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Lorenzo Vicini On June - 30 - 2011

Selling Antonio Cassano? A Needless Gamble For Milan

On October 24, 2010, Antonio Cassano took to the field with Sampdoria in a crucial match against a then-second place Inter side. At the Giuseppe Meazza, the Bari-born fantasista was instrumental once again, delivering a pinpoint perfect cross to Stefano Guberti which temporarily gave Sampdoria a 1-0 lead. Inter would score an equaliser with ten minutes left in the game and both teams earned a point. Cassano’s solid performance kept the Genovese side in seventh place and more importantly in the thick of the race to repeat the previous season’s tremendous accomplishments.

Little did Cassano know that his appearance against Inter would be his last in the Blucerchiati shirt. A bust-up with the club president Riccardo Garrone over a refusal to participate in an awards ceremony led to a tremendous row that ultimately froze the player out of the team. Despite initial pleadings to be reinstated with Sampdoria, Cassano was done with the club and shockingly placed on the transfer market a month later. Many suitors lined up to secure the talented playmaker’s services but it was the ambitious, title-seeking Milan that landed Cassano.

Flamboyant owner Silvio Berlusconi knew just how important a player like Cassano could be for the Rossoneri stating, “He is the right man to get us winning again because it has been far too long since Milan last won anything.” In FantAntonio, Milan took a gamble on a player with a volatile nature but one who possessed immense talent and quality that could prove to be the difference maker in a Scudetto run.

As for Cassano, he knew that Milan could very well be the last chance he’d get to stay relevant not just in Serie A, but the national team as well. Antonio had to show that he had matured beyond the petty and troublesome nature that plagued him throughout his career. The stakes were set and only time would tell whether or not Milan made the right move.

The gamble certainly paid off for Milan. The Rossoneri calmly cruised to their first Scudetto since the 2003-04 season and Cassano played an integral part in it. FantAntonio appeared in 17 matches for Milan, starting nine times. His contributions made an impact whether it was from the start or as a substitute. He scored four goals but also notched an impressive six assists in that time. To put that into perspective, Cassano was tied for second on the team in assists with Clarence Seedorf and only trailed Zlatan Ibrahimovic who had eleven. What made it even more remarkable is that Cassano tallied those numbers with almost half the amount of games and minutes that Seedorf and Ibrahimovic had.

Beyond the numbers, perhaps the most important aspect of Cassano at Milan was his character. Gone were the infamous “cassanate” and in its place was the perfect team player. There were no outbursts, there were no rants, there was no dissatisfaction over his role as a starter or substitute. Cassano not only made the most of his last opportunity, he embraced it with model professionalism.

Now, the offseason is in full swing but Cassano’s future at Milan is anything but certain. Despite previous comments saying he would not be leaving, Antonio is constantly being linked to a move outside of Milan. The recent imminent arrival of Stephan El Shaarawy at the club gives further credence to a likely departure. But is it the right move for the Rossoneri?

On one hand, the wealth of attacking talent at Milan’s disposal even without Cassano could be enough to compensate for his farewell. Furthermore, Cassano is desperate to stay in contention for the national team and only consistent playing time would assure him of that. At Milan, he had to make due with whatever playing time he was given and was never guaranteed a spot in the starting eleven.

On the other hand, it seems outright foolish to let Cassano leave after the positive six month stint he had with the club. After all, the Pibe de Bari is an accomplished, veteran player who is a polished product - unlike the youngster El Shaarawy. Not to mention that Cassano is arguably the most talented Italian player since Roberto Baggio. If given the opportunity once again, Cassano could lead Milan next season as a protagonist not only domestically but in the Rossoneri’s true love - the Champions League. And for the bargain price at which Milan signed him, there is no better player out there than Antonio in terms of value.

If Milan end up selling Cassano, they will be taking another gamble on whoever assumes the role of his replacement. Another risk seems entirely unnecessary, especially when Milan already holds the winning hand.

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