AC Milan's Antonio Cassano, center, celebrates with teammates Gennaro Gattuso, left, and Robinho, of Brazil, during a Serie A soccer match between Cagliari and AC Milan, in Cagliari, Italy, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011. AC Milan won 1-0. (AP Photo/Daniela Santoni) *** Local Caption ***  CAG114_Italy_Soccer_Serie_A.jpg
Antonio Cassano, centre, celebrates with Gennaro Gattuso, left, and Robinho, during Milan’s win at Cagliari on Thursday.

All the attention is on Cassano

When Silvio Berlusconi, the president of AC Milan and prime minister of Italy, addressed the players of his squad last Tuesday in Rome, he paid special attention to the newcomer, Antonio Cassano.

"You," he told Cassano, "are the Italian footballer with the greatest natural talent of all."

None of Cassano's compatriots in the Milan ranks took great offence at that. Cassano's exceptional gifts have never been in dispute; the doubts about the 28-year-old striker have always surrounded his application of that talent.

As the rossoneri, Serie A's league leaders, lined up to hear Berlusconi play the motivator and statesman - "a strong Milan is good for Italy," he proclaimed - Cassano still looked like an outsider.

Most of the players stood upright, like soldiers being inspected by a general, or at least like schoolboys listening to their headmaster. Cassano's pose was significantly different. He leaned gently against a pillar, just a bit less ceremonial than the others. It was easy to spot the potential class rebel.

It had been rebellion that led Cassano to Milan, whom he formally joined at the opening of this month's transfer window. He fell out with the Sampdoria president, Riccardo Garrone, last October and from then on a departure from that club - the third, after Bari and Roma, of his Serie A career - became inevitable.

Samp had in turn recruited Cassano in 2007 when Real Madrid no longer wanted a player who had clashed there with the coach Fabio Capello. Famously, Cassano was caught on camera doing a mischievous impersonation of Capello to amuse his teammates.

A word has been coined for these acts of indiscipline that have punctuated his career. They are called "cassanate", a kind of tomfoolery named after Cassano.

It is no exaggeration to say that Italian football is in suspense about whether the Cassano era at Milan will be characterised by cassanate or by the late flowering of an individual around whom the national team has once again pinned heavy hopes.

Cassano's competitive debut for his new club, on Thursday away at Cagliari, put the player at centre stage, even when he was on the substitutes' bench at the start.

Television viewers were repeatedly dragged from events on the field to see what Cassano might be doing. The answer? Smiling from time to time; looking concerned as a Milan deprived of Zlatan Ibrahimovic through suspension, and a number of senior players through injury, struggled to impose themselves.

Cassano was given his chance to make a difference 16 minutes from time, stripping off his tracksuit to reveal his No 99 jersey. Eleven minutes later, he had set up the game's only goal.

Receiving the ball from Robinho, an old comrade from Real Madrid, he then found Rodney Strasser, another replacement, and the young Sierra Leone striker, in a position that looked offside, scored his first senior goal for Milan.

Milan's coach, Massimiliano Allegri, praised Cassano's contribution, but stressed that he will be easing, not rushing, the player into his plans.

"This Milan is about everybody, not just Ibrahimovic, not just Cassano. He's not yet in perfect shape because he has been a long time without first-team football, and we have a heavy schedule of fixtures ahead, with Champions League coming up," Allegri said.

The win confirmed Milan as winter champions.

Even if they lose at San Siro tomorrow against Udinese they will lead Serie A at the halfway stage of the season, given they hold a five-point advantage over second-placed Lazio.

Ibrahimovic, the top scorer, should return against Udinese; Alexandre Pato did come back, against Cagliari, from a long lay-off; and Robinho showed on Thursday that his unfortunate injury during last week's friendly in Dubai (he collided with a television camera) is less grave than initially feared. Thus, Cassano may again have to be content with a place on the bench. Allegri will hope that does not bore him. It is when Cassano seeks distractions that the cassanate occur.


Starring: Elia Suleiman, Manal Khader, Amer Daher

Director: Elia Suleiman

Rating: 4.5/5

The Scale for Clinical Actionability of Molecular Targets
Company profile

Company: Zywa
Started: 2021
Founders: Nuha Hashem and Alok Kumar
Based: UAE
Industry: FinTech
Funding size: $3m
Company valuation: $30m

The specs: 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

Price, base: Dh399,999
Engine: Supercharged 6.2-litre V8
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
Power: 707hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 875Nm @ 4,800rpm
Fuel economy, combined: 16.8L / 100km (estimate)

Company Profile

Company name: Fine Diner

Started: March, 2020

Co-founders: Sami Elayan, Saed Elayan and Zaid Azzouka

Based: Dubai

Industry: Technology and food delivery

Initial investment: Dh75,000

Investor: Dtec Startupbootcamp

Future plan: Looking to raise $400,000

Total sales: Over 1,000 deliveries in three months

Mia Man’s tips for fermentation

- Start with a simple recipe such as yogurt or sauerkraut

- Keep your hands and kitchen tools clean. Sanitize knives, cutting boards, tongs and storage jars with boiling water before you start.

- Mold is bad: the colour pink is a sign of mold. If yogurt turns pink as it ferments, you need to discard it and start again. For kraut, if you remove the top leaves and see any sign of mold, you should discard the batch.

- Always use clean, closed, airtight lids and containers such as mason jars when fermenting yogurt and kraut. Keep the lid closed to prevent insects and contaminants from getting in.


Tightening the screw on rogue recruiters

The UAE overhauled the procedure to recruit housemaids and domestic workers with a law in 2017 to protect low-income labour from being exploited.

 Only recruitment companies authorised by the government are permitted as part of Tadbeer, a network of labour ministry-regulated centres.

A contract must be drawn up for domestic workers, the wages and job offer clearly stating the nature of work.

The contract stating the wages, work entailed and accommodation must be sent to the employee in their home country before they depart for the UAE.

The contract will be signed by the employer and employee when the domestic worker arrives in the UAE.

Only recruitment agencies registered with the ministry can undertake recruitment and employment applications for domestic workers.

Penalties for illegal recruitment in the UAE include fines of up to Dh100,000 and imprisonment

But agents not authorised by the government sidestep the law by illegally getting women into the country on visit visas.

Secret Pigeon Service: Operation Colomba, Resistance and the Struggle to Liberate Europe
Gordon Corera, Harper Collins

The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat


Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

The specs

Engine: 5.2-litre V10

Power: 640hp at 8,000rpm

Torque: 565Nm at 6,500rpm

Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto

Price: From Dh1 million

On sale: Q3 or Q4 2022

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024


Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).

Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).


Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).


Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

You might also like


Keep up with all the Middle East and North Africa athletes at the 2024 Paris Olympics

      By signing up, I agree to The National's privacy policy