Why are Everton considering Fabio Cannavaro to replace Rafa Benitez?
Fabio Cannavaro was certainly a magnificent footballer, an uncompromising centre-half who memorable captained Italy at the World Cup in 2006 and won the Ballon d’Or the same year.
But beyond the appreciation and nostalgia for Cannavaro the player, there seems to be no logical reason why Everton would want to interview the Italian for his vacant managerial post.
Yet, apparently the Toffees interviewed him as they cast the net wide to find a replacement for the sacked Rafael Benitez.
Fabio Cannavaro, formerly of Al-Ahly, Al-Nassr and Guangzhou Evergrande (pictured) would be considered for Everton manager’s vacant post
Former Real Madrid and Juventus defender Cannavaro also captained Italy for the 2006 World Cup
The Toffees are looking for a new manager after Benitez (above) was sacked this month
Everton are 16th and look over their shoulder as they sit six points above the bottom three
Cannavaro, 48, is believed to be 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 appearances for his country.
His coaching CV is not so enviable. Al-Ahli, Guangzhou Evergrande, Al-Nassr, Tianjin Quanjian and, very briefly, the Chinese national side.
It must not be derogatory to these clubs and the leagues of China, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, but if Cannavaro is a manager worthy of facing a Premier League club, then surely for almost a decade in the canoe, he might have earned himself a job in Europe, not to mention England?
Why has Cannavaro failed in his native Italy, for example, where coaches come and go with regularity? Why didn’t any club owner want to attack a national hero?
Cannavaro’s last managerial 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 situation. 16th in the Premier League and just six points above the relegation zone after a run of just one win from 13 league games.
Cannavaro, someone who has no experience with the intense pressures of a Premier League relegation battle or indeed any relegation battle anywhere as a manager, is he really capable of coping?
No wonder Everton’s fan base was left puzzled. But nothing surprises their owner Farhad Moshiri anymore.
Many have pointed out that Cannavaro’s agent is Kia Joorabchian, which seems enough to catch Moshiri’s ear these days.
But bringing in Cannavaro would be such a huge gamble given Everton’s situation. No club is too big to fall – 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 was successful in his first leadership assignments.
Everton fans have been quite baffled that the club consider Cannavaro as their manager
FABIO CANNAVARO COACHING CV
Al-Ahli (assistant) 2013-14
Guangzhou Evergrande 2014-15
Al Nasr 2015-16
Tianjin Quanjian 2016-17
Guangzhou Evergrande 2017-2021
China 2019 (March-April)
At Al-Ahli in Dubai, as an assistant to Cosmin Olaroiu, he helped them achieve a UAE Pro League and UAE League Cup double in 2013-14.
Cannavaro helped Tianjin win the Chinese Super League in 2016 and won that competition with Guangzhou Evergrande, who dominated at the time with eight titles in nine seasons from 2011.
Maybe that counts for something at Everton, where they haven’t won anything since 1995, but those achievements hardly compare with the Premier League and FA Cup.
A cynic would say Cannavaro’s resume is just a case of money tracking. In 2018, it was revealed that the Guangzhou boss was on a salary of £10.6million, making him the fourth highest-paid manager in world football at the time behind Marcelo Lippi (China), Pep Guardiola ( Man City) and Jose Mourinho (Man United).
Let’s remember this was a time when it looked like the Chinese Super League was buying its way to world domination.
Players there were tempted by exorbitant wages, with former Chelsea player Oscar on almost £19m a year and DR Congo striker Cedric Bakambu – formerly of Sochaux, Bursaspor and Villarreal – on a huge £17.7m a year.
This all came to an end when the Chinese Football Association imposed a drastic salary cap of £2.7million a year in 2020 and the league’s reputation has since deteriorated.
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 quitting his job in Guangzhou in September last year
A view of China
Zhao Xiaoou, a Chinese football expert who leads Far East Football, said of Cannavaro: “The first time at Evergrande, everyone’s expectations were really high, thinking he was Lippi’s protege and natural successor.
“It didn’t work out, but you can blame the injury issues and praise his audacity to use young players in really big games.”
“His stay at Quanjian is a bit of a success. He got them into the Champions League and beat Evergrande in revenge, leading to the second spell with them.
“Critics would say it’s hard not to succeed with the amount of money spent at Quanjian.
“Cannavaro’s second stint at Evergrande is more difficult to assess. The main criticism was always his tactics and sideline adjustments in the game which are not up to par.
“And a lack of silverware at Evergrande equals failure, even though a lot of people think he’s just the scapegoat.”
Cannavaro has become all too aware of what happens when you fail to meet expectations in China.
In 2019, he was sacked as manager of Guangzhou and forced to attend a “corporate culture study course” because he was not strict enough with his players.
Club president Xu Jiayin was not happy that Cannavaro had not embraced Evergrande’s corporate philosophy of “doing your best or not doing it at all” and raising the ” combat abilities” of the players.
Like a child forced to do his homework in detention, Cannavaro had to submit a self-reflection report to the company’s investors before being reinstated in his job. They won the league title, so the punishment had some effect.
But perhaps there is a soft side to Cannavaro’s persona that puts off Italian club owners, who seek discipline and high performance from their players.
Everton need a boosting presence after a run of just one win from 13 league games
Premier League unless otherwise stated
Saturday Villa Aston (M)
February 5 Brentford (M)
FA Cup fourth round
February 8 Newcastle United (A)
12 February Leeds United (H)
February 19 Southampton (A)
February 26 Manchester City (H)
Likewise, it doesn’t bode well for shaking Everton’s underachieving set of players.
Other messages proved to be short-lived. His first spell at Guangzhou in 2014 only lasted eight months before they suddenly replaced him with Luiz Felipe Scolari.
He only lasted five months at Saudi club Al-Nassr and when he was named China manager in conjunction with his club job in Guangzhou in 2019, Cannavaro lost both games in charge and resigned. .
But Cannavaro is to be commended for taking the road less traveled early in his managerial career.
There might have been enormous riches at the end of said road, but he might as well have taken a job in Italy’s lower leagues and progressed, comfortably with the language and culture.
Cannavaro has always spoken of his desire to one day manage the Premier League. ‘I hope. I watch every Premier League game and I love the atmosphere and the football culture 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) became suitors to replace Rafa Benitez.
Former Bayern Munich and Monaco manager Niko Kovac is another on Everton’s shortlist
This chance could arrive very soon. The last few years at Everton have taught fans to expect the unexpected.
But Cannavaro would have plenty to convince in the white heat of a Premier League relegation battle.