Antonio Cassano has had a career marred by controversy, however of late he appeared to had settled down and was finding a new maturity at Sampdoria. He was recently married and there is a child on the way, performing well for the club and then a moment of madness appears to have scuppered all of that. A move to Milan now looks very likely, but whether or not this is a good move for both parties is another question.
Riccardo Garrone, Sampdoria chairman, took Cassano to the arbitration courts over a 30 minute outburst in October where the striker allegedly threw countless obscenities at the chairman. Garrone asked the courts to rescind the player’s contract due to the indecent comments made towards him.
This week the case finally reached a conclusion, however the decision was a complete formality. It had been apparent for some time that Cassano would be leaving Sampdoria very soon, one way or another. He had stopped pleading with the Genova club to let play and had even begun to take legal action for damage done to his image and loss of national team status. The courts ruled in favour of Cassano, insisting that the player would be suspended without pay until 1 February and then see out the rest of his contract being paid 50% of his current wage. It seems very likely though that Cassano will not play for Sampdoria again.
Prior to the verdict, and indeed as soon as he was excluded from the squad, the press went wild publishing articles speculating over his next destination. Every owner and manager had been asked in press conferences in interviews whether or not they would be willing to take Cassano on board, and if they were planning to bid for the ‘soon to be homeless’ striker.
Numerous of those asked were very quick to distance themselves from the problematic Cassano. Even managers at clubs who had no chance of seeing Cassano grace them with his presence; Zdenek Zeman at Foggia was very forthright saying that he would “never want him [Cassano] in my squad”.
The front runners to pick up the Bari born striker’s signature were Genoa, Milan and Inter. Cassano had professed his desire to remain in Genova, which would have made the city’s other club a good fit but this move didn’t even get off the ground. It now appears that Milan CEO Adriano Galliani has pushed the right buttons and will be signing the player for ‘free’ until 2014. Galliani hopes to have Cassano at Milan before the turn of the year.
Galliani has pulled some fine deals out of the hat in the last few months and it looks like yesterday evening’s dinner with Cassano’s agent will produce yet another fine acquisition, or will it? There are a number of issues which still need to be cleared up before the transfer can go through.
First of all, it won’t be a free transfer. Even if Riccardo Garrone is prepared to let his star striker go for free as a matter of principle – he may be cutting his nose to spite his face – there is a sell on clause in the contract with Real Madrid. The Spanish side have asked for a fee in the region of €4-5 million euros, though Milan may be able to do a deal and knock the payment off of the instalments Real are paying for Kaka. Milan may even argue that the clause is null and void because the player’s contract was rescinded.
It also looks like this is the end of the road at Milan for one of Pippo Inzaghi or Ronaldinho. This would have almost certainly been Inzaghi’s final season had he not finished his season by injuring himself, it appears that Milan will give him one more season to say his good byes and possibly break Raul’s European goal record. Ronaldinho has been out of favour since Allegri decided on his new system with 3 mediani and 2 strikers. The Brazilian has been very heavily linked with a move to either the MLS or back to Palmeiras in Brazil, but Milan continue to deny that he will be leaving soon.
It is difficult to see where in Allegri’s formation Cassano will be able to slot in seamlessly at the moment. Allegri started the season pandering to the wants of Berlusconi and tried to play a 4-3-3 with Ibrahimovic, Pato and one of Ronaldinho or Robinho. The experiment failed and he has been able to implement a more robust 4-3-1-2 with 3 box-to-box players behind a trequartista providing the energy that Milan had lacked previously. A front 2 of Ibrahimovic and Robinho have been able to take Milan 6 points clear at the top of the table and they look like the strongest contenders for this season’s scudetto.
The most logical place for Cassano to play would be as a direct replacement for Robinho, but the Brazilian is in a fine vein of form and it seems very unlikely that he will start ahead of him. Thus with a change of system out of the picture and a better player ahead of you in the starting line up, it would appear that Antonio will have to make himself happy with a place on the bench. I hope he’s still got his gameboy.
There may be the possibility of a rotation policy allowing the player to get some time on the pitch in Serie A and the Coppa Italia. Cassano is cup-tied for the latter stages of the Champions League owing to the fact that he played in the play off round against Werder Bremen.
Many suspected that his career may have followed a path similar to Roberto Baggio, whom after his glory years at Fiorentina and Juventus signed for the smaller provincial sides of Bologna and Brescia. While it may turn out to be a magic partnership between 2 of the game’s most precotious and ostentatious players, it looks like next time we do see Cassano he’ll be rooted to the bench of the San Siro in mid-January with a blanket over his knees and huddled up close to the grizzly Gennaro Gattuso trying to keep warm. Perhaps Cassano would be happier at a club where he was the star attraction, somewhere where he would inspire the fans to dream rather than a club that has little need for him allowing him to regress into a past where he was the butt of many cake based jokes, and where people spoke more often about the number of women he’d bedded than the goals he’d banged in. I hope I’m wrong.