God bloody darnit!! (((((((
The Azzurri’s first day in Austria started in the worst possible way Monday: captain Fabio Cannavaro picked up a knock as he challenged the ball with teammate Giorgio Chiellini, and the late prognosis indicates what everyone had been fearing but dared not to think about: ligament damage to the left ankle, Cannavaro will have to go home. An operation might even be necessary for the Real Madrid center-back, but that’s something to be decided by the Merengues doctor.
In his place, Roberto Donadoni will most likely call up Fiorentina’s Alessandro Gamberini (reports seem to have that already confirmed) but at this point, there’s really no one that could have the same happy spirit, leadership, and defensive capabilities as Cannavaro. He was the symbol of our World Cup title in 2006, the link that kept the defensive chain together, and the unquestionable team leader of the Azzurri. This is a big fu**ing blow for Donadoni, not a single shred of doubt about that.
The question now obviously, is WHO? That is, WHO will replace our Berlin Wall, and partner up with Andrea Barzagli in the Azzurri defense?
Our options are four-fold:
1) Marco Materazzi
He didn’t have one of his best years with Inter, and his mediocre season culminated with the show he put on in the game vs. Siena (offside back save on Julio Cruz’s shot, then insisting on taking Cruz’s PK and missing it). Despite all that, Matrix remains the most likely vice-Cannavaro candidate, on account of his international experience and reliability with the Azzurri shirt. Let’s face it: aside from that 2006 red card vs. Australia, Materazzi’s record with Italy has been almost impeccable.
2) Giorgio Chiellini
For Juve’s return to Serie A, he formed with Nicola Legrottaglie one of the best defensive duos of the Italian league this year. 2007-08 was by far one of the best seasons in Chiellini’s career, and the fact that he performed so well in an unfamiliar role (Ranieri converted him from left to center-back) just adds more praise to Keyser Giorgio’s achievement. The only snag: very limited international experience (European cups included).
3) Christian Panucci
Right now, it seems that “Old Man River” is the most likely candidate for a right-back starting role. However, the great thing about Panucci is that the right-back can transform into a very reliable center-back as well (as he did many times with Roma this year). This would shift Zambrotta to the right and bring in Fabio Grosso on the left, and the advantage of this solution is the incredible amount of experience and reliabilty Panucci would bring to the center-back position.
4) Alessandro Gamberini
He’s had an excellent season with Fiorentina this year, but right now he undoubtedly is the least likely candidate for a starting role.
The second question Cannavaro’s absence brings up is… CAPTAINCY. Who will be the successor? Every clue points to Gigi Buffon, although other possibilities include Alessandro Del Piero (which at this point, becomes the Azzurri’s most capped player in Donadoni’s roster), Andrea Pirlo, or even Gennaro Gattuso.
Here’s what Gazzetta readers think: