Italy's Antonio Cassano: From Old Bari To New Man?

Adam DigbyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2010

GENOA, ITALY - MAY 16: Antonio Cassano of UC Sampdoria in action during the Serie A match between UC Sampdoria and SSC Napoli at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on May 16, 2010 in Genoa, Italy. (Photo by Massimo Cebrelli/Getty Images)
Massimo Cebrelli/Getty Images

Antonio Cassano is known in Italy as Il Gioiello di Bari Vecchia—the jewel of Old Bari—but since his transfer to Sampdoria became permanent and his marriage to Carolina Marcialis, the "old Cassano" has seemingly vanished.

The temperamental, cocky, brash, and insecure Cassano that acted like (for want of a better phrase) spoiled brat in Rome and Madrid has become as much a thing of the past as Antonio Conte's bald patch.

FantAntonio was perhaps more famous for his childish outbursts than his on field production. Fabio Capello called these episodes Cassanata; each seemed to top the last as the player destroyed almost every relationship he had in the game.

In Rome, Cassano had a huge argument with Capello during training, then was sent off during a match with Milan, which he punctuated by flashing the "cornuto" at the referee.

Cassano was sold by Roma after a row over his contract, and went to Real Madrid for just €5m. An impressive start was soon forgotten and four months later they were in the crazy situation that saw him fined for every gram he weighed in overweight.

Fast-forward another four months and the playmaker was in more trouble. The club hired Fabio Capello. It took just two months before Cassano exploded again, suspended for arguing with the coach. By the summer he was on the move again, this time on loan to Sampdoria.

Another great start seemed to falter when he was sent off against Torino, throwing his shirt at the referee as he left the field. 'Doria still had faith, and made his transfer permanent that June, going further still by making him vice-captain of the club.

Then the following January came the arrival of Giampaolo Pazzini and the two men formed Serie A's best No. 9-10 combination in many years, firing the Genoa club to the Champions League playoffs in their first full season together. That drew comparisons with the Vialli/Mancini duo that secured Sampdoria's only scudetto.

He has matured to the point of accepting full responsibility for his exclusion from Marcello Lippi's Azzurri, and shown incredible desire to form part of Cesare Prandelli's new-look Italy. This major improvement in his mental attitude to the game as well as his continued on-field brilliance has seen transfer speculation link the 28-year-old with moves to other clubs. Juventus and Inter stories seem to circulate daily.

We have already seen Cassano struggle at big clubs in major cities, and while pastry chefs in Turin and Milan may disagree, FantAntonio has stated his desire to remain in Liguria. Perhaps for all followers of La Nazionale, that is a good thing.