Football is such a delightfully simple game. There are the basic elements: the pitch, a ball and two goals. And the human element: the players. The sport's universal appeal, and the source of its "beauty," comes from that fusion—basic and human elements together realized a million different ways within a single game. And when something extraordinary happens, when one player sees and moves and controls the game, if only momentarily, we can all recognize and appreciate his brand of brilliance.
Antonio Cassano is such a player. So saturated with natural talent its immediately obvious to the eye and ruefully lamented when overshadowed by ego or attitude on or off the pitch. His professional career is as much jaded by run-ins with managers, referees, club officials and teammates as highlighted by superb goals, assists and his extraordinary vision on the field. The talented striker has had his fair share of health concerns as well. Only towards the end of last season and this summer does it appear that Cassano has fully recovered from his latest health concern, surgery to correct a rare heart condition last November.
Never hesitant to express his opinion, Cassano essentially demanded an out from his club of the last two years, AC Milan, after the summer of selling. After nine games in the Serie A season, Cassano is flourishing after a swap deal involving Gianluca Pazzani sent him to city rivals Internazionale.
Cassano has netted five goals from just eight shots, a remarkably efficient use of his time on the ball. Sitting in the deep position just behind Diego Milito at the top of Andrea Stramacioni's 3-4-1-2, Cassano's good form is a big part of Inter's solid start. Currently the Nerazzurri sit in third place, a point behind Napoli in second and four points behind league leaders Juventus.
The next two matches will certainly provide a telling insight into Inter's real scudetto aspirations, they face a struggling Sampdoria mid-week before travelling to Juventus this weekend. On a four-game losing streak in the league, it'd be natural for Inter to overlook their visitors. They'd be wise to remember the seasons' opening weekend when Sampdoria took three points from AC Milan at the San Siro before thinking about the looming top of the table clash in Turin.
Off to one of the finest starts of his career, Cassano's continued contributions and ability to stay injury and controversy-free will be central to Inter's challenge campaign. One of the original bad boys of Italian football, the jewel of old Bari would love nothing more than to silence the detractors and fulfill some of his promise with a season of individual and team glory.