Antonio Cassano has somewhat brought the winter transfer window into even sharper focus, with several clubs eyeing the fantasista. Rob Paton reports
Whilst Parma, Lazio, Palermo and Juventus ruled themselves out, other clubs are said to be contemplating mid-season shifts to accommodate Antonio Cassano.
One such is Fiorentina, who after a poor first half of the season, are going into the transfer window with hope of initiating positive changes. However, the reported plan of approach for Cassano is somewhat surprising, and involves the departure of Alberto Gilardino, the club's only recognised experienced No 9 striker.
Gilardino's potential exit dates back to last April when stating he wanted to sit down with the club to ensure its ambitions met his own. Andrea Della Valle criticised his comments and it looked like the summer would see the striker leave.
However, despite remaining, doubts over his future have again resurfaced with a possible deal with Juventus on the horizon. The Turin club have denied any interest but the reports will not go away, perhaps given October's actions that saw Gilardino switch agents to Beppe Bozzo, who has recently been involved in several transfers to Juve.
Amauri has been mentioned as a possible sweetener in the deal but only if the Brazilian-born striker takes a pay-cut on his €4m-a-year salary, whilst some sources indicate the Gila and Amauri deals are not interdependent.
The interesting thing comes with the hope of Cassano – also represented by Bozzo – replacing Gilardino. Tactically not the same sort of forward, where Fiorentina have been playing a 4-2-3-1 / 4-4-1-1 system with Adrian Mutu behind Gilardino, it is thought the club is happy to go with Mutu as the striker and Cassano behind in support. The Romanian was tested in this role with Adem Ljajic supporting in the Viola's previous two games, which more than anything suggests the direction the club expect January to take them.
Inter – as well as city rivals Milan – also harbour an interest in Cassano, and two weeks ago it was even reported the club had agreed a transfer, thought to be around €20m, with a potential separate deal seeing Philippe Coutinho go in the other direction for a six-month loan spell. However, it looks as though Inter are biding their time on Cassano until after an official decision is reached on his contract status at Sampdoria.
It is worth bearing in mind that should the arbitration panel rule against Riccardo Garrone's request this week – which the latest rumours suggest – then a transfer fee would be required for the playmaker, most likely ending the interest clubs such as Brescia have shown.
Cassano aside, the Nerazzurri are looking long term, currently in discussions with Feyenoord over Dutch youngster Luc Castaignos – an imposing, technically gifted striker earning comparisons with Pierre Van Hooijdonk. This is coupled with the club's tracking of Portuguese left-winger Joao Reis, a promising player in Luis Figo's mold.