Former Roma and Italy forward Antonio Cassano says that he believes his nation has a problem with xenophobia, describing it as a ‘racist country’.
The ex-Real Madrid and Milan man, who retired from the game in 2017, spoke to Sky Italia in a wide-ranging conversation that conveyed his thoughts on a number of issues.
Aside from discussing the future of Gonzalo Higuain, who seems bound for the Milan exit, and the value of several other Serie A players, the 36-year-old was drawn on the subject of intolerance in the game.
There have been several issues throughout the Italian game so far this season, most notably the abuse targeted at Napoli defender and Senegal international Kalidou Koulibaly.
Such an instance comes on the back of other issues involving players like Mario Balotelli and Kevin-Prince Boateng in recent years.
Cassano roundly condemned such incidents and staunchly refused to mark them out as individual instances, stating that he felt them to be part of a larger pattern.
“It is something that I still cannot understand,” the striker said. “We are all equal; white, black, yellow.
“Unfortunately, sometimes black players are targeted. Now it's Koulibaly, and in the past there was Balotelli and Boateng. I don't understand why.
“They say that in Italy there is no racism – I say there is. I have the impression that Italy is a racist country.”
Though Cassano was not asked further on the wider issues of racism in the sport, numerous other high-profile incidents have beset the European game this season.
Raheem Sterling was verbally abused at his side Manchester City’s clash with Chelsea, while Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a banana skin thrown at him during a derby clash with Tottenham.
Cassano officially confirmed his retirement last year after exploring a potential return to the game with Serie C side Virtus Entella.
Despite a career filled with accomplishments, Cassano admits he could have reached even greater heights had he applied himself more.
"I only did 50 percent of what I was capable of doing," Cassano said. "I was a disaster area sometimes and I hated training.
"If I had done what I should have done over the course of 15 years, I would have been like (Lionel) Messi.”