Lorik Agim Cana (Albanian pronunciation: [ˈlɔɾik ˈtsana]; born 27 July 1983) is an Albanian former professional footballer. He is former Albania national football team representer and captained it from 2011 until his retirement in 2016 at the age of 32 after he participated in the first historical competition for Albania UEFA Euro 2016. Cana is also Albania's most capped player of all time, with 93 caps since his debut in 2002. He used to play primarily as a defensive midfielder.
Cana was born in Kosovo to Agim Cana, a former football player of KF Prishtina. Cana watched every Prishtina match since he was five years old and describes himself as an avid Prishtina fan. Cana's father's experience in football inspired him to take up the sport.
In 1997, Cana joined the local team Dardania Lausanne, an amateur football club founded by the Albanian community in Lausanne, coached by his father. He played at Dardania until 2000, when he was spotted and signed by French club Paris Saint-Germain.
Cana had previously been invited to Arsenal at the age of 16 for trial, but failed to attend because he was denied a British visa. At Paris Saint-Germain, he spent three years working through the ranks of the French club. Cana finally made the first team in 2003 and quickly became a main player. During the 2003–04 season, he played in 32 games and scored one goal as the team won the Coupe de France and finished second in the Ligue 1, proving to be one of the most successful seasons of his career so far. This was repeated the next season, when he also played 32 games for the Paris team and scored one goal. In his senior debut for PSG, he was awarded man of the match.
At the beginning of the 2005–06 season, however, there was a change of coach at Paris Saint-Germain and Cana fell out of favour. This prompted him to move to the south of France to join Marseille. After joining OM, he cemented his place in the starting XI and scored the winning goal in the first match between his new club and his former club, PSG. He also became team captain after the departure of the former captain Habib Beye to Newcastle United during the summer of 2007.
Cana left the club for English Premier League side Sunderland in August 2009. However, during his four years in Southern France, he failed to win a single trophy. He was described as a very aggressive defender during that time and nowadays he mentions that Marseille was his favourite team of all time and he would go back if they gave him an offer.
Cana joined Sunderland on a four-year contract for a fee of around £5 million on 24 July 2009. He was soon handed the team's captaincy by manager Steve Bruce, although Bruce later stated a captain had yet to be appointed. On 15 August, Cana made his league debut for Sunderland and contributed with an impressive performance in a 1–0 win over Bolton Wanderers, becoming the first Albanian player to play in the Premier League. He was appointed as Sunderland's captain for the 2009–10 season on 3 September.
Cana joined Galatasaray on 8 July 2010 for a €4.5 million transfer fee. He signed a four-year contract worth €2 million per season, plus bonuses based on appearances. His stay at the club was hampered by a back injury during mid-season. Because they were going through a crisis throughout the whole season, Cana failed to make much of an impact, though he was still a favourite of the supporters because of his resilience on the pitch.
On 3 July 2011, Cana signed for Italian Serie A club Lazio, becoming the club's fifth signing of the summer, following the arrivals of Miroslav Klose, Djibril Cissé, Senad Lulić and Abdoulay Konko. He was purchased as an exchange for 50% registration rights of goalkeeper Fernando Muslera going to Galatasaray, which Lazio both tagged them for a peppercorn fee in the financial accounts. Galatasaray paid an additional €6.75 million to Montevideo Wanderers to acquire another 50% registration rights of Muslera, made 50% rights of Muslera that Lazio sold and the full rights of Cana that Lazio acquired also worth around €6.75 million at that time.
Cana made his first debut for Lazio on 21 September in a 1–2 away victory over Cesena, coming on as a substitute in the 87th minute in place of Cristian Brocchi. He scored his first goal for Lazio on 10 December 2011 against Lecce in a 3–2 win after coming on as a substitute for Giuseppe Biava in the start of the second-half. After sustaining many niggling injuries throughout the season, on 31 January 2012, Lazio confirmed that Cana would miss six weeks due to a back injury sustained in training. After returning from injury, Cana started to quickly recover his form. With Lazio's players constantly being haunted with injuries and suspensions, Cana took his chance in the midfield. This resulted in his best performance in the 2011–12 season, where he scored a 25-yard goal on 6 May 2012 against Atalanta, thus keeping Lazio's UEFA Champions League hopes alive. He finished his first season at Lazio with 15 Serie A appearances as Lazio finished in fourth place.
Cana began another season at Lazio with the opening match of the 2012–13 Serie A against Atalanta on 26 August 2012, finished in the 0–1 victory, in which Cana came in as a substitute in the 84th minute for Álvaro González. He played his first match of the season as a starter on 31 October 2012 against Torino, a match that finished in the 1–1 draw and which Cana played the full 90 minutes of. On 23 February 2013, Cana was included in the UEFA best eleven of the week for 2012–13 UEFA Europa League round of 16 as he was rated as one of Center-back which had a good performance, where he played a good match in the 2–0 victory against Borussia Mönchengladbach. Then during the entire second half of that season, he played all matches as a starter. He finished the 2012–13 season with a total of 24 league appearances, managed to play in five Coppa Italia matches and also nine matches in the UEFA Europa League.
In the 2013–14 Serie A season, on 24 November 2013, Cana scored his first domestic goal, which saved the team from losing against Sampdoria; he scored in the 90+4th minute to ensure a 1–1 draw. He scored his second goal on 2 March 2014 against Fiorentina in the fifth minute of the match, which finished with a 0–1 Lazio victory. With a spectacular bicycle kick, he scored the only goal in a crucial match and to give Lazio the three points, right after elimination from the 2013–14 UEFA Europa League. The hero of the match unquestionably Cana, not only scored but also defended his score by making truly spectacular intervention in defense. Also with this win, Lazio managed to get back in the fight for a place in the Europa League.
Cana finished the 2013–14 season with 26 appearances in Serie A, one in Coppa Italia and six in the Europa League, the latter all as a starter and for the full 90 minutes. Cana was also included in the best Seria A defenders of 2013–14 season and was ranked as the fourth-best defender with 344 balls won in 16 matches, beating Emerson (fifth), Mehdi Benatia (sixth), Cristián Zapata (seventh), Federico Ceccherini (eighth), Stefan Savić (ninth) and Shkodran Mustafi (tenth).
On 23 August 2014, a few days before the start of the Serie A new season, some media analysists warned about a strong rivalry between Cana and two Lazio's new summer signings, Stefan de Vrij and Santiago Gentiletti, for two starting places in the centre-defence and about a possibility for Cana to become a third choice in the center-defense of the Biancocelesti. In the opening match of the 2014–15 Serie A on 31 August 2014, Cana played the full 90 minutes, leaving Gentiletti on the bench and playing among De Vrij in a 3–1 loss to Milan. In the next fixture, on 14 September 2014, Cana was an unused substitute for the entire match against Cesena (3–0) behind De Vrij and Gentiletti. In the third matchweek, on 21 September, Cana came in as a substitute in the 69th minute in place of Gentiletti, who left the pitch due to an injury and also a minute after De Vrij received his second yellow card; ten-men Lazio lost the match 1–0. It was predicted Cana to play as a starter in the upcoming match of fourth matchweek on 26 September against Udinese, after both other central defenders were absent, whereas Gentiletti was rumored to be awaited by several weeks of absence until his complete recovery from the injury. Against Udinese, Cana started with another central defender, Diego Novaretti, and played the entire 90 minutes, which finished in a 0–1 loss. After an excellent performance in the 3–0 victory against Atalanta on 16 December 2014, Cana was included in the best XI of the Serie A week, alongside teammates Senad Lulić and Felipe Anderson.
After four years in Italy with Lazio, on 31 August 2015, Cana returned to the French Ligue 1 after signing a two-year contract with Nantes. On 21 November 2015, he played his 200th Ligue 1 match during the 1–0 away loss against Monaco.
He left the club in the summer 2016.
Cana was eligible to play for either Albania, Switzerland or France, as he held all three passports. Cana chose Albania in early 2003 after receiving a call-up from the Albanian Football Association among with the coach Hans-Peter Briegel.
After accepting the invitation, he made his international debut for Albania on 11 June 2003 at the age of just 19 against Switzerland on a match for UEFA Euro 2004 qualifying Group 10 by coming on as a substitute in the second half for Geri Çipi, where the match finished in the 3–2 loss.
2006 FIFA World Cup qualification
Euro 2008 qualifiers
2010 FIFA World Cup qualification
Euro 2012 qualifiers
Cana was given the captain's armband for the first time in a friendly match on 25 May 2010 against Montenegro, which finished in a 1–0 victory. He captained for the first time in an official match on 8 October 2010 in the match for UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying against Bosnia and Herzegovina which finished in a 1–1 draw. Then he captained another two matches both against the country where he played for many years, France, first on 2 September 2011 and then on 7 October 2011. After the end of the Euro 2012 qualification campaign in October 2011, Altin Lala and Ervin Skela retired from international football, and Cana became a regular captain of Albania.
2014 FIFA World Cup qualification
In the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification, Cana played every minute in nine out ten matches valid for the Group E, missing just the match against Norway on 7 June 2013 due to a suspension for accumulating yellow cards. Albania were eliminated from the competition as they ranked in the fifth out of six places, finishing with a record of 3–2–5.
Cana was included in the best XI of the players that missed out at the 2014 FIFA World Cup final stages because of failing to qualify with their national team.
Euro 2016 qualifiers
In the Serbia–Albania match, part of the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying Group I, and played on 14 October 2014, Cana wrestled a Serbian fan to the ground. The fan, who had previously hit Bekim Balaj with a chair, bit Cana's finger and tried to cut it with his teeth. Cana reported that he got injured by it. After the match, Cana, along with Taulant Xhaka, were declared citizens of honour from the mayor of the city of Mitrovica, Kosovo, for the bravery shown in protecting national symbols. Cana received a similar award by the city of Bajram Curri in northern Albania.
Cana captained Albania in their opening match of the UEFA Euro 2016 against Switzerland. He was booked early on for a foul on Blerim Džemaili before becoming the first player to be sent off in the tournament just before half-time, receiving his marching orders after handling the ball outside the box.
Cana announced his retirement from international football on 23 June 2016.
Lorik Cana is the son of retired footballer Agim Cana. His father's career brought the family to Kosovo, but because of war in the region, Lorik and his family were forced to flee to Lausanne, Switzerland, where they stayed for nine years. He is a UNO-ambassador against poverty. In an interview, Cana stated that archeology is one of his biggest interests and that he plans to work in the Albanology field after his footballing career after pursuing a university degree in History. He married Monica Ercoli, an Italian, on 8 June 2014 and the ceremony took place on 27 June 2014.
- As of 23 August 2016
|Paris Saint-Germain B||2000–01||National 2||4||0||—||—||—||4||0|
|Paris Saint-Germain||2002–03||Ligue 1||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||0|
- Including continental competitions, such as UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League
- All appearance(s) in UEFA Champions League
- All appearance(s) in UEFA Cup
- Two appearances in UEFA Intertoto Cup, three appearances in UEFA Cup
- Six appearances in UEFA Champions League, three appearances in UEFA Cup
- Eight appearances in UEFA Champions League, four appearances in UEFA Cup
- All appearance(s) in UEFA Europa League
- Six appearances in UEFA Champions League, three appearances in UEFA Cup
- As of 19 June 2016
|Albania national team|
- As of match played 19 June 2016. Albania score listed first, score column indicates score after each Cana goal.
|1||17 August 2005||Qemal Stafa Stadium, Tirana, Albania||16||Azerbaijan||2–1||2–1||Friendly|
- Paris Saint-Germain
- Albanian Footballer of the Year (3): 2004, 2005, 2006
- Albanian Fan's Footballer of the Year (1): 2009