As it has been the case all too often in the past, Antonio Cassano has recently been dominating headlines for all the wrong reasons. Having lulled spectators into a false sense of security with his apparent newfound maturity and inspirational performances for Sampdoria and Italy at the start of the season, il Gioiello di Bari Vecchia has somehow managed to once again jeopardise his future at the club.
Club President Riccardo Garrone appears to have made his position clear. Despite numerous apologies and pleas for forgiveness, it seems that Garrone has been pushed too far. The president recently claimed: “It’s all Cassano’s fault. I believed he had changed attitude and that he was mature. My evaluation of the man was wrong.” The front man has not featured for i Blucerchiati since the bust up and, as the club apparently work to have his contract rescinded, his time at the Marassi could well be drawing to a close.
But is ditching Fantantonio really the right course of action for Sampdoria? Would the club simply be letting go of dead wood in order to progress, or would they be shooting themselves in the foot?
There is no denying the fact that Cassano is a key player for i Blucerchiati. His cunning passing, evasive dribbling and unerring finishing set him apart from anyone else in the Sampdoria squad, and probably Serie A as a whole. As well as being the club’s top scorer so far this season, he is also leading the way in terms of assists and is the orchestrator of almost every attack. Considering this as well as the poor early season form of Giampaolo Pazzini, Domenico Di Carlo’s reluctance to use Nicola Pozzi and the recasting of Guido Marilungo as a winger, the task of replacing Antonio Cassano seems virtually impossible.
However, taking into account the individual nature of Cassano’s talent and personality, could it be that the wisest move on the part of Domenico Di Carlo would be not to even attempt to replace him? There are so few players in the world that possess such talent as Cassano that it would be almost impossible to find a ready made replacement within the price range of a club who, while not strapped for cash, cannot afford to throw money around.
An alternative to replacing the forward could be adapting the style of football played by the team in order to compensate for the loss of Cassano. Di Carlo has thus far stayed fairly faithful to the 4-4-2 system with which the club found success under Luigi Del Neri but the coach could view the departure of Cassano as the perfect opportunity for him to make his own mark on the side. The coach could stick with the 4-4-2 and simply change personnel by bringing in Marilungo or Pozzi, or he could opt to add creativity to his midfield by bringing in Daniele Dessena or Vladimir Koman just at the head of a midfield three.
Either way, the removal of Cassano from the side represents a massive risk, not least because of the very real possibility of him joining one of Sampdoria’s rivals, although numerous coaches and presidents have already claimed that they would not be interested in signing Fantantonio should he become available. Even though his temper tantrums are now the stuff of legend, the sheer level of ability that Cassano could bring to a side would surely make him worth the risk, especially given that no transfer fee would be involved.
In the absence of the talent from Bari, i Blucerchiati have managed to keep on an even keel thus far. A narrow victory over Cesena maintained their winning form and, perhaps equally importantly, saw Giampaolo Pazzini open his goal scoring account for the season. The assist provided by Guido Marilungo will also provide Di Carlo with some reassurance that his side remain able to create chances without Cassano. A 0-0 draw with a strong Metalist outfit yesterday, however, saw the side unable to carve out a goal.
Whether Antonio Cassano stays or goes, one thing is for sure. His name will never be out of the headlines for too long.