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On October 11 last year in the provincial city of Pescara, Italy ended their qualifying campaign with a 3-0 win over Northern Ireland. It was the perfect ending as Italy finished top of their group. It was also just reward for coach Cesare Prandelli who managed to rebuild a strong Azzurri from the wreckage of the 2010 World Cup disaster.

The undoubted star man for Prandelli’s new look Azzurri was Milan’s Antonio Cassano. A player who came to prominence at Roma as Francesco Totti’s heir-apparent, netted a total of 6 goals and it seemed that finally after a career wrought by controversy and conflicts with just about anyone and everyone, he was ready to fulfil his destiny by carrying the hopes of a nation into a major tournament. But, then a most peculiar heart ailment struck him down, ironically as Milan triumphantly returned home after beating Roma at the Stadio Olimpico.

That was in November. Initial reports had many fearing the worst. At one point it was thought that he might not recover to again live a normal life. Thankfully, Cassano has recovered, however, a return to the field may still be some time away.

And time is something in short supply as Euro 2012 fast approaches. The championship is just months away now and at this stage it seems unlikely that Cassano will be available. Just last month in an interview with Staffelli Valerio, he said, “I have to wait six months to play, until then, walk, walk, walk.”

Cassano’s coach at Milan is sceptical whether he will recover in time, recently saying, “He is on the road to recovery after the heart surgery, though I don’t know if he’ll manage to be fit in time for Euro 2012.”

In addition to losing his side’s talisman, Prandelli has also been left without the services of Villarreal star, Giuseppe Rossi. The American-born Italian suffered ligament damage in November and while he is expected to be playing again in April, just how fit he will be come June remains to be seen.

Of course, Mario Balotelli could be the answer. The controversial but supremely talented Manchester City player has finally begun to show his potential in the Premier League this season. He definitely has the ability to be Italy’s main protagonist in Poland and Ukraine, however, in many ways he resembles a young Cassano, prone to bouts of recklessness and folly. He also lacks experience at a major international competition.

As Italy prepare their bid for the Euros, a competition they have only won once, alternatives to Cassano will need to be considered. And one option Prandelli has hinted at is Roma’s Er Purpone, Francesco Totti.

In a recent interview with Rai TV, Prandelli said, “I will evaluate the physical condition of the players at the end of the season. We began the campaign with a project and if there are players with great character in good shape then they will be taken into consideration. Does that include Totti? Why not, if he’s in good shape.”

And the Roma captain is definitely in good shape. Since regaining the trust of coach Luis Enrique, Totti has started the last seven games, notching up four goals and breaking yet another Serie A record by becoming the greatest all-time goal-scorer at a single club. His return to form seems to have positively affected Roma who have now won their last four Serie A games.

Totti has not played for the Azzurri in six years, his last appearance coming in their victory over France at the World Cup in Germany. If he were to return to the national fold at the ripe old age of 35-years it would be a remarkable feat.

The player himself recently revealed that he is open to the idea. “The national team? Never say never,” he told ANSA. “Let us see how I am doing in May. I am really glad that Prandelli is still considering me, because I have a great relationship with him. I have been told great things about him as a coach and he has done great things with the national team.”

It was over ten years ago when Totti established himself as an international star of the game. His magical displays at Euro 2000 earned him rave reviews. Few will forget his cheeky chipped shot in the penalty shoot-out win over the Netherlands in the semi-finals. It was a moment of genius, and insanity. In the final Italy came agonisingly close to winning the tournament and though he was on the losing side, Totti was named man of the match.

Almost twelve years on and Totti is enjoying the twilight of his illustrious career. However, he may be afforded one last shot at European glory, a chance to take Italy one step further than he did all those years ago. It would be nothing short of a fairytale, the most grandest of endings to one of Italy’s greatest ever players and Roma’s greatest. And, how ironic it would be should he return for the finals to take the place of Cassano, the player who once was his heir-apparent but never was able to truly succeed him.

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