 goals together as a centre-back pairing’: debunking one of the biggest myths in football history

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

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...