Despite being a veteran of the game at the time, 33-years-old, and the most valuable player at the 2006 World Cup, where he lifted the trophy as captain of Italy, Fabio Cannavaro has recently admitted that he struggled to adapt to Real Madrid and life in Spain.
“At first, it wasn’t easy - I had three very difficult months there. In Spain, the kind of football they play is completely different, it’s more individual, not so much a collective team game,” Cannavaro told Sky Sports Italia in a recent interview.
The centre-back, who was immediately trusted as a starter and won the coveted 2006 Ballon d’Or award, was facing his first move away from his native country of Italy. “It was getting near Christmas time and I still had not found a place to live in, I was living in a hotel. I arranged to meet Fabio Capello [Real Madrid manager in 2006] and told him that I couldn’t take it any more, I asked him to rest me. He looked at me and said very clearly: ‘You don’t understand - I am not leaving you out of the team,’” Cannavaro explained.
“It was at Madrid that I started to understand Capello’s qualities, that was where I got to know the real Capello. We managed to win LaLiga clawing back a seven-point disadvantage against Barcelona,” he concluded.
In total, Cannavaro spent three seasons at Madrid winning two La Liga titles and one Spanish Super Cup. He was never able to replicate his dominating World-Cup level performances while at the club, but nonetheless is held in high regard by the Madrid faithful.