“I am the greatest talent in recent years to have thrown everything away. The ‘wild genius who breaks the rules’ thing only goes so far, and I really did cross the line too many times.”

A fiery but undoubtedly talented forward, Cassano took Serie A by storm as a teenager with Bari and Romaat the turn of the millennium, voted the league’s Young Footballer of the Year in 2001 and 2003.

While the goals flowed freely for Cassano from a young age, so too did the drama.

Just a week after scoring on debut for Italy in 2003, the forward returned toRoma, where he was initially living with the parents ofFrancesco Totti, and clashed with coach Fabio Capello following his exclusion from a practice match.

It wasn’t the first time, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last time the pair would butt heads.

Following a contractual dispute with Roma, Cassano sealed a €5 million (£4.5m/$5.9m) transfer to Real Madrid in January 2006 and despite scoring just three minutes into his debut for the club, the Italian’s time at the club was far from a fairy tale.

Not long after moving to the Santiago Bernabeu, there were reports the self-professed pasta fanwas being fined for every gram he put on as he indulged in poor eating habits.

It thentook less than a year for his relationship with Capello – who had gone from Roma to Juventus to Madrid – to fall apart again, with the attacker suspended by the Blancos in October 2006 for disrespecting his boss.

Struggling for game time and goals, Cassano would swap the Santiago Bernabeu for Sampdoria after less than two seasons in Spain. Leaving los Blancos was, as the forward subsequently admitted, a dreadful mistake.

“The biggest regret is not making the most of the opportunity to play for the biggest club in history at the age of 23with team-mates like Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo,” Cassano told Sky Sport Italiain April.

“I threw away a huge chance at Real Madrid. I was effectively replacing Luis Figo and Michael Owen, so I was good, but I caused one disaster after another.

“Capello arrived at Real Madrid afterwards. I’d lost 16kg in training, scored two goals in three games and he benched me for the fourth.

“I lost my mind, and when you disrespect Capello, he cuts you out. He gave me another chance even after all that. He did so much for me, but I did precious little for him in return.”

Back in Italy, Cassano rediscovered his scoring touch butcontinued to makeheadlines for all the wrongreasons – one of which saw him throwhis shirt at a referee in 2008after being sent off in a Serie A clash with Torino.

Despite a successful three-year stint with Samp, the attacker left the club in unsavoury fashion.

“I was so happy at Samp and found the person in the world of football who was on a human level just the best: (chairman) Riccardo Garrone,” Cassano toldCorriere dello Sport in 2017.

“The row I had with him was the biggest regret of my personal life and I will never forgive myself for it. I am glad that, before he died, we cleared the air.”

From Sampdoria, Cassano found his way to AC Milan and then Inter, with his latter stint interrupted in late 2011 when he suffereda strokefollowing a match against Roma.

After heart surgery and six months on the sidelines, the striker ultimately returned to action but soon found himself on the wrong side of then-Inter coach Walter Mazzarri, soopted for amove to Parma in 2013.

Cassano hit fineform during his 18-month stay at the Tardini, scoring 18 goals in all competitions, but had no option but to leave in January 2015 as a result of unpaid wages.

Samp took him back but, after scoring just two goals across 25 appearances in the 2015-16 season, Cassano and the club mutually agreed to end their working relationship in early 2017.

At the age of 34, the striker then exited the game in an unsurprisinglydefiant and crazy way.

Despite signing for Hellas Verona in July 2017 and playing two friendlies for the club, Cassano would terminate his contract after just 17 days followinga seesawing-decision to hang up the boots.

One year later, however, the 35-time Italy international made it clear he wasn’t quite done as he began training with Serie C side Virtus Entella.

But just as it looked like he might secure one final contract, Cassano once again announced his retirement inlate 2018 – this time for good, as he reluctantly brought the curtain down on a topsy-turvy career.

“Football has given me so much. It allowed me to meet magnificent people, great champions and common folk. It took me off the street, gave me amarvellousfamily and above all allowed me to have so much fun,” he wrote in his retirement message.

“Still today, whenever I watch a game, I remainhypnotised. It’s the best sport in the world.

Source : goal.com

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