Sampdoria must keep their head, even while Cassano loses his own

Anyone familiar with Antonio Cassano’s stormy past will not have been overly surprised by his vitriolic attack on Sampdoria’s owner Riccardo Garrone. His previous bust-ups with Fabio Capello, Francesco Totti, Marcello Lippi and Luigi del Neri – not to mention his on-field tears and tantrums – only serve to put his most recent outburst in an ugly and frustrating context.
Garrone, a genuine and passionate benefactor to the club, has every reason to feel aggrieved. The attack was apparently fuelled by the owner’s benign request that Cassano attend a local awards ceremony. To this, the player took exception, calling the owner “old shit”, amongst other things.
But that’s Fantonio. Anyone who expects any different from the histrionic playmaker has no right to. He has a long history of personal clashes and immature behaviour – destructive character flaws endured solely because of his sublime, rare talent.
Nothing has changed. This is all part of the never-ending melodramatic story arc that the 28 year-old seems destined to play out. As is his custom, he cried and apologised before the Italian media, who revel in his constant rise and fall. In equal parts naïve and nasty, Cassano remains Italian football’s most ridiculous (and ridiculously gifted) enigma.
The point is – what should Sampdoria do with him? According to reports, Garrone has looked into rescinding the player’s contract immediately, letting him rot in the shadows until the January transfer window – even if that means fulfilling a contractual obligation of paying Real Madrid £4.4m. But that knee-jerk reaction could be an act of pure foolishness, one that could set the club back considerably.
Without Fantonio’s guile, vision and goals, Sampdoria are a meek, lack-lustre team. He is the fulcrum of everything they do. Domenico Di Carlo has built his offence through him and, until recently, the player has led the entire team exemplarily. Take Cassano out of the equation and the smooth, effective football that Doria like to play suddenly lacks both style and purpose.
Nicola Pozzi, Guido Marilungo and Bruno Fornaroli are paltry replacements for the Nazionale’s reborn golden boy. Not only that, Cassano’s ‘goal twin’ Giampaolo Pazzini thrives on the playmaker’s pinpoint crosses and sly passes.
Crucially, the blucerchiati are just beginning to move up through the gears in Serie A, after a rather disappointing start. They may not be relegation contenders were Cassano to be shipped out, but it is nigh-impossible to imagine they will be able to launch another successful bid for the Champion’s League without their schemer-in-chief.
One option for the club is to simply bide its time, letting Cassano play on through the storm and, in his own way, repay his moral debt. When January rolls around, they could set about conniving a fairly prestigious swap-deal. Plenty of Italian teams – Juventus, Inter and Napoli to name but a few – are keeping tabs on the situation.
The fact is, we may never see Cassano play for Sampdoria again, which will be a genuine shame. At last, il gioiello di Bari Vecchia seemed to have found the serenity his career so desperately needed. Alas, it couldn’t last. How many more real chances will the player be given to make an indelible mark on Italian football? No-one knows for certain, but knocking on his third decade, it seems likely that the next opportunity will be his last.

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