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Amid Criticism, Defender Cannavaro is All Smiles with European Prize

  • Reuters, Wednesday, November 29, 2006 4:33 PM
Italy and Real Madrid defender Fabio Cannavaro said he's unconcerned by the criticism that's come his way since France Football awarded him with the Ballon d'Or, or the European Player of the Year award, given annually to Europe's top performer. Interestingly, most of the high-profile complaints came from Frenchman, including France coach Raymond Domenech, Olympique Lyonnais coach Gerard Houllier and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Italy beat France in the final 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw. "Houllier said it was madness; I respect his opinion, but the Ballon d'Or is now in my house," Cannavaro said. "It's not my problem, people seem to have a very short memory," he said of the criticism. "I won two titles at Juventus and at the World Cup everyone said that I was the best defender in the world, but now some people are saying they shouldn't have given the award to a defender." Former Italy and AC Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi was the only high-profile Italian professional to express his displeasure that the award wasn't given to another Italian. Only three defensive players have ever won the Ballon d'Or: Lev Yashin, a goalkeeper from the Soviet Union in 1963, Franz Beckenbauer, a sweeper from West Germany, in 1972 and 1976, and Matthias Sammer, another German, who was a versatile player used mainly as a sweeper when he won the award in 1996. Cannavaro, 33, is a center-back. He has also been short-listed alongside France's Zinedine Zidane and Brazil's Ronaldinho for FIFA's World Player of the Year award, which has never been given to a defender since its inception in 1991.

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