The eyes of Fabio Cannavaro, Il Bello, light up when he talks of his plans for the end of his soccer career: trophies with Real Madrid and then one year at Napoli so that he can say goodbye in his native Italy. Anything else? Yes, one impossible dream -- to have Diego Maradona as manager at San Paolo.
At 33, the captain of Italy's national team knows he is getting closer to the end of his life as a professional soccer player. That is why he allows himself the luxury of dreaming and that is why he says with determination that he does not want to hang up his boots in the Spanish capital.
"I'd rather go back to the calcio. And go back to Napoli -- that's my city, my team. That is what I hope, it is the team closest to my heart, the team of my youth," the Real Madrid defender said in an interview.
"That's a good idea, isn't it? Not bad at all?," he insisted, almost as if he needed to convince himself that it is still possible.
And it is, although for everything to fit perfectly Napoli would have to leave Serie B and get back up to the highest echelon of Italian soccer. Aurelio de Laurentis, Napoli's president, already hinted in late October that he wants to have Cannavaro in the squad when the team gets back to Serie A.
Although the defender has not ruled out the possibility of leaving for Napoli at the end of two of the three years that he has signed with Real Madrid, everything will depend on the Italian club's success.
Cannavaro was a ball boy at San Paolo, and his childhood was marked by the two scudetti that the team obtained with the help of Argentine Maradona.
That is why his eyes open wide, almost in ecstasy, at the idea of Napoli in Serie A, with Cannavaro in defense and Maradona as manager.
The Argentine praised the central defender during the recent World Cup in Germany, when he said Cannavaro was the best player in the tournament earlier this year, and both men occasionally talk on the phone.
"For me Diego is like a god. I was lucky enough to see him as a child, to see him win two scudetti at Napoli. To me he is always the number one. Everytime I see him my heart starts beating harder," said Cannavaro, as he gladly returned the compliment.
The defender stressed that Italy played at a "normal" level in the World Cup, with the exception of the vibrant semi-final in which the azzurri beat the hosts in Dortmund.
"We played well only one game, the semi-final. That one, sure. The rest was normal, but we won the World Cup. Now they say we played badly, and that is not true. We played well, but not like Brazil," Cannavaro admitted.
He admitted that he was a bit upset at not being awarded the prize for the best player in the World Cup, which went to French captain Zinedine Zidane despite his controversial headbutt on Marco Materazzi in the final.
"To reward the best player before the final is strange. But I won the World Cup -- that's better," he claimed.
Cannavaro smiled at the question of how he can possibly have played at Juventus without being aware of any of the obscure maneuvers of its director general Luciano Moggi, which led the historic Italian club to be relegated to Serie B on charges of match-rigging.
"It is just that we were such a strong team that we won anyway, with or without Moggi. We were a very strong team," he claimed.