How did it come to this? Less than a week after retiring and back-tracking on the same day, Antonio Cassano announced he would be hanging up his boots after all. Six more days have passed and the decision still stands, but not without the former Italy star being subjected to personal attacks over social media. Sadly, these people have short memories about why his genius was so flawed.
His recent transfer to Verona seemed doomed from the outset. He only signed on July 10, despite the Serie A new boys suggesting they wouldn’t register him, before reports of homesickness and that he would retire surfaced just eight days later. A Press conference to confirm his departure from football then turned into the 35-year-old doing the opposite, in what appeared to be an act of defiance.
Fast forward six more days, however, and speculation of an imminent retirement returned. This time, it was Cassano’s wife who publicised he would be leaving Verona but still play football, but she soon deleted that Twitter post and followed it up with another, in which the ex-Roma and Sampdoria ace stated his partner was “wrong” and that he would be retiring after all.
But while this media circus was happening, Cassano’s state of mind was overlooked. Rumours of his retirement ranged from stress and homesickness, due to his family not joining him at Verona, to a struggle for fitness and lack of motivation. Indeed, Fant’Antonio had been on the scrapheap for a year-and-a-half after he was exiled by Sampdoria.
Of course, this frenzy may have impacted negatively on Verona’s pre-season preparations, but the Gialloblu should’ve done more research on what they were getting themselves into. Once Cassano had announced his retirement a second time, President Maurizio Setti showed how much of a dinosaur he was, flippantly claiming the attacker’s head “wasn’t right”.
Not only did Setti potentially expose Cassano was struggling with adverse mental health, but he also displayed his own ignorance and contempt for a condition that largely remains a taboo in the sport. Indeed, this is someone who was raised in poverty, has never had a father figure for a sustained period in his life and was catapulted into Calcio fame at the age of just 17. His raw talent was no match for a self-destructive streak.
For as long as Italian football and a section of its followers make such a mockery of a player that has given us so many unforgettable memories, they both should take a leaf out of the Premier League’s book.
Everton winger Aaron Lennon was detained under the Mental Health Act in England at the end of last season, but his club stood by him throughout his ordeal, while there was an outpouring of support from fans nationwide. The former Tottenham Hotspur ace has gone on to resume his playing career.
While Cassano was able to at least largely continue his career at a decent level, Adriano lost his way and didn’t have the same support network to steer him back to the light. The Brazilian was an exceptional talent who had everything to make him one of the best centre-forwards in the world, but no amount of money or fame can buy peace of mind. That truly is priceless. Just ask Paul Gascoigne or Gianluca Pessotto.
Cassano was clearly unprepared for the price of fame, which led to a career that spawned brilliance and farce in equal doses. Sadly, the latter took precedence whenever the Bari native had found the path to greatness. Talk of yet another comeback has since done the rounds, but as much as his grace will be missed on a football pitch, Cassano must first conquer his demons once and for all. We’ve seen what can happen. Agostino Di Bartolomei. Robert Enke. Gary Speed.
Cassano’s family have made it clear that they are ready to stand by him, and it’s an offer that he can ill-afford to pass up. Italian football, on the other hand, should be doing more than just sitting back and letting one of its most-loved figures suffer in silence.