Italian National Soccer: The Curious Case of Cannavaro

John WhiteContributor IIApril 1, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 13:  Paolo Cannavaro runsj with his team-mates during a Napoli training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League round of sixteen second leg match between Chelsea FC and Napoli, at Stamford Bridge on March 13, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Paolo Cannavaro, who currently captains Napoli, has been a major part of the Napoli team since returning to his hometown club in 2006. The Napoli youth product joined the club and helped them earn promotion to Serie A in his first season with the club. He has since been a major part of the team, competing with the likes of Juventus, Inter and Milan.

Some know him only because of his last name. His older brother is Fabio Cannavaro, who captained Italy to its fourth World Cup title in 2006 and won the FIFA World Player of the Year, largely in part to his efforts with the national team.

Paolo fallowed in his older brother's footsteps at the start of his career. The duo started as ball boys for their local side, Napoli, before moving their way through the youth team and into the senior squad.

Paolo followed his brother to Parma, and it is here where their two careers would change drastically. Fabio would go on to play for Inter, Juventus and Real Madrid, winning league titles, the World Cup and the World Player of the Year award. Paolo, on the other hand, would eventually return to Napoli, where he currently remains.

He has become a major contributor defensively for the team, helping them to not only qualify for Champions League soccer, but also make it out of the group stages despite being drawn into a group with the likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Villareal. Despite his strong performances over the last few years, he has yet to get the recognition he truly deserves.  He has been one of the best defenders these last few years, not only amongst Italians, but in all of Serie A.  

He has yet to be featured in the national side under current coach Cesare Prandelli, nor was he called up under former coach Marcello Lippi. The only senior national cap he has to date came in October of 2007 under former Napoli coach Roberto Donadoni. It was a friendly game against South Africa in which he was called up to replace his brother Fabio, who was suspended.

Paolo will be turning 31 in June. The upcoming Euro and World Cup will likely be the last chance he has to play in a major tournament for the national team. As one of the older players on a young team, he would provide leadership and experience. He could be a great option of the bench, and given the chance, he may even be able to form a solid partnership with Giorgio Chiellini, who will certainly be in the starting lineup come this summer.  

He has continually expressed his desire to suit up for the Azzurri. With the Euros coming up shortly, Prandelli will have to make a decision on whether Paolo is part of his plans heading forward.