Wednesday August 10 2011
Captain Cassano: 'What a gift!'

An ebullient Antonio Cassano thanked Gigi Buffon for the surprise “gift” of the captain's armband in Bari. “I'm not finished!”

The Bari native was given the duties of captain to lead his team out in his hometown stadium, the Stadio San Nicola.

“I want to thank Gigi, the Coach and my teammates for that wonderful gesture. I really did not expect to wear the captain's armband,” he said of Italy's 2-1 victory against Spain.

“I went for the warm-up and came back to the locker room to see the armband on my seat. I said they'd made a mistake, but it turns out they'd talked it over beforehand to give me this amazing gift.

“Aside from being a great captain and a player, Gigi is a great man. We're next to each other from start to finish on international duty, so he must have the patience of a saint!”

Cesare Prandelli said this was Cassano's best outing in an Azzurri jersey so far.

“I put in a good performance and I agree it was my best for Italy. I will point out I'm not finished, despite what many have said about me, even if I have 2-3kg too many. When I'm going well, everyone praises me, but when things go badly there are sooooo many who say I'm finished.”

When asked how much this Italy side had changed from the 2010 World Cup, when Marcello Lippi famously snubbed him, Cassano was in a joking mood.

“It's unlike 2010? Of course, I'm here now! Just kidding. We play in a different way with new players and those like Thiago Motta and Andrea Ranocchia. We should look at the now, not going back.”

Cassano partnered Giuseppe Rossi in a so-called ‘little pairing' of short strikers.

“We did very well against the best team in the world today. The Coach is taking this approach, he knows full well what he's doing. The important thing is he lets me play too!

“Even in these conditions with 2kg too many, when everyone goes on at him constantly about me, he still puts his faith in me. We're honest and open with each other, so it doesn't matter what happens, whether he calls me or not, we will always have a great rapport.

“Being in Bari is amazing. These are my people, they are in my heart and I'll never forget them. They gave me great emotions as soon as I arrived tonight and I can only thank them.”

He had very timid penalty appeals in the first half for a collision with Gerard Pique and confessed.

“I must be honest, it's rare for me to get my first touch wrong, but that time I did! I lost my balance and kind of fell over. Maybe it was down to shock.”