Cassano was born in Bari and his father left the family shortly thereafter. He was raised in the Bari Vecchia neighbourhood, and began playing football at an early age. Cassano was spotted by an A.S. Bari scout and brought up through the team's youth system, and he made his Serie A debut for Bari against local rivals U.S. Lecce in 1999. During his time with Bari, he emerged as one of Serie A's most promising young Italian players, drawing particular attention to himself after scoring a notable, match-winning goal in a 2-1 win over Italian giants Internazionale, on 19 December 1999, in the 88th minute. His technical skill, precocious talent, and impressive performances earned him the nicknames "Fantantonio", due to his creativity, and "El Pibe de Bari", a reference to the legendary Maradona's nickname, "El Pibe de Oro". During his two seasons with Bari, he scored 6 goals in 48 Serie A matches.
In 2001, at the age of 19, Cassano signed with reigning Serie A champions A.S. Roma, for a transfer fee of 60 billion Italian lire (about â‚¬30 million). His first season produced five goals, as well as a 2001 Supercoppa Italiana victory, and he attracted media attention after openly clashing with coach Fabio Capello after he was left out of a practice match a few days after his international debut. In the 2003 Italian Cup final against A.C. Milan, Cassano was sent off after protesting an official's decision, and he flashed the sign of the horns at the referee while leaving the pitch. During his time with Roma, he won the Serie A Young Footballer of the Year Award in 2001 and in 2003.
He was omitted from the squad during Roma's tumultuous 2004â€“05 campaign while Luigi Delneri, Roma's third coach of the season (after Cesare Prandelli and Rudi Voller), was in charge. After Delneri himself resigned during the season, his replacement, Bruno Conti, returned Cassano to the starting lineup, with Cassano captaining the team in the absence of incumbent Francesco Totti, who was serving a five-match suspension.
During the 2005â€“06 preseason, Cassano was in constant conflict with club management over the renewal of his contract, which was due to expire on 30 June 2006. In January 2006, he acrimoniously parted ways with Roma and signed with Real Madrid. for just â‚¬5M.
Cassano became the second ever Italian player to sign for Real Madrid after former Roma teammate Christian Panucci. His debut came on 18 January 2006, in a Spanish Cup match against Real Betis, and scored his first goal just three minutes after entering the match in the second half. However, 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.
On 30 October, Madrid's official website announced that Cassano had been suspended due to his â€œdisrespectâ€ of Capello, who had joined the club at the beginning of 2006â€“07 season, following a dressing room argument arising from his omission from the team after a game against Gimnastic de Tarragona, and was subsequently benched along with David Beckham and Ronaldo. In an interview with a Roman radio station, Cassano said he would "walk all the way back" to rejoin Roma, and indicated his eagerness to make peace with Totti, with whom Cassano had conflicted with before his departure from Roma. However, Cassano remained with Madrid after the January 2007 transfer window had closed, and the rest of his season was cut short by an ankle injury. Despite winning the 2006-07 La Liga title with Real Madrid, Cassano only made 7 league appearances, scoring just a single goal.
In an interview with Spanish radio in July 2007, Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon described Cassano's attitude as "unsustainable in the last couple of months" and indicated that he would be leaving the club.
On 13 August 2007, Sampdoria took Cassano on a one-year loan, agreeing to pay â‚¬1.2 million of his â‚¬4.2 million salary. He was presented to approximately 2,500 fans five days later. In his first press conference, Cassano said that since his first-choice number 18 was already taken by teammate Vladimir Koman, he had instead chosen 99, because 9 plus 9 equals 18.
He made his Sampdoria debut that season in the Derby della Lanterna against Genoa on 23 September, in which he was substituted by former Roma teammate Vincenzo Montella in the final minutes of the match. Cassano scored his first league goal upon his return against Atalanta a week later, in a 3â€“0 victory. He scored in three consecutive games in January, and helped end league leaders Inter's winning league run with a goal in a 1â€“1 draw. However, Cassano was sent off in a 2â€“2 draw with Torino on 2 March 2008, which he compounded by hurling his shirt at the referee as he left the pitch, and was punished with a five-match ban. Sampdoria ended the season with an UEFA Cup berth, while Cassano was acquired on a permanent basis by the club on free transfer (plus bonus) from Madrid.
In his second season, Cassano confirmed to have temperamentally improved, also becoming vice-captain for the team behind Angelo Palombo. After the January signing of Giampaolo Pazzini from ACF Fiorentina, Cassano managed to form a fruitful striking partnership with the former viola forward, that was praised by both media and Sampdoria supporters, and led club chairman Riccardo Garrone to compare it with striking duo of Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini that led Sampdoria to win their only scudetto to date, an opinion that was later shared also by both Vialli and Mancini. Cassano scored 12 goals in Serie A and helped Sampdoria to teach the Coppa Italia final that season, scoring a goal in the semi-final against the Serie A Champions, Inter. In the final, Sampdoria were defeated by Lazio in a penalty shoot-out, with Cassano missing the first penalty.
His third season with Sampdoria again began very well, as he continued his prolific partnership with Pazzini, and was instrumental in the club's impressive seasonal start, that led them up to first place after a 1â€“0 home win to Internazionale. However, a result crisis, including a 3â€“0 defeat in the local derby against crosstown rivals Genoa, left Sampdoria down to mid-table on January, leading head coach Luigi Delneri to put Cassano off the team for "technical and tactical reasons", casting doubts about the player's future at the club.
In the final days of the January transfer window, he was linked with a move on loan to Fiorentina, that was however denied with an official statement from the club, but was described by the media as Cassano's own refusal to leave Sampdoria. This was confirmed by Cassano himself through an official statement published on Sampdoria's website, citing his relationship with club chairman Riccardo Garrone, his teammates and the team supporters as the main reason for his choice. He soon came back into the starting line-up, and eventually helped Sampdoria to a fourth-place finish UEFA Champions League qualifying spot in Serie A. Sampdoria were defeated by Werder Bremen in the play-off round, however, and were to enter into the Europa League that season. Del Neri left Sampdoria at the end of the season.
Cassano's final season with the club was more difficult. On October 2010, Cassano was excluded from the first team squad with immediate effect after he had a heated row with chairman Riccardo Garrone following the player's refusal to attend an award ceremony. Following such events, Sampdoria formally applied for a contract termination to a league arbitration panel, a position that was confirmed even after Cassano apologised to Garrone and the club. On 16 December, the arbitration panel ordered Sampdoria to reinclude Cassano into the first team from 1 January 2011, rejecting the blucerchiati's request for a contract termination, but also concluding Cassano will be paid only 50% of his salary for the remainder of his contract.
On 20 December 2010, it was reported that A.C. Milan, Sampdoria and the player agreed the installment plan to pay a â‚¬5 million to Real Madrid which was indicated in Cassano's buy-out clause when he left the Spanish club. Eventually Sampdoria paid â‚¬5 million to Real Madrid; A.C. Milan paid â‚¬3.33 million to Sampdoria, while Cassano had a wage cut with Milan. Cassano then signed a three-and-a-half year contract with Milan, which was later confirmed by Milan's owner Silvio Berlusconi, replacing the gap left by Ronaldinho's departure. His former strike partner at Sampdoria, Pazzini, also left the club in January to move to A.C. Milan's rivals, Inter. Cassano made his debut for his new club in a 1â€“0 win against Cagliari Calcio where he came on as a substitute for Alexander Merkel in the latter stages of the game. He scored his first goal for A.C. Milan in a 4â€“0 win against Parma. He went on to score three more goals that season, as A.C. Milan claimed the 2010â€“11 Serie A title that season, Cassano's first Scudetto of his career; two of these goals came against former clubs Bari and Sampdoria, and the other one from a penalty against fierce rivals Inter on 2 April 2011, after coming on as a substitute; he was later sent off during the same match after being booked twice. In the meantime, Sampdoria struggled without Cassano and Pazzini, and were relegated to Serie B at the end of the season.
As Cassano faced competition for a spot in the A.C. Milan starting XI from the likes of forwards Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexandre Pato, and Robinho, a lot of speculation formed over his future for the following season, as Cassano wanted to gain more playing time, due to his wish to keep his spot in the Italian national side. Although he was initially linked to other clubs, he stayed with Milan, and after a good pre-season, he won the 2011 Supercoppa Italiana with Milan over rivals Inter, and he scored in the first Serie A game of the 2011â€“12 season against S.S. Lazio. On 29 October 2011, following Milan's match against Roma in Rome, Cassano was hospitalised after suffering a stroke upon arriving in Milan, and was operated on 4 November. He returned to the first team on 7 April 2012, after almost six months on the side-lines, featuring as a substitute in Milan's 2â€“1 home defeat to Fiorentina. On 29 April, he scored his first goal since his operation, in a 4â€“1 win over Siena, also setting up both of Ibrahimovic's goals during the match. A.C. Milan finished the Serie A season in 2nd place behind Juventus, also reaching the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia, and the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League.
After reportedly being upset over the sale of A.C. Milan's key players, particularly Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, Cassano requested a transfer. On 21 August 2012, A.C. Milan and Internazionale reached an agreement over an exchange deal involving Giampaolo Pazzini and Cassano, with a compensatory sum of â‚¬7.5 million in favor of the Nerazzurri. (Pazzini tagged for â‚¬13 million and Cassano for â‚¬5.5 million.) He officially joined the team the next day. Cassano signed a two-year contract.
After only one season at Inter, Cassano joined Parma on 4 July 2013 on a temporary deal. He would continue to wear the no. 99 shirt. He had a successful 2013/14 season at Parma as the club achieved a Europa League qualifying place in the league, scoring 13 goals and managing 8 assists in 36 appearances. In February 2014, he signed a pre-contract agreement with Parma for the 2014â€“15 season.
In the first half of the 2014/15 season, Cassano managed 5 goals in 20 appearances as Parma were rooted to the bottom of the table and battling serious financial difficulties. On 26 January 2015, Cassano terminated his contract at Parma allowing him to become a free agent. He had not been paid his wages since June, allowing him to terminate his deal early.
Following his release from Parma back in January of the same year; Cassano re-joined former club Sampdoria for a third time on 9 August 2015. He agreed a two-year deal with the club, lasting until 30 June 2017.
Cassano made his debut for the Italy national football team on 12 November 2003, aged 21, in friendly match against Poland in which he scored his first goal.
He was part of Italy's UEFA Euro 2004 squad as a reserve, but after Francesco Totti was suspended following a spitting incident with Christian Poulsen in a group match against Denmark, Cassano was inserted into the starting lineup for a 1â€“1 draw with Sweden in which he scored. In Italy's final group match, which ended in a 2â€“1 victory over Bulgaria, he was named man of the match, as he was involved in Simone Perrotta's equaliser, and also netted the last-minute winner, but Italy were eliminated in the group stage on direct encounters after a three-way five point tie with Denmark and Sweden.
After a poor season with Real Madrid, Cassano was left off coach Marcelo Lippi's final roster for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The Azzurri went on to lift the trophy in Berlin, beating France in a penalty shootout.
In September 2006, Cassano was called up by new manager Roberto Donadoni for UEFA Euro 2008 qualifiers against Lithuania and France. However, he was not selected again until surprisingly being included in the UEFA Euro 2008 roster. He went scoreless in the tournament as Italy were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Spain after a penalty shootout.
Lippi returned as coach for the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign and did not select Cassano during the qualifying matches or the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals. After a two-year absence from the Azzurri team, and following widespread criticism from the media towards Lippi about his exclusion from the World Cup squad, Cassano was readmitted into the Italian team on 6 August 2010 by new head coach Cesare Prandelli for his first game in charge of the team, a friendly match against Cote d'Ivoire played on 10 August at Upton Park, London. Almost a month later, in Italy's Euro 2012 qualifier played in Estonia Cassano scored the tying goal in a 1â€“2 away victory and also assisted Leonardo Bonucci's second goal with a back-heel. Cassano scored a long-range goal from just outside the box in Italy's 5â€“0 qualifying win over the Faroe Islands. He scored again against Estonia helping Italy secure a 3â€“0 win.
Cassano played in all six of Italy's matches and scored one goal against Ireland during UEFA Euro 2012, where the Italian team reached the final, losing 4â€“0 against Spain; in the semi-final against Germany, Cassano set-up Balotelli's first goal of the match. Cassano wore the number 10 shirt for Italy throughout the tournament. In July 2012, he was fined by UEFA for making a homophobic comment at a press conference during Euro 2012. At the conference, when asked if he thought there were any homosexual players in the Italian team, he replied "I hope there are none". He later issued a statement saying he had been misinterpreted.
Despite not featuring during the qualification campaign, Cassano was selected in Italy's squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. On 20 June 2014, at the age of 31, Cassano made his FIFA World Cup debut as a substitute in a 1â€“0 loss to Costa Rica.
A creative forward, or fantasista, in Italian, who usually functions as an assist provider in his team, Cassano is capable of playing anywhere along or behind the front-line, on either flank or through the centre of the pitch; in addition to his usual role, he is able to act as an advanced playmaker, and has also been deployed as a striker, or as a winger on occasion. Cassano has been described as a player who is "skillful and intelligent on the ball" who possesses "excellent vision and also impresses with his eye for goal". His best technical qualities are his trapping skills, control, dribbling, and passing accuracy. Despite his ability and talent, throughout his career, Cassano has also been criticsed for his behaviour, poor work-rate, and lack of discipline, both on and off the pitch, which have often led him to pick up unnecessary cards. Due to his inconsitency and unpredictabliity, many in the sport, including his former manager Capello, have argued that he did not live up to the potential he demonstrated in his youth, and that his personality affected his career.
Cassano got engaged to water polo player Carolina Marcialis in 2008, then married on 19 June 2010 at a church, Chiesa di San Martino, in Portofino. The couple have two sons, Christopher and Lionel (named after Lionel Messi).
On 30 October 2011 it was reported that Cassano complained of finding it difficult to speak or move when the team returned to Milan. On 2 November 2011 A.C. Milan announced and confirmed that Antonio Cassano was suffering from ischemic-based cerebral damage, though it should be temporary. Cassano underwent minor heart surgery soon after. He returned to action in the Serie A on 25 April 2012, even scoring in a fixture against Genoa.
During Euro 2012, Cassano stated his preference for there to be no gay players on the squad and used a derogatory descriptor.
On 1 February 2013, Cassano had a locker room brawl with his coach at Internazionale, Andrea Stramaccioni. It occurred following Friday's training session and had started off as a relatively normal discussion before the pair got into a heated slanging match, then degenerated into pushing and shoving before the other players intervened to pull them apart.
Cassano is a brand ambassador for Diadora, currently wearing their Evoluzione K Pro GX 14 football boot in Black/Fluorescent Yellow
Reference: La Gazzetta dello SportAs of 20 December 2014.
Scores list Italy's tally first.
Supercoppa Italiana: 2001
La Liga: 2006â€“07
Serie A: 2010â€“11
Supercoppa Italiana: 2011
IndividualSerie A Young Footballer of the Year â€“ 2001, 2003