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Goal.com's countdown to the greatest player of 2008 continues with one of the most controversial characters in world football Antonio Cassano, who single handedly led Sampdoria to European football this term.

50 - Ashley Young - Aston Villa, Premier League - Score: 1109
49 - Javier Zanetti - Internazionale, Serie A - Score: 1104
48 - Daniel Guiza - Fenerbahçe, Super Lig - Score: 1089
47 - Juninho Pernambucano - Olympique Lyonnais, Ligue 1 - Score: 1083
46 - Juan Román Riquelme - Boca Juniors, Argentine Apertura - Score: 1077
45 - Luca Toni - FC Bayern, Bundesliga - Score: 1064
44 - David Silva - Valencia, Primera Division - Score: 1060
42 (T) - Thierry Henry - Barcelona, Primera Division - Score: 1040
42 (T) - Daniel Alves - Sevilla, Primera Division / Barcelona, Primera Division - Score: 1040

41 - Antonio Cassano -  Sampdoria, Serie A - Score: 1028

Sampdoria’s Antonio Cassano is undoubtedly one of the most controversial figures in the world of football. He is an extremely talented and influential individual, but is better known for his short temper and passion whilst on the pitch.

Early Years

Cassano was born one day after Italy claimed their third World Cup, with victory over Germany in 1982. He was born and raised in Bari and commenced playing football at an early age. In his early teenage years he was fortunate enough to be spotted by Bari scouts, and eventually elevated to the senior team in 1999, and made his debut in the Italian topflight with the club against rivals Lecce in 1999.

The feisty attacker played with his hometown club for two seasons, after eventually bring signed by Roma at the slender age of 19. In his time at Bari, Cassano made 48 appearances, whilst scoring six times and impressing consistently in the Serie A.

Missed Opportunities

From 2001-2008, Cassano had the opportunity to become one of the best players in the world, following his two year stint at Bari. He signed with the reigning Serie A champions Roma in the summer of 2001 for a fee of around €28 million, and in his first season with the Giallorossi he scored five times. It didn’t take long for the up and coming talent to attract the attention of the media however, following a heated argument with the coach Fabio Capello, as a result of being left out of a practice match.

Cassanata struggled to avoid controversy over the next few seasons, and it was only until Bruno Conti, Roma’s fourth coach of the 2004/05 season, returned Cassano to the starting lineup, and immediately the young man was back on track, as he captained the club in the absence of Francesco Totti, who was serving a five-match suspension.

His time in Rome was nearing an end the following season however, as there were several disagreements surrounding the terms of his contract. In the winter of 2006, the Giallorossi decided to part ways with the striker, as they shipped him off to the Spanish giants Real Madrid.

Cassano became the second ever Italian player to sign for Real Madrid, and it didn’t take long for the new signing to make his debut, in a Copa del Rey match against Real Betis. He scored his first goal just three minutes after being brought on early in the second half, and thus made his mark early at the club. Life in Madrid went downhill from there however, as just four months into his tenure with the club; he began gaining weight due to poor eating habits, which resulted in Madrid fining him for every gram he remained over his playing weight.

He was later suspended due to his ‘disrespect’ of Capello, who had joined the club at the beginning of the 2006-07 season, following a dressing room argument, once again arising from his omission from the team after a game against Gimnastic. As a result of this, he was desperate for a return back to Italy, and Roma was his intended destination, as he hoped to make peace once again with the club that gave him an opportunity to prove his worth at the highest level. Despite this however, he would eventually return to the peninsula, albeit with Sampdoria, who he is the current captain of in the Serie A.

Sampdoria To The Rescue

Cassano impressed immensely in his first season with the Blucerchiati last term, scoring 10 goals and creating a countless number of assists for his team-mates. He is a player of great technical ability, and is an entertaining player when in possession of the ball. He is undoubtedly a world-class individual, who has proven this once again with five goals already in the Serie A this season. Despite his recent food form however, the troublesome wild child of Italian football has not received any caps for the Azzurri since Lippi rejoined the fold, something that remains his main objective in the future.

Team Prizes:
None

Individual Accolades:
None.

Adrian Del Monte, Goal.com

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