The great Italian defender Fabio Cannavaro, who graced the pitch at the Barnabéu from 2006-2009--and helped los merengues win two Liga trophies (2006-07 and 2007-08)--has announced his retirement from professional soccer at the age of 37.
I loved watching Cannavaro play, and still hold firm in my belief that he was a huge reason Madrid's defense was so good during those few years: he may not have helped in aerial play, and he may not have been the fastest back to defend counter attacks, but he was by a huge margin the smartest defender I've ever seen. He may not have had the physical gifts of a Pepe or a Vidic for example, but man, it was like he was psychic: he knew where everyone was going to be, where they had to be, and what they were going to do when they got there.
I also remember very fondly in his first game for Madrid, under newly-hired Fabio Capello, the stands at the Casa Blanca, serenaded him with "Balón de Oro, Balón de Oro," and he smiled and waved, and then quickly nipped a counter-attack in the bud.
He was a consumate professional during his time at Madrid, mentoring young defenders like Pepe and Ramos, who, I think still need a veteran in the back with them--a role Mourinho has rightly given to Ricardo Carvalho.
While Cannavaro will not be remembered as a Real Madrid player--he'll be remembered for his incredible 2006 World Cup, where he captained Italy to the title without conceding a goal (other than one scored by their own player)--I still feel sad seeing him end his professional career. Arrivaderci, Fabio, and I hope to see your face around the Bernabéu in the future.