No defender has been named the world’s best footballer since Fabio Cannavaro managed the feat in 2006, having led Italy to World Cup success in Germany.
Fifteen years on and with the conversation around this year’s Ballon d’Or starting to heat up, the former Juventus and Real Madrid defender has sat to speak exclusively with MARCA about this year’s award, Los Blancos, and a lot more as well.
What do you think of Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid?
He’s doing a great job in a transitional year.
There was a fear that some changes and losses would take their toll, but Carletto is perfect for Real Madrid, he knows how to manage a dressing room and players.
Do you see yourself on the Real Madrid bench someday? What would you do?
I have to work hard to get there, but it’s the dream of every coach to be at Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Juventus… big clubs like that.
Do Real Madrid need Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland more?
What they need the most now is time. A lot of big players have left in Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, and Zinedine Zidane too.
It’s hard to look for replacements, and it’s not only about signing Mbappe or Haaland but about building a team. Mbappe has more attention in the media, but both are top players.
What do you think of David Alaba’s signing?
He’s come from an offensive team like Bayern, where he defended high with a lot of demands. He’s used to it all.
He’s a great player, versatile, shoots well, leads. He’s a great signing because he’s a guarantee.
And what about Eder Militao?
He’s a great player in a team that is difficult for defenders.
You always have to cover a lot of ground at Real Madrid and that style demands strong, quick, and focused players.
What do you think of Vinicius Junior’s explosion? There were people who had given up on him.
When you get to a big club, one that plays every three days and whose fans have seen the best players in history, it’s normal that it takes its toll on you.
Not everyone is a freak like Ramos. Sometimes you need a bit of patience, and Vinicius is very talented.
Would you have liked to see Ramos finish his career in Madrid?
Yes, because he’s a captain. He’s a player for finals and he has made a huge difference in Champions League wins.
He has that Real Madrid mentality so his exit was a surprise. Honestly, I don’t like seeing him wearing another shirt.
And the Ballon d’Or? You won it, who would you give it to this year?
Messi has won Copa America and done very well, but Karim Benzema and Robert Lewandowski are candidates too.
I don’t see a clear favourite, but I think it’s between those three. In 2020, Lewandowski would have been the clear winner. But now it could be won by anyone.
Are you surprised to see Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo continue at the level they’re at?
They’re at the same table as Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Pele… Their numbers are out of this world.