Northern Italy is famous for its footballing history and the clubs that boast pride of place, with the Milan giants and Turin’s Juventus and Torino the heavyweights of the region.

However, in the city of Verona, two passionate fanbases have cheered their teams through ups and downs over the years and decades.

Hellas Verona have a proud history and are considered as the major team in the city, with the 114-year-old club set to return to Italian football’s top table in 2017-18.

A second-placed Serie B finish last season has resulted in subsequent promotion and Fabio Pecchia’s men are ready to take on the challenge of facing the country’s best once more, including local rivals Chievo Verona in the Derby della Scala.

The Gialloblu have wasted little time in looking to bolster their ranks and have added two household names to their attacking options in quick succession this week.

The evergreen Antonio Cassano, now 34, has been joined by Italy international Alessio Cerci in joining Hellas this summer – and they have a sizeable job on their hands.

The last time the Veneto-based outfit were in Serie A they were propelled forward by the prodigious gifts of Juan Iturbe and the predatory marksmanship of veteran forward Luca Toni in 2013-14 – the club’s supporters will hope the new offensive duo can be just as menacing.

Cassano has played for some of Europe’s top teams over the course of his career, with the versatile attacker looking for one last hurrah at Verona.

A mercurial talent with the ball at his feet, the attacker was tipped for the very top of the game and legendary status during his younger days – but it has not quite worked out that way.

Despite being able to count Roma, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan among his former clubs, Cassano did not hit the heights that were predicted of him back when he burst onto the scene at Bari as a fresh-faced teenager in late 1999.

A total of 39 international caps for Italy is no mean feat in anyone’s book, but a player of his undoubted ability could, and probably should, have represented the Azzurri on more occasions.

The reason behind this may well be Cassano’s temperament, with this flawed genius proving too big for his boots on a number of occasions.

The veteran, despite being fully aware that his playing days are not infinite and that he is heading towards the end of his career, opted to spend the entire 2016-17 campaign on the sidelines at Sampdoria.

A contract dispute between player and club means Cassano has not kicked a ball in a competitive environment in the last 12 months.

As such, Verona are taking something of a risk in bringing the attacker to the club, with question marks over whether the 34-year-old can get anywhere near back to his best.

While the potential for disaster is clearly there, the newly promoted club will hope that the temperamental genius can reignite his previously devastating attacking partnership with Giampaolo Pazzini.

The duo wreaked havoc in their mutual time at Sampdoria from 2009-2011, before leaving for Inter and AC Milan respectively.

While Cassano may well be the bigger name, Cerci is arguably the more-impressive addition, with the flying Italy international winger having the potential to be a superstar at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi.

His purchase must be seen as a major coup, with more-established clubs surely in the running to land the 29-year-old this summer.

Cerci has had a disappointing couple of seasons and will hope that the potential for regular first-team football at Verona will help him get back to his best.

The skilful forward shot to prominence at Torino between 2012 and 2014, and his irrepressible partnership with Ciro Immobile made the Turin side one of Serie A’s most dangerous teams.

Cerci seemingly had the footballing world at his feet, with some of the game’s biggest clubs pursuing him and international football with the Azzurri guaranteed.

The winger opted for a big-money move to Atletico Madrid in 2014, but his time in Spain was an unmitigated disaster.

In three years on the capital city outfit’s books, he made only seven La Liga appearances, with his work ethic, or perceived lack of it, not winning over the uncompromising Diego Simeone.

Loan stints at Milan and Genoa had varying levels of success but inconsistency was a consequence of a lack of regular football.

In one-on-one situations Cerci can be lethal and during his Torino days he showed the ability to both score and create goals almost at will.

While his confidence may have taken a knock in the last few years and his match fitness will have to be restored, the 29-year-old has the ability to be Verona’s attacking talisman and star player next season.

Survival back in Serie A will be the number one goal for the promoted club in 2017-18 and the additions of Cerci and Cassano will surely have a telling impact on whether this feat is achieved over the next 12 months.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here