Football

Sex, croissants & Capello: Antonio Cassano’s bizarre Real Madrid career

Nostalgia

Twelve years ago, Antonio Cassano was suspended by Real Madrid for calling Fabio Capello “faker than Monopoly money”. Fair play to him.

The middle of autumn is a busy time for celebrations. In the space of a week, you have to contend with both Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night, offer your two cents on ‘the James McClean situation’, and frown dismissively at anyone still taking part in Movember. (Why not pour a bucket of ice water on your head while you’re at it, pal?)

But while all these things can be tiresome, one seasonal celebration always brings good cheer: not the U.S. midterms, but the anniversary of Antonio Cassano being suspended by Real Madrid.

Yes, even within a career packed full of absurdities, the story of Antonio Cassano insulting manager Fabio Capello (and later doing an unflattering impression of him) remains amusing.

Maybe it’s because, in the grand scheme of things, the brilliantly comedic transgressions don’t seem to warrant a severe punishment. Or maybe it’s because Capello did such an underwhelming job in England, making a hash of the language and reinstating John Terry as captain.

Either way, Cassano calling Capello “faker than Monopoly money” is both a good thing and a thing worth remembering.

Cornetto

Over nearly two decades in football, Italian forward Antonio Cassano played for many clubs, scored a fair few goals and — importantly — did a lot of stupid things.

It would be futile to try and document all of them.

Fortunately, his lifestyle is neatly illustrated by one particular anecdote from his time in Madrid, where he played between January 2006 and August 2007.

At the time, he was living in a hotel.

“I made friends with one of the waiters,” Cassano wrote in his autobiography. “His job was to bring me three or four cornetti after I had sex.”

That’s three or four Italian croissants, to the uninitiated.

“He would bring the cornetti to the stairs, I would bring the girl and we would make a trade: he took the girl; I stuffed myself with cornetti.

“Sex plus food — the perfect night!”

At the time, the pastry-loving Cassano claimed to have slept with over 600 women.

Food would prove to be a sticking point throughout Cassano’s spell at Madrid. After joining for a cut-price £5million in January 2006, the Italian soon began to overindulge in cornetti and other treats.

Toward the end of the 2006-07 season, the club began giving him regular fines, the values of which were directly proportional to his increasing weight.

“I’m happy when I eat pasta, bread, sweets and ham,” Cassano admitted in 2016. “I’m addicted to food, even now.”

Capello

But the forward’s biggest clash with Madrid, which happened on October 28, 2006, didn’t have anything to do with food.

It was then, during an away game versus Gimnàstic, that Cassano flipped his lid with Capello, who had instructed him to warm up on the touchline… for the entire second half.

After lambasting Capello for not bringing him on, Cassano called the manager “faker than Monopoly money”.

It didn’t go down well with the club.

A dour Madrid called it “an act of indiscipline showing a lack of respect to the coach”, while Capello immediately dropped Cassano and made him train alone.

Unfortunately for the talented forward, the manager was backed by goody-two-shoes captain Raúl, who reminded his team-mates to “work hard for one another, be humble, work to the same objective and be aware that we are at a great club”.

Less than two months later, before a match against Espanyol, Cassano made things worse for himself by doing an impression of the militaristic Capello.

The amused audience included Ronaldo, Fabio Cannavaro, Mahamadou Diarra and, unfortunately for the performer, a television camera.

Cassano didn’t feature in the league between October 14 and February 25.

Cassanata

Although Capello was the catalyst for Cassano’s Real Madrid expulsion and eventual departure, the coach did pay his striker — once the most expensive teenager in football — a certain kind of compliment.

To describe acts of footballing petulance, Capello penned a new word, ‘Cassanata’, which would follow Cassano around until his retirement.

Actually, make that retirements.

In July 2017, over the space of less than two weeks, 34-year-old Cassano signed for Verona, immediately retired, backtracked and vowed to play on, then finally confirmed he would be retiring after all.

He later said there was “no spark” in Verona.

“It’s like when you’re seeing a woman and she no longer attracts you, so you leave,” he explained — a perfect simile lacking nothing but a pastry reference.

He almost returned again: just a few weeks ago, the now 36-year-old teased a comeback, saying he would be training with a Serie C club.

It didn’t pan out, however, and the ex-player put out a lengthy statement explaining — strangely, since everyone thought he was retired anyway — that he was definitely retiring.

“Over the last few days of training, I realised that I no longer have the mentality to train consistently,” he said. “In order to play football, you need passion and talent but above all determination, and at this moment I have other priorities.”

A footballer who prioritises sex and croissants over training? God knows the game needs more of those.

By Benedict O’Neill


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