Friday, February 6 th, 2015
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Fantantonio Cassano, the best Italian player that never was
The genius of Parma could be selected for the incoming World Cup 2014. His career has always been a chiaroscuro. What if he had thought more about playing football and less about making jokes on teammates and coaches?
by Pier Vittorio Mannucci
After the double scored to Milan at San Siro, Antonio Cassano started to believe in his first World Cup with the jersey of the Italian national team. "I hope to be part of Prandelli's team. I would be the happiest man in the world", Cassano said. With 11 goals in 24 caps, the talent from Bari is trying to change Prandelli's mind. It won't be a mission impossible, as the current Italy's coach already selected Fantantonio for Euro 2012.


But there's another important chapter in Cassano's recent fairy tale. November 23rd, 2013: Parma is playing against Napoli at the San Paolo. Napoli is the clear favorite, and few believe that Parma can do better than a draw. None, however, had considered the crazy variable of the equation: Antonio Cassano. After dribbling almost every player of Napoli’s defense, Fantantonio scores one of those amazing goals that have always let watchers wonder: what if...?

What if Cassano had thought more about playing football and less about making jokes on teammates and coaches? What if his cassanate, his trademark tantrums, never existed? What kind of player could he have become? Could he have become the best Italian player of all time, or at least of his generation? 


The answer is not certain, but is probably a no. Cassano is Cassano because of the cassanate. His uniqueness lies in his craziness, in his almost childish way of being and of playing. There would be no goal like the one to Naples without the cassanate. In the meanwhile, he reached 100 goals scored in Serie A. According to some sources it happened against Napoli, whilst most sources consider his gem vs. Bologna of last Saturday his 100th signiture. In both cases, beautiful goals, just to make everyone happy. 

His talent is crystal clear, no question about it: since his second Serie A game against Inter, Cassano has always displayed his amazing qualities. The goal he scored against Inter, controlling the ball with his heel and head on a long pass to go through the defenders and shoot the ball into the corner, beyond Angelo Peruzzi, was amazing not only for its beauty, but for how the 18 years old Cassano made it look easy, almost natural.

After two years in Bari, Cassano was traded to Roma, where he formed a talented and skilled tandem with Francesco Totti. The years in Roma have been arguably the best in Cassano’s career, both in terms of on-field and off-field performance: on one side, he scored 52 goals in 5 season, with his career record of 18 in 2003-2004, and enchanting the public with marvellous tricks and dribblings; on the other side, he got into numerous fights with his coach, Fabio Capello (the inventor of the neologism cassanata) and with the referees. His most famous loss of temper happened in 2003: after being sent off during the Italian Cup final against Milan, Cassano flashed the sign of the horns towards the referee.

In January 2006, Cassano signs for Real Madrid, giving him the chance to make his big breakthrough on the international scene. After a slow start, due to poor eating habits and work ethic, Cassano seemed rejuvenated when Fabio Capello was hired as the head coach of the team for the following season. The coach-player honeymoon, however, was short-lived: Cassano started contesting and mocking Capello, making even his impersonation during a training, and this behaviour resulted in his suspension from the team.

After Real Madrid, Cassano’s story became kind of repetitive: his following adventures at Sampdoria, Milan and Inter started, evolved and ended in the exact same way. At the beginning everything was fine, with Cassano playing divinely, swearing eternal love to the team and even becoming good friend with the president Riccardo Garrone (at Sampdoria) or with the coach Andrea Stramaccioni (at Inter). After a while, however, his bad temper always caused him problems, getting him into fights with the president (at Sampdoria), the club (at Milan), and the coach (at Inter), and resulting in him being traded away like a postal package.

In the summer 2013, the Cassano-show landed in Parma. Around 3000 fans gathered at the Ennio Tardini stadium to see his presentation, a display of enthusiasm that has not been seen in Parma for many years. His behavior has been impeccable, his game, after a slow start, has been as usual: brilliant and, at points, breath-taking. Everyone in Parma loves him, and the small town atmosphere seems ideal to avoid certain temptations, like the tons of cornetti eaten when he was in Madrid, usually after having had sex with one of the alleged 600 women he slept with.

Will it last? This time it seems possible: Cassano is at the end of his career, and he know that his best chance to stay at the top of his game is to play in a middle-level ambitious team like Parma, following the steps of Roberto Baggio at Brescia. He knows that this can be his last chance, and he doesn’t want to throw it away due to another cassanata.

The future, thus, seems bright for Parma and Cassano. But with Fantantonio, never say never.

Wednesday, March 19 th, 2014
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