The award polls votes from national team coaches and captains and Cannavaro beat three-time winner Zinedine Zidane and reigning champion Ronaldinho.
Real Madrid central defender Cannavaro, 33, was crowned European Footballer of the Year in November.
"It's a great honour for me to be here because it has been an incredible season," said Cannavaro.
He added: "The competition is scary, so strong. It's not usual for a defender to sit between Ronaldinho and Zidane.
"Of course it must be a great compliment for the coaches I've had this year.
"It also underscores the way I am playing - and look at the matches we are playing in the teams I've had, and at Real.
"I can't ask for anything else, with the World Cup and Golden Ball award - you can't do any better than that."
Brazil's Marta won the women's award ahead of Germany's Renate Lingor and Kristine Lilly of the USA.