Fabio Cannavaro has been appointed head coach of Serie A strugglers Udinese on a contract until the end of the season.

The former Juventus and Real Madrid defender, who won the Ballon d’Or in 2006 after captaining Italy to World Cup glory, replaces Gabriele Cioffi.

Cioffi was sacked earlier on Monday, with Udinese above the relegation zone only on goal difference following Saturday’s 1-0 loss at relegation rivals Verona.

Cannavaro has six games to save the top-flight status of a club who have managed just four league wins all season.

The 50-year-old, who has previously managed in China and Saudi Arabia, plus Italian club Benevento, will be assisted by his younger brother Paolo Cannavaro.

“Udinese is pleased to welcome the world champion and 2006 Ballon d’Or winner who will lead the team until the end of the football season,” read a statement on Udinese’s website.

Fabio Cannavaro captained Italy to World Cup glory in 2006

“There is no need to recall the exploits on the field of one of the greatest players in the history of Italian football.

“Cannavaro is a young and prepared coach of international stature who has already had the opportunity to test his abilities, also abroad.

“The club has identified in his experience on the field and technique and in his undisputed leadership the suitable figure to lead the team to the goal of salvation.”