Paolo Cannavaro

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Cannavaro to retire and join brother Fabio in China

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SASSUOLO, Italy (AP) Paolo Cannavaro will quit soccer after this weekend and join his brother on the technical staff at Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande.

[ MORE: Alexis Sanchez brace guides Arsenal past Crystal Palace ]

Cannavaro announced on Thursday that Sassuolo’s Serie A match at Roma will be his last.

He says, “A new year, a new life … it will be an odd feeling. I won’t miss the field because it’s a decision I’ve made, but I will miss being around my teammates.”

Cannavaro progressed through the youth team at Napoli and in 1999 joined his older brother Fabio at Parma, where he spent six years. The defender then spent a season at Hellas Verona before rejoining Napoli and making more than 200 appearances in eight years at his hometown club.

Cannavaro moved to Sassuolo in 2014.

Fabio Cannavaro, who won the World Cup with Italy as a player in 2006, was announced as Guangzhou Evergrande coach last month.

Paolo Cannavaro, the younger brother at 36, says his job “will be that of assisting Fabio 360 degrees as technical collaborator. I can coach the reserves, those who play a bit less during the season.”

He adds: “Chinese will be difficult to learn, we’ll settle for English.”

Rout to second-straight title clearing for Juventus

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Juventus may be resorting to their old, uncertain tricks, but with their competition falling by the wayside in Italy, piddling concerns about middling form are quickly becoming irrelevant.

On Friday, Juve gave up the first goal at Cagliari and proceded to trail for 59 minutes, during which time David Astori picked up a second yellow for the hosts. It was only after the Old Lady held a man advantage that they equalized, the much-maligned Alessandro Matri pulling Italy’s leaders even on 75 minutes. Matri and Mirko Vucinic added stoppage time goals to salvage another turn back the clock (to last season) win for Antonio Conte. It’s not pretty, and the performances are starting to bely the record, but when the final whistle blows, Juventus is almost always on top.

As questionable as it’s becoming, Juventus’s underlying quality is becoming increasingly inconsequential. On one level, they’re still getting results, their Friday victory temporarily moving them 10 points clear of second in Italy. On another, nobody’s going anything to close that gap. This race may be as dead as Germany’s, where Bayern Munich took a nine-point lead on Bayer Leverkusen into the Bundesliga’s winter break.

Earlier this week, Napoli — one of two perceived title threats — were docked two points and had their captain (Paolo Cannavaro) suspended for six months after yet another instance of Italian match fixing. A former Partenopei goalkeeper had confessed to trying to manipulate a match, Cannavaro was one of two players cited for failing to report the affair, and as a result Napoli’s season has been derailed. After Juve’s win, Napoli sit 13 points back, left to scratch their way back without one of their best defenders.

Juve’s other potential challenger, Inter Milan, did their part to clear the way on Saturday against Genoa. Despite Nerazzurri control, former Bianconeri prospect Ciro Immobile put the Genovesi up 1-0 in the 77th minute. Esteban Cambiasso equalized for the hosts eight minutes later, but Andrea Stramaccioni’s side had left it too late to get full points. The 1-1 result leaves them nine back of Juventus after a week that’s taken most of the stream out of Italy’s title race.

But we do this every year. There are always leagues where teams take huge leads, and in many of them — be it from complacency, regression, or balance — the leads don’t hold up. Just last year, a big Real Madrid lead in Spain crumbled before Los Merengues finally put Barcelona away, beating them at the Nou Camp in late April. In England, Manchester United completed the biggest collapse in Premier League history by coughing up their lead to Manchester City.

While you’re sure to read “done and dusted” in other posts on this side (most likely from this author), in my more level-headed mood, I’ll simply note the path to a second-straight title has become very, very clear for Juventus.