Nerazzurri

Antonio Cassano in form during Parma introduction

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At his point in his career, Parma seems like a good fit for Antonio Cassano. While there’s cause to thing he could still contribute at Inter or AC Milan (his last two stops), there’s little reason for either of those times to take on that risk when they’re capable of signing more reliable options. But Parma, a team that finished 10th in Serie A and could use a boost in attack? Acquiring a temperamental player who could get more out of Nicola Sanone and Jonathan Biabiany is worth the risk.

At Cassano’s introduction at the club last Thursday, the club were reminded what they’ve acquired, with the highlights of his public appearance with the club encompassing the confounding, often difficult, mostly entertaining personality that’s seen the only 30-year-old make six stops since leaving Bari in the summer of 2001.

On his arrival a Parma:

I’m not sure exactly where we’ll end up, but I’m sure that things will go extremely well. And it’s World Cup year. I hope that this is the last club I play for. I’m convinced we will achieve great things – this is a challenge that I’m convinced I’ll win. People said I was finished as a player following my time at Madrid, however, I’ve won.

More on his arrival, including some vintage third-person:

I’m not here to put my feet up and have a holiday! The more responsibility I’m given the better I react and the more I give. When I’m made to feel useless, then I create havoc! If I play as Cassano can play, then everyone will benefit.”

On Inter Milan’s new boss, Walter Mazzarri, and his departure from the Nerazzurri:

I’d like to thank Branca, Ausilio and Moratti. But not Mazzarri. Before agreeing to take over at the club he called me and told me that I’d be an automatic starter this season with him. Then, after he’d signed his contract, he said that I would be an automatic choice – but to be on the first bus home!

On his last coach, Andrea Stramaccioni:

Stramaccioni? Oh, I see – you want controversy…! Let’s just say I left a lot of friends (at Inter). I had a fantastic relationship with the players there. But I’ve no comment to make about the coach…

On his career and potential:

So far in my career I’ve only achieved 30-40% of what I could have achieved. I’ve played for great clubs, even Real Madrid. I’m always telling myself: ‘Had you done more, where would you have played? Perhaps the moon, on your own?’

Over the years, Cassano has given fans a number of reasons to turn their back on him, but amid a season to vapid quotes and vacuous insight, Il Gioiello’s blend of honestly and egotism is a nice change. He’s honestly, if self-involved. And that self-involvement, not uncommon to athletes at his level, is part of the reason he’s at Parma:

Making the World Cup squad will be my big motivation. If I play the way I can, everyone will reap the benefits

Inter’s Zanetti leaves Palermo match with feared Achilles injury

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There’s never a good time to suffer an Achilles problem, but when you’re 39 years old, the injury could be career ending. Although it’s too early to say whether that fate awaits Inter Milan’s Javier Zanetti, it’s difficult to avoid indulging  scenarios after hearing news of the Argentine’s misfortune.

During Sunday’s 1-0 loss at Palermo, an otherwise normal first half challenge from Salvatore Aronica saw the Nerazzurri captain fall to the field at the Renzo Barbera, eventually stretched off. Although the club has not publicly confirmed any diagnosis, one report claims Inter Milan know Zanetti’s injured his Achilles. If true, Zanetti can be expected to miss the next eight months.

Well into his 18th year at the club after moving from Banfield in 1995, Zanetti has maintained a regular place in the Inter team despite turning 39 in August. In all competitions, he’s make 47 appearances this season. He has never played failed to play at least 34 games during his career in Milan, one that’s seen him set a series of club and league longevity records. With 145 appearances, Zanetti’s also the most-capped player in Argentine national team history.

Given that he’s still playing regularly, productively, and at a high-level, it may be a bit unfair to judge him by his age. He’s performing like man 15 years younger, and given his remarkable fitness and lack of previous injury problems, it might be best to call this an eight-month injury, refrain from assumptions, and see what happens.

But a 39-year-old man that’s won numerous league titles, a Champions League, and set an array of records has different motivations than a 24-year-old. The big fear here isn’t that Zanetti can’t come back – he surely can. The worry is that he won’t want to come back. And in that sense, we may have just seen the last of Javier Zanetti. We can only hope otherwise.

Antonio Cassano doesn’t do authority, Part 78: Italian star, head coach nearly come to blows

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Antonio Cassano got into a fight with Inter Milan head coach Andrea Stramaccioni. This is the kind of stuff he does.

The 30-year-old Italian international has had contentious departures from Roma, Real Madrid, and Sampdoria, and now he’s becoming a hornet’s nest for the Nerazzurri. It’s all part of the bargain.

According to reports out of Italy, Cassano and his Inter boss nearly came to blows after Friday’s training session. Midfielder Dejan Stankovic and team manager Ivan Cordoba separated the two before the confrontation climaxed.

The young head coach confirmed the news on Saturday, albeit in muted words:

There was no physical contact, it was just a discussion. It annoys me that it was reported outside the training ground, as these things should stay behind closed doors. Antonio is one of the players I have used the most.

He won’t be using him on Sunday. Stramaccioni confirmed he has decided to drop Cassano for the team’s trip to Catania. The playmaker will, however, be back in the team mid-week:

Cassano will be called up for the Europa League game with Tottenham next week. This is my decision and he is not being punished, nor frozen out. Fredy Guarin and Ricky Alvarez are crucial to cover the gaps at the moment.

For Stramaccioni, a 37-year-old in his first full year on the job, the dressing room confrontation was less noteworthy than the fact news of it got out:

Leaving Cassano out was my decision. It happened in the locker room and we shouldn’t make a big deal of it. Whoever leaked this story outside clearly does not want what’s best for Inter. The locker room is sacred.

Not sacred enough to avoid going after your coach, but as Stramaccioni initmated, this is not the first time a player and coach have almost come to blows.

And it’s not the first time Cassano’s famously bad temper has gotten the best of him. Inter knew what they were acquiring when they traded Giampaolo Pazzini to get him last summer.

No use excoriating either party. Not that Cassano doesn’t deserve some censure. It just won’t do any good.

Strange, amazing: Wesley Sneijder ready to join Spurs?

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Even though we linked to this story in the Premier League Boxing Day preview, it deserves a post of its own. It’s not everyday a player like Wesley Sneijder is rumored to be on the move.

That he’s moving from Internazionale isn’t surprising. The team has frozen him out in an effort to get the player to voluntarily reduce his wages, though in order for the Dutch international to come in line with Inter Milan’s expectations, he’d have to reduce his compensation by 30 percent. Currently making just short of $159,000 per week (afte taxes), Sneijder is thought to be the highest earner in the Italian game.

MORE: Don’t expect to see Wesley Sneijder any time soon

Sneijder would have to really want to stay in Milan to capitulate to such demands, especially considering the club’s strong-armed tactics practically beg him to leave. With Anzhi Makhachkala, Manchester City, and Manchester United still linked to the 28-year-old, Sneijder has plenty of potential suitors who could keep him in a similar wage bracket.

Not to mention the fact it’s unclear Sneijder, for all his obvious quality, makes Inter a better team. Head coach Andrea Stramaccioni has moved away from systems that depend on the attacking midfielder. To insert him into the plans would risk throwing the squad out of balance.

MORE: Juventus taking the drama out of Serie A

Add in the fact Sneijder’s still Champions League eligible (Inter having failed to qualify for the competition this season) and the former Nerazzurri linchpin looks destined to leave Inter during the January window.

That he was linked with Spurs  by a prominent Italian journalist is the big surprise:

[tweet https://twitter.com/tancredipalmeri/status/283393939434774528]

The personal terms should have been the most difficult part of this deal. That they may already be done is amazing enough, but with Spurs of all squads?

Tottenham is not known for paying high wages. At least, their wage structure doesn’t allow them to pay at the level of Manchester City or Chelsea. With Sneijder available, it’s unlikely they could offer terms near those of the Manchester clubs. If they were to get Sneijder, either their policies will have changed or Sneijder’s desperation to get out of Inter will leave a lot of money on the table. In addition to the wage cut, London is one of the most expensive cities in the world.

MORE: Brad Friedel signs one-year extension with Spurs

As Palmeri noted later on his Twitter timeline, a lot could still go wrong with the deal, but even the basis for it looks thin. If the move were to happen (which would require Spurs and Inter agreeing on a transfer fee), the hype surrounding the transfer would end up far less compelling than the dirty details. Either Spurs will have made a shift regarding what they’re willing to compensate players or Sneijder will have hit the eject button before finding a cushier landing spot.