The list of footballers who have indulged themselves with a playboy lifestyle is endless – but Antonio Cassano perhaps tops the lot.
A self-destructive hothead with a penchant for food and sleeping with women, as well as an array of questionable quotes, Cassano lived the high life until the luxury took an explosive toll.
His latest foray into the headlines came after his admission over an obsession with Nutella.
Antonio Cassano enjoyed a wild career but struggled with his obsession with food and women
The now 38-year-old endured an unhappy two years at Real Madrid, a spell dogged by his poor physique and fitness, and has partially blamed the club for the downfall.
Cassano arrived at the Bernabeu aged 23 – a time when footballers are expected to develop and hone their talents before flourishing.
In this case, however, his early adult years triggered the beginning of a spectacular spiral.
He arrived overweight, managed to shed the pounds, but then piled them back on again. The cause? Endless tubs of hazelnut flavoured spread.
The 38-year-old has opened up on how eating Nutella saw him pile on 14 kilos at Real Madrid
‘Nutella was one of the sponsors of the club and each month they gave us five kilos of product,’ Cassano said.
‘When (Fabio) Capello arrived I scored two goals in two games and I felt like the king of the world. After that he replaced me against Lyon, I argued with him in Jerez and he took me out of the team.
‘In seven months I gained 14 kilos. I ate Nutella directly from the bottle and I didn’t care. I was ashamed.’
The name drop of Capello isn’t the least bit surprising. After all, Cassano had once told the former England boss he was a ‘piece of s***’ and ‘more fake than Monopoly money.’
This type of outburst remained a constant in the wild Italian’s life. He himself admitted to being ‘a problematic guy’ – and his devilish desire for sex and food earmarked a truly extraordinary career.
Cassano once labelled Fabio Capello as a ‘piece of s***’ and ‘more fake than Monopoly money’
Cassano claims he had slept with between 600 and 700 women before he turned 25 and insisted he typically enjoyed a ‘great match’ after intercourse.
His brash personality is a stark contrast to his humble upbringing. He was born into poverty in Bari and raised solely by his mother after his father abandoned them.
It was on the streets of his testing neighbourhood that Cassano first developed his football skills. A spot in Bari’s youth system soon followed.
After catching the eye there, Cassano received a promotion to the first team in 1999. His arrival into the spotlight arrived soon after against Inter Milan.
A 17-year-old Cassano showed the courage and self-belief to take down a pass forward brilliantly, before ghosting beyond Christian Panucci and Laurent Blanc.
The feud between Cassano and Capello dogged the star for the rest of his rollercoaster career
Having disposed of two timeless defenders with a nonchalance most of his peers could only have dreamed of, Cassano fooled the goalkeeper with a dummy and buried his strike inside the near post.
Jaw-dropping, timeless and outrageous – just as the enigma is remembered today.
That goal helped haul Cassano out of the temptations that lurked around the dark corners of his home city.
‘If it wasn’t for that game against Inter I would have become a thief or worse; either way, a delinquent,’ he admitted in his 2008 autobiography. ‘A lot of people that I know have become involved in that life.’
But the start of his furious, and regular, arguments with Capello would soon follow.
Cassano bizarrely aired grievances at Francesco Totti after the two men featured on a TV show
Cassano moved to Roma in 2001, aged 19, for a fee of £26million. The price tag earned him the accolade of being the world’s most expensive teenager at the time.
Despite his sudden burst into fame, Cassano was unable to prevent his achievements on the field being hounded, and even overshadowed, by his shenanigans away from it.
After being left out of a practice match, Cassano feuded with Capello. It was in the fallout from the bust-up that both men would regularly tell each other to ‘f*** off’.
The two-time Serie A Young Footballer of the Year winner was also known to target match officials with his fury.
A red card brandished towards Cassano during the 2003 Coppa Italia final triggered the youngster to direct a devil horns sign towards the referee.
Luigi Delneri then replaced Capello and took a more hardline stance over Cassano’s controversial antics. The new coach wasted no time in kicking him out of his squad.
Manager Capello and Cassano were known to frequently argue and tell each other to ‘f*** off’
Luckily for Cassano, a route back was extended to him with the hiring of Bruno Conti and he was named captain.
Even this responsibility wasn’t enough to prevent Cassano from nosediving towards oblivion.
Ill-natured talks with Roma over a new deal led to a breakdown in their relationship and Francesco Totti also found himself on the wrong end of Cassano’s ire.
The team-mates had appeared on a TV show – and Cassano’s grievances arose as a result of the fee they received.
His club decided to cut their losses and offload him – with a move to Real Madrid arising in 2006 for a fee of just over £4m.
Cassano soon joined Real Madrid for just over £4m in 2006 and continued his playboy lifestyle
Despite having moved to the esteemed LaLiga giants, Cassano’s personal life continued to be dogged by the same habits.
He detailed in his book how his sordid lust for pastries and women was fulfilled thanks to a friend who worked as a hotel waiter.
‘His job was to bring me three or four pastries after I had sex,’ Cassano wrote.
‘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.’
Madrid quickly attempted to crack down on Cassano’s overindulgences.
Some divisive off-field antics saw Cassano (C) put on weight and led to the moniker ‘El Gordito’
He was fined for every gram he was overweight – leading to a new nickname, ‘El Gordito’. In English, the translation is ‘The Little Fatty’.
To make matters worse, his time at the club took another explosive lurch when Capello took up the reins.
The bitter reunion between the two figures, akin to a renewed showdown between two characters in a Marvel comic book, immediately gave way to the simmering tensions of the past.
After a clash at Tarragona, Cassano’s ‘Monopoly’ rant took place and Capello imposed a suspension.
The fractured and irreparable relationship between them saw Cassano attempt to source a move away.
Cassano joined Sampdoria but left three years on after angering president Riccardo Garrone
A spell at Sampdoria, which began with a loan stint, signalled the next chapter in his rollercoaster career.
Almost three years passed without an incident of note, although Cassano’s unruly manner did lead to an unsavoury ending.
Cassano refused to attend an awards presentation night in a move which angered club president Riccardo Garrone.
Garrone looked to have the bad boy’s deal torn up for gross misconduct – although a tribunal instead decided that Cassano’s wages should be cut in half.
The irate chief later told Tuttosport that Cassano ‘could have been one of the greatest players in the world’ if not for his unruly ‘temper’.
Despite the controversy that plagued his career, Cassano scored 10 goals in 39 caps for Italy
Cassano was shipped out to AC Milan in 2010. His time in the fashion capital of the world passed by without a single hitch – until a near-death experience, that is.
On the way back from a victory over former club Roma, Cassano began to feel unwell on the team bus from the airport.
He was soon diagnosed with an ischemic stroke by doctors after being taken to hospital.
‘We argued for half an hour before I agreed to visit the hospital,’ he later admitted. ‘And that is when I started to have trouble speaking and thought about seeing my son again.’
Surgery was carried out to mend his heart issue and a return to the pitch followed six months later in April 2012.
Cassano (R) also played for Inter Milan, Parma, Sampdoria and Hellas Verona before retiring
The serious health scare did little to prevent Cassano from slipping back into his rebellious nature, however.
Further moves to Inter Milan, Parma, Sampdoria and Hellas Verona rounded off his eccentric career.
His time at the San Siro was marked by an alleged bust-up with coach Andrea Stramaccioni. The two men were said to have pushed and shoved each other in the dressing room after a training session.
Cassano announced his retirement in September 2017, despite having changed his mind on five occasions.
A final chapter promised much with Serie C outfit Virtus Entella, but the adventure was promptly cut short after just a week.
Now married for over a decade and with two children, Cassona (R) enjoys a very different life
Cassano and his wife Carolina Marcialis (pictured together in 2018) had been married in 2010
His boots remain stored away to this day.
Now married to water polo player Carolina Marcialis, and with the happy couple having celebrated their ten-year anniversary last year, Cassano leads a different life.
They have two sons, Christopher and Lionel – named after Barcelona superstar Messi.
There may have been little romanticism during Cassano’s polarising career but there can be no denying the sheer size of the ‘what if?’ question he leaves behind.
Provided his cupboards are filled to the brim with Nutella, he may not mind.