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Cassano and his insatiable appetite for sex, pastries and self-destruction

11:39 BST 25/07/2017
Antonio Cassano Inter
During a farcical fortnight, the talented but flawed former Italy international came out of retirement only to then reverse his decision


At the end of the classic movie 'A Bronx Tale', the young protagonist Calogero 'C' Anello realises, "The saddest thing in life is wasted talent, and the choices that you make will shape your life forever."

Antonio Cassano understands those life lessons more than most. The 35-year-old made a number of terrible choices during his career but none bigger than the decision to ignore the advice of Roma team-mate Francesco Totti and leave the capital club for Real Madrid in January 2006.

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"He said to me, 'Anto, remember, it's better to earn less but to be happy than to go to some other part of the world and not be 100 per cent serene.'

"I had been seduced by Real's offer," Cassano admitted in an interview with the Corriere dello Sport in February.

"But, if I had listened to Francesco, I probably would have stayed with him at Roma for 10, 15 years."

Instead, he lasted just 18 months in Spain, spending the majority of his time indulging in his two great loves: women and food.

"In Madrid, I had a friend who was a hotel waiter," Cassano explained in his autobiography. "His job was to bring me three or four pastries after I had sex.

"He would bring the pastries up the stairs, I would escort the woman to him and we would make an exchange: he would take the girl and I would take the pastries.

"Sex and then food - a perfect night."

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It was not, however, the ideal pre-match meal and Cassano unsurprisingly did little other than infuriate his employers, who fined 'Gordito' (as he was nicknamed by the Spanish press) for every gram he put on.

The disciplinary action proved costly for Cassano but it did not act as a deterrent, with the forward never really looking fit to wear the Real shirt in any of his 19 La Liga appearances, which yielded just two goals.

It was a desperate return for a wonderfully inventive dribbler whose skills had been honed on the cobbled streets in the market area of Bari.

"He was an incredible talent," lamented legendary Real captain Raul. "I'd never seen anyone like him.

"Maybe if he'd arrived at a different moment in his life, it would have gone differently for him."

Doubtful. Cassano would go on to enjoy spells of success at Sampdoria, Milan, Inter and Parma, as well as Italy, whom he helped reach the final of Euro 2012 by forming an enigmatic but effective partnership with Mario Balotelli, who was very much a kindred spirit.

However, his finest form was only ever fleeting. He could bamboozle the best of defenders with his nimble footwork but never seemed to be able to get the better of himself for long.

Having announced himself as a prodigious talent with a stunning strike against Inter at the age of 17 before forming a heartening rapport with Totti - on and off the field - at Roma, he vowed to wow the world once more at Verona this season, telling the Gazzetto dello Sport in April, "There's nobody like me. In two months, I'll return and you'll see."

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In a way, he was right. He is unique: no other player has such a flair for the unexpected.

He kept his word by restarting his career with Verona on July 10 and played two pre-season friendlies but then sensationally announced his retirement eight days later.

On Monday, his wife revealed on social media that Cassano would actually continue playing, only with a different club.

However, just hours later, he set the record straight, stating categorically that he would be quitting after all, to spend more time with his family at their home in Genoa.

It was pure theatre but a fittingly farcical end, one entirely in keeping with Cassano's combustible character and propensity for making poor decisions (he rejected four separate chances to move to Juventus).

As Verona president Maurizio Setti said, "This guy’s head isn’t right."

But then, as 'C' from 'A Bronx Tale' also learned, "You just have to accept people for what they are."

Antonio Cassano was a poor kid from Bari with a great gift for the game but an even bigger appetite for self-destruction.

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Andrea Pirlo once asked, "Cassano claims to have slept with over 700 women but he doesn't get in the national team anymore, can he be happy?"

Clearly not. Cassano was always his own worst enemy. But, at least, he knew it and perhaps there's a small victory in that.

"It's my fault if I haven't had a better career," he once confessed. "I haven't achieved 50 per cent of what I could have.

"But I made my bed, so I've got to lie in it."