Antonio Cassano could play for Milan on Saturday

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Antonio Cassano could play against Fiorentina on Saturday. Color me shocked, happy, but if I’m being honest, worried.

If you missed yesterday’s update, let me update you, quickly. This fall, Antonio Cassano suffered something similar to a stroke after a late-October match at Roma. He had heart surgery in early-November and has been out ever since. This week, the medical team at Milan cleared him to resume training. He participated in a game against Milan’s youth team, and now Cassano has been named in the Rossoneri’s 19-man squad for Saturday’s match against the Serie B-applicant that is Fiorentina (9  a.m. ET kick off).

It’s hard not to be excited Cassano’s impending return, and his last five months provide some needed perspective on how he was covered prior to his health problems. While the narrative that cast him as being a eccentric problem child pre-incident wasn’t unfair (given how other athletes are portrayed), Cassano’s near-death experience highlights how petty and hyperbolic that coverage can become. That few reports of Cassano’s comeback elude to his previous personality conflicts shows how truly irrelevant those issues were.

And now, I hope the coverage isn’t again taking it’s eye off the ball, though consider everything from this point down the wild ramblings of a scared, scared man …

Because I can’t help but think all of this is going a little too fast. I can’t even type that without reiterating that Milan’s medical staff – and surely, Antonio Cassno himself – know more than I do. However, one of the major stories of the Serie A season has been how injury-riddled Milan as been, with their previously-revered staff coming under scrutiny for their inability to keep players healthy. It’s become a bit of a tagline, amongst people who cover the league: to allude to Milan’s injury woes.

A recent incident might be the most damning. Alexandre Pato has been in-and-out of the lineup all season. Late last week, Milan’s staff said they had no set timetable for the Brazilian attacker’s return, but after a trip to the United States, Pato was back on the radar for Milan’s mid-week visit to Barcelona. Now, after a brief appearance in Champions League, Pato’s said to be out for the season. But is he?

Either Milan or U.S. doctors are wrong, but the fact that Pato was sent to the States at all hints at some uncertainty around Pato’s diagnosis. And while we don’t want to read too much into one player’s problems, it’s difficult not to explore the worst case scenario when thinking about a situation like Cassano’s.

Am I wrong to think that Milan’s injury problems are playing into Cassano’s early return? I certainly hope so. Am I wrong for putting it out there? Probably. Why can’t I just keep it to myself?

Because I’m worried. And I need some way to get the worry out of my system and, come tomorrow, root for Antonio Cassano. Now, I’ve addressed it. Now, hopefully, I can purge it.

I’m under the assumption I’m not the only one that feels this way. Certainly, there are some doubt amongst some people I respect. If you’re holding similar apprehensions, let them out here so that, come Saturday, we can just root for him. Just let it out now.

Enrique has rare brain tumor removed, faces battle

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Former Newcastle and Liverpool defender Jose Enrique is now an agent, but the headache that came with a manager meeting had nothing to do with the conversation.

[ MORE: Lozano to Barcelona? ]

Enrique had a “brutal” headache following a meeting with Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton, his former manager, and tests revealed a rare brain tumor (Spanish language link).

Enrique underwent brain surgery to remove the tumor and now faces 35 sessions of radiotherapy, only available in two European cities.

He lost more than a dozen pounds in a single week, calling it “the toughest time of my life.”

WATCH: World Cup, Day 10 — All eyes on Germany

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Many of the favorites in the 2018 World Cup have disappointed, but until Argentina fell 3-0 to Croatia on Thursday, Germany was the only one to suffer a defeat.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Die Mannschaft fell to Mexico in their opening match, with El Tri carving up the German midfield on the counter. Now, Joachim Low has had ample time to make the adjustments needed to go for victory as the Germans take on Sweden as they chase a spot in the knockout stages among Group F.

Meanwhile, Mexico looks to prove they’re not a one-hit wonder as they take on South Korea in Rostov. Juan Carlos Osorio has received plenty of praise – and rightly so – for his tactics in the upset victory, and that leaves El Tri with a chance to clinch a spot in the knockout stage with a win.

Before all that Group F craziness, Belgium takes the field in the morning against Tunisia as they look to follow up its comprehensive 3-0 victory over Panama in the opening round. A victory for the Red Devils would not only book a place in the knockout round, but also eliminate Tunisia from contention.

Below is Saturday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Saturday, June 23

Group F
South Korea vs. Mexico: Rostov-on-Don, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Germany vs. Sweden: Sochi, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group G
Belgium vs. Tunisia: Moscow, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Kluivert junior leaves Ajax for Roma in $21m transfer

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ROME (AP) — Roma signed Justin Kluivert, the son of former Milan and Barcelona forward Patrick, from Ajax on Friday for a fee that could rise to 18.75 million euros ($21.8 million).

The 19-year-old Dutch international forward has agreed a five-year contract with Roma.

“I’m very happy. I’m at an incredible club,” Kluivert said. “I cannot wait to start. I believe that Roma is the ideal team for my growth, which will allow me to play at the highest levels.”

Kluivert junior made 56 appearances and scored 13 goals for Ajax. He has one cap for the Netherlands.

He joins Roma for an initial 17.25 million euros ($20.1 million) and performance-related clauses could see the price rise by 1.5 million euros.

Ricketts family, owner of the Chicago Cubs, interested in purchasing AC Milan

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The Ricketts family, who purchased a controlling stake in the Chicago Cubs back in 2009, have interest in further pursuing ownership in financially troubled Italian club AC Milan.

According to a family statement, “The Ricketts family brought a championship to the Chicago Cubs through long-term investment and being great stewards of the team … They would bring this same approach to AC Milan.”

First reported by the Chicago Tribune, the news of the Tom Ricketts’ interest in the team comes on the heels of news that current owner Li Yonghong had failed to meet a Friday deadline for a $37 million loan payment. According to reports, the missed payment means that Li will cede control of the club to Elliott Management, who loaned the Chinese businessman the money to complete his initial purchase of the club last April.

The Chicago Sun-Times also reported the family’s interest in the club, and quoted their source as saying, “The Ricketts put together the management team, resources and training facilities [for the Cubs]. [They did] everything you need top to bottom to be successful.”

Ricketts has plenty of history in soccer ownership, having previously been a part of the group that owned English club Derby County before selling back in 2015. This May, Ricketts also announced he was leading an investment group that is looking to bring a USL expansion team to Chicago.

Forbes values AC Milan at $612 million – a massive 26% 1-year decline – and ranks them the 17th most valuable soccer club in the world. That valuation could be further on the decline, as the storied club missed out on Champions League qualification for the fifth straight year, although they qualified for their second straight Europa League appearance with 6th place finish in last year’s Serie A table, eight points behind Lazio in fifth.

AC Milan also faces heavy sanctions from UEFA regarding Financial Fair Play, although those fears could be eased with the financially-troubled Li selling the club.

The Ricketts family’s wealth comes largely from investment banking, with Tom’s father J. Joseph Ricketts having founded Ameritrade back in 1975. Tom is estimated by Forbes to be worth $1 billion, while his father has an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion.