2006 World Cup winning captain of Italy Fabio Cannavaro at the Cruise restaurant in The Rocks, Sydney in 2013. Photo: Kate Geraghty KLGGuangzhou Evergrande coach Fabio Cannavaro appeared more like a man who was about to take a long holiday than a man who had recently been sentenced to 10 months in an Italian prison as he put on a charismatic performance in front of the cameras during the pre-match press conference for his match against Western Sydney Wanderers.
The 2006 World Cup-winning captain was sentenced by an Italian court last week over charges related to tax evasion and had many of his possessions seized by Italian police. Cannavaro was jailed for breaching orders preventing him from entering a property seized by the government after being allegedly caught swimming with his wife in that house near Naples.
The sentence remains suspended pending the outcome of his appeal, but there was not even the slightest hint of discomfort from Cannavaro as he faced reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.
He nodded sarcastically and pretended to eavesdrop when Guangzhou captain Zheng Zhi spoke in Chinese, joked in English before switching back to Italian as quickly as mood changed between jovial and purposeful. If there was anything the former Juventus, Real Madrid and Parma man seemed to take very seriously it was his preparation for a match against the club at the foot of the A-League.
Western Sydney Wanderers renew their rivalry with Guangzhou Evergrande on Wednesday night in their Asian Champions League group stage which will be Cannavaro’s second game as a head coach. Despite all the off-field troubles of Cannavaro, he’s taken plenty of time in researching his opponent and is wary the Asian Champions have improved despite results not showing so.
“A lot. I spoke a lot with [Former Guangzhou Evergrande coach] Mr Marcello Lippi about this team,” Cannavaro said. “At the same time I watch a lot of matches this year and I know in their home league they’re not doing very good but compared to last year this team is playing much better as a team this year. We have to pay attention to this team.”
The match is part of the the former World Player of the Year’s transformation to a coach and when asked whether his sideline behaviour would be as temperamental as his predecessor, he smiled and says it’s not part of the style of coaching he wants to adopt from Lippi.
“I think that what happened last year is quite rare because we know Marcello Lippi quite well. We know he’s a very strong coach and a very important coach and we all like his style. What happened last year is very rare because we’re not used to watching Marcello Lippi going inside the pitch … Of course I wish to achieve the same results as Marcello Lippi did in his career.”
The first meeting of these two sides, in the quarter-final of last year’s Asian Champions League, was marred by red cards, on-field intrusions and allegations of Lippi attempting to fight former Wanderers midfielder Vitor Saba. Sentiments turned even more nasty in the return leg with the Wanderers’ accusations of foul tactics by fans and the club but, under new management, Cannavaro says that anger is left in the past.
“We know very well what happened last year, I saw the match but we’re going to forget that,” he said. “For sure the players have to come here and not think about revenge, fights and get some yellow cards and some red cards. We came here to win and play good football.”
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