Fabio Cannavaro was certainly a magnificent footballer, an uncompromising centre-half who memorably captained Italy to the World Cup in 2006 and won the Ballon d’Or that same year.
But beyond appreciation and nostalgia for Cannavaro the player, there seems to be no logical reason why Everton would wish to interview the Italian for their vacant manager position.
Yet apparently the Toffees have interviewed him as they cast the net far and wide to find a replacement for the sacked Rafael Benitez.
Fabio Cannavaro, formerly of Al-Ahly, Al-Nassr and Guangzhou Evergrande (pictured) is reportedly being considered for the vacant Everton manager’s job
Ex-Real Madrid and Juventus defender Cannavaro also captained Italy to the 2006 World Cup
The Toffees are looking for a new manager after Benitez’s (above) sacking this month
Everton are 16th and looking over their shoulder as they sit six points above the bottom three
Cannavaro, 48, is reportedly on the shortlist along with Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Niko Kovac to take over at Goodison Park, with Roberto Martinez looking an increasingly unlikely option.
Cannavaro’s playing CV includes stints with Napoli, Parma, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid as well as an astonishing 136 matches for his country.
His coaching résumé isn’t quite as enviable. Al-Ahli, Guangzhou Evergrande, Al-Nassr, Tianjin Quanjian and, very briefly, the China national side.
That isn’t to be disparaging to those clubs and the leagues of China, the UAE and Saudi Arabia but if Cannavaro is a coach worthy of taking on a Premier League club then surely during almost a decade in the dug-out, he might have earned himself a job in Europe, let alone England?
Why has Cannavaro not managed in his native Italy, for example, where coaches come and go with regularity? Why has no club owner wanted to take a punt on a national hero?
Cannavaro’s last manager role was a four-year stint at Guangzhou Evergrande where he won the Chinese Super League in 2019
Guangzhou Evergrande clinched an eighth Chinese Super League title in nine seasons
And that’s before you consider Everton’s dire state of affairs. 16th in the Premier League and just six points above the relegation zone after a run of just one win in 13 league matches.
Is Cannavaro, someone with no experience of the intense pressures of a Premier League relegation battle or indeed any relegation battle anywhere as a coach, really able to cope?
Little wonder the Everton fanbase has been left baffled. But then nothing their owner Farhad Moshiri does really surprised anymore.
Plenty have pointed out that Cannavaro’s agent is Kia Joorabchian, which seems enough to get Moshiri’s ear these days.
But bringing in Cannavaro would represent such an enormous gamble given Everton’s circumstances. No club is too big to go down – just ask Newcastle, Leeds or Aston Villa – and Benitez’s disastrous spell has left the ‘R’ word on the lips of Everton fans.
To his credit, Cannavaro has been successful in his first few managerial assignments.
Everton fans have been left pretty baffled that the club would consider Cannavaro as manager
FABIO CANNAVARO COACHING CV
Al-Ahli (assistant) 2013-14
Guangzhou Evergrande 2014-15
Tianjin Quanjian 2016-17
Guangzhou Evergrande 2017-2021
China 2019 (March-April)
At Al-Ahli in Dubai, as assistant to Cosmin Olaroiu, he helped them to a double of UAE Pro League and UAE League Cup in 2013-14.
Cannavaro helped Tianjin win promotion to the Chinese Super League in 2016 and won that competition with Guangzhou Evergrande, who dominated at the time with eight title wins in nine seasons from 2011.
Perhaps that counts for something at Everton, where they haven’t won anything since 1995, but those achievements hardly stand comparison with the Premier League and FA Cup.
A cynic would say that Cannavaro’s CV is just a case of following the money. In 2018, it was revealed that the Guangzhou boss was on a salary of £10.6million, making him the fourth best-paid manager in world football at the time behind Marcelo Lippi (China), Pep Guardiola (Man City) and Jose Mourinho (Man United).
Let’s remember that was a time when it looked like the Chinese Super League was buying its way to world domination.
Players were being tempted there by eye-watering salaries, with ex-Chelsea player Oscar on almost £19m-a-year and the DR Congo forward Cedric Bakambu – formerly of Sochaux, Bursaspor and Villarreal – on a whopping £17.7m-a-year.
That all ended when China’s football association imposed a drastic salary cap of £2.7m-a-year in 2020 and the league’s reputation has since withered.
Everton chairman Farhad Moshiri is overseeing the appointment of the new manager, with Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Niko Kovac also in the frame
Cannavaro has been available since leaving the Guangzhou job in September of last year
A view from China
Zhao Xiaoou, a Chinese football expert who runs Wild East Football, said of Cannavaro: ‘First time round at Evergrande, everyone’s expectations were really high, believing he was the protege and natural successor to Lippi.
‘It didn’t pan out but you can blame injury problems and praise his audacity to use young players in really big games.
‘His time at Quanjian is somewhat a success. He got them into the Champions League and beat Evergrande to exact some revenge, leading to the second spell with them.
‘Critics would say it is hard not to be successful with the amount of money that was spent at Quanjian.
‘Cannavaro’s second spell at Evergrande is harder to assess. The main criticism was still his tactics and touchline adjustments in game that are not up to scratch.
‘And a lack of silverware at Evergrande equals failure though a lot of people believe he’s just the fall guy.’
Cannavaro became all-too-aware of what happens when you fall short of expectations in China.
In 2019, he was stood down as Guangzhou manager and forced at attend an ‘enterprise culture studies class’ because he wasn’t strict enough with his players.
Club chairman Xu Jiayin wasn’t happy that Cannavaro had not adopted the Evergrande company philosophy of ‘do it best or don’t do it at all’ and hadn’t raised the players’ ‘combat capabilities.’
Like a child made to do their homework in detention, Cannavaro had to submit a report of self-reflection to company investors before being reinstated in his job. They went on to win the league title, so the punishment had some effect.
But maybe there’s a soft aspect to Cannavaro’s character that puts off Italian club owners, who seek discipline and high performance from their players.
Everton need a galvanising presence after a run of just one win in 13 league matches
Premier League unless stated
Saturday Aston Villa (H)
February 5 Brentford (H)
FA Cup fourth round
February 8 Newcastle United (A)
February 12 Leeds United (H)
February 19 Southampton (A)
February 26 Manchester City (H)
Equally, it wouldn’t bode well for shaking up the under-performing set of players at Everton.
Other posts have proved short-lived. His first spell with Guangzhou in 2014 lasted only eight months before they suddenly replaced him with Luiz Felipe Scolari.
He lasted only five months at the Saudi club Al-Nassr and when appointed China manager in conjunction with his club work at Guangzhou in 2019, Cannavaro lost both games in charge and stood down.
But Cannavaro should be praised for taking the road less travelled at the beginning of his managerial career.
There may have been enormous riches at the end of said road but he could just as easily have taken a job in the Italian lower leagues and worked his way up, in full comfort with the language and culture.
Cannavaro has always spoken of his desire to manage in the Premier League one day. ‘I hope so. I watch every game in the Premier League and I like the ambience and culture of football in England,’ he said in 2020.
Wayne Rooney (left) is open to a shock return to Everton after he and former England team-mate Frank Lampard (right) emerged as contenders to replace Rafa Benitez
Former Bayern Munich and Monaco coach Niko Kovac is another on the Everton shortlist
That chance may come very soon. The past few years at Everton have taught fans to expect the unexpected.
But Cannavaro would have a whole lot of convincing to do amid the white heat of a Premier League relegation battle.