Fabio Cannavaro, the captain of Italy's World Cup champion team, has reportedly been selected the winner of the 2006 Golden Ball trophy as Europe's top player. The Real Madrid defender will receive France Football magazine's prestigious award in Paris on November 27, Spanish and Italian newspapers said on Friday.
Leading Spanish sports daily Marca said France Football's editor visited Cannavaro in Spain after reports began circulating Thursday that he had won.
"Of course I would like to win it," Cannavaro, 33, said earlier this week. "It would be wonderful and very gratifying on a personal level."
Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto'o and 2005 winner Ronaldinho are among the 50 nominees for the award, which is decided by the magazine's annual poll of 52 journalists from around the world. "Cannavaro, it's all true," Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport said. "Golden Ball to Cannavaro," said Milan daily Corriere della Sera.
Cannavaro made his 100th international appearance in the World Cup final against France, which Italy won on penalty kicks. He joined Real Madrid in July from Juventus after the club was demoted to Serie B in the Italian match-fixing scandal.
Cannavaro would be the fourth Italian to win the award after Gianni Rivera (1969), Paolo Rossi (1982) and Roberto Baggio (1993). "If Cannavaro has really won it, it would be absolutely deserved," Rossi was quoted as saying by Gazzetta. Cannavaro is one of seven nominated players from the Italian team that captured its fourth World Cup title in July. Others included goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and midfielder Andrea Pirlo. "I would have chosen Buffon but if it is true that Fabio is to win it, I'm happy anyway," Rivera told Gazzetta. Former France captain Zinedine Zidane is also on the shortlist, despite being sent off in the final for headbutting Marco Materazzi in the chest.
"I'm really happy for Fabio," Materazzi told the Apcom news agency on Friday. "I feel part of this distinction because I think that all the Azzurri helped a great champion like Cannavaro win an important prize."