“He was our number one target from the day sports director Predrag Mijatovic and coach Fabio Capello started planning the team,” Real president Ramon Calderon said at the player’s presentation in the Bernabeu.
Cannavaro was signed from Juventus along with Brazilian midfielder Emerson as the Italian club were forced to unload players following their relegation after the Serie A match-fixing scandal.
Spanish media reported the combined fee to be about 20 million.
“He is an example for all young players. He was a ballboy at the World Cup finals in Italy in
1990 and since then has had an extraordinary career,” Calderon said.
“He is the first signing of my presidency and is an authentic number one, a great leader.”
In this year’s World Cup, the former Napoli and Parma player produced a series of peerless displays at the heart of Italy’s superb defence, winning admiration for his reading of the game, anticipation, athleticism and ice-cool temperament.
He was also praised for keeping the players’ minds fixed on the tournament despite the distractions of the match-fixing scandal, and produced another top drawer performance when he won his 100th cap in the penalty shootout win over France in the final.
“I had good times with Juventus but when you are offered the chance to come to Real at almost 33 years of age it is a great opportunity,” said Cannavaro.
“I think it would have been difficult to move if Juve were still in Serie A. I didn’t think there was much chance of this happening and Juve also saw it as an opportunity for the club.”
Linking up with former Juve boss Capello helped persuade Cannavaro to join Madrid.
“The Capello factor is very important. We both know each other very well,” he said.
“My maximum objective now is to win the Champions League. This kind of target gives me the inspiration to keep training and fighting.”
Cannavaro is the latest in a long and expensive line of players bought by Real in attempt to replace centre back Fernando Hierro, who left in June 2003.
Since then they have spent around €70m bringing Walter Samuel, who has since been sold, Jonathan Woodgate and Sergio Ramos to the club.