• Our Opinion

Fabio Cannavaro was deathly afraid of Ronaldo

Getty Images

One of the few defenders who won the Ballon d’Or, Italian Fabio Cannavaro, opened up about how much he fared Brazilian Ronaldo as a player.

We keep talking about Brazilian legend Ronaldo as perhaps the best striker in football history, but we know we have a lot of young readers who don’t really believe what we say because you didn’t have a chance to see him, maybe this confession from Italian legend Fabio Cannavaro will convince you otherwise. The former Juventus and Real Madrid player spoke to The Players Tribune during a long interview, in which he gave Brazilian Ronaldo one of the biggest compliments he’s probably ever gotten throughout his career and life as a retired footballer. Fabio started in Serie A playing for SSC Napoli at the early age of 19, but it was during his time at the second club he represented when he knew what fear as a defender really was. He arrived in Parma during the summer of 1995, without knowing that only a couple of years later he would play against the greatest center-forward this beautiful sport has ever seen. Brazilian Ronaldo came to Italy and flipped Cantenaccio on its head, nobody could believe what they witnessed.

But instead of shying away from the challenge, a young Fabio Cannavaro took this new opponent as a perfect learning opportunity. However, despite facing him a large number of times he never really overcame the fear that produced him facing the most unplayable forward in world football at the time. This sentiment was something that became a constant during the late nineties, Ronaldo completely destroyed the livelihood of pretty much all defenders in Italian football. But Cannavaro was one of the few defenders who learned to live with that fear, this helped him to later become one of the best defensive players in football history, and also one of the best players of the 2006 World Cup which he won with Italy. His display against Germany in the semifinals was arguably one of the single most impressive performances from a defender in football history on a single match. There was no getting past Cannavaro in that game, he likes to think that playing against Ronaldo was very influential in his success later throughout his career.

“Ronaldo was the only player who really stirred fear in me. The first time I played against him was during a friendly match between Brazil and Italy, it was in France right before the 1998 World Cup. Just walking on the same pitch as he did was terrifying for me. He was strong and quick. He was truly incredible. Every single time I played against him there was the utmost respect for each other. When you play with a striker of his stature there no use for insults to get into his head, that would never work. The best way to respect a player like Ronaldo is to train hard every day, with the utmost intensity. That way when I stepped on the pitch I knew I had dedicated as much time as possible to stop him. I don’t think that the fear I felt for him ever really left my body. But after that fear followed a lot of respect for him. I actually learned how to overcome fear inside a football pitch, thanks to Ronaldo,” wrote Cannavaro on The Players’ Tribune.


Both legends later shared only a year at the same club, Ronaldo’s last year at Real Madrid and they formed a close friendship ever since. But it’s quite staggering to read from the Italian defender’s own words what a beast Ronaldo really was, it really is a shame that many of your younger readers never had the chance to live in that era when Ronaldo ‘O Fenomeno’ laid waste in football fields throughout Europe. There are countless other stories about him that we will gladly share with you as time goes by, this player’s whole football story has so many angles to tackle that we are excited just thinking about all the things we can talk about here, in a website that pays tribute to the name he shares with another two monsters of football. But there is very little debate on who the better Ronaldo was, because you know that there is nothing like the original when you have to take your pick. So do yourself a favor and type “Ronaldo Inter” on Youtube, so you can see what we mean when we say he was the best.


What do you think about this beautiful tribute that Fabio Cannavaro did to Ronaldo Nazario? Please share your opinion in the comment section down below.