26 July 2021
Happy Birthday to Antonio Cassano and Christian Vieri!Today, we're celebrating two great strikers of the Azzurri's recent past
Monday, July 12, 2021
Antonio Cassano (39 years old) was born in Bari on 12 July 1982. He came through Bari’s youth ranks and made his debut for the club in 1999 at the age of 17. Following this, he played for Roma for four and a half seasons, winning the Supercoppa Italiana in 2001.Next up for him was a transfer to Real Madrid, where he won the league title during the 2006/07 season. He then returned to Italy after signing for Sampdoria before eventually going on to join AC Milan in 2011. With the Rossoneri, he won the Scudetto and the Supercoppa Italiana after that. He then played for Inter, Parma and Sampdoria once more before retiring in October 2018 after a brief stint at Hellas Verona.
As regards Italy, he made his debut for the senior side at a very young age: he was just 21 when he played in the friendly between Poland and the Azzurri on 12 November 2003. After giving him his first cap, Head Coach Trapattoni named him in Italy’s 2004 European Championship squad. Cassano was the best Italian player at that tournament as he netted twice in Italy’s three group matches. Thanks to his excellent performances while at Sampdoria, the striker regained his place in the Azzurri squad after more than a year of being left out, and he was called up by Head Coach Donadoni for the 2008 European Championship. In 2010, with the Azzurri now under the guidance of Prandelli, he made a big contribution as Italy qualified for Euro 2012: he finished as the top goalscorer in Group C with six goals. After his involvement in the tournament held in Poland and Ukraine, he took part in his first and last World Cup in 2014 in Brazil. His 39th and last cap for the National Team came in Italy’s defeat to Uruguay at that competition. In total, he scored ten goals for his country.
Christian Vieri (48 years old) was born in Bologna on 12 July 1973. Considered as one of the best Italian strikers of all time, Bobo (an affectionate reference to his grandfather, a famous footballer in the 1960s and 1970s) came through the youth ranks at Torino, where he made his debut at the age of 18. After spells at Pisa, Ravenna, Venezia and Atalanta, he was signed by Juventus during the summer of 1996. With the Bianconeri, he won one Scudetto, one European Super Cup and one Intercontinental Cup, and he also played in the Champions League final in which Juventus were defeated by Borussia Dortmund. At the end of the season, during which he found the back of the net 14 times in 37 games, he moved to Spanish side Atletico Madrid. He went on to score 24 times in 24 appearances, thus finishing as the league’s top goalscorer – the only Italian to have ever achieved this. The pull of Italy was too strong, however, and he returned to Serie A the following year, joining Lazio. He was part of the Biancocelesti side that won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. In the summer of 1999, he joined Inter for a record fee of 90 billion lire. While at the Nerazzurri, Bobo just missed out on the 2001/02 Scudetto title but continued to show he was one of the best Italian strikers around: in 2002/03, he finished as the league’s top scorer. In the five seasons he spent at Inter, the forward scored 123 times in 190 appearances, also winning the 2004/05 Coppa Italia. Vieri then had a brief spell at AC Milan before joining Monaco, where he suffered an injury that ruled him out of the 2006 World Cup.
After also pulling on the shirts of Atalanta and Fiorentina, he retired from the game in May 2009 at the age of 36. As for Italy, he played a key role in the Under-21s’ triumph at the 1994 European Championship under the guidance of Cesare Maldini. Considered as the natural heir to Gigi Riva, he made his debut for the senior side at the age of 23 against Moldova on 29 March 1997, when he scored the Azzurri’s 1000th goal. After being called up for the 1997 Tournoi de France, he took part in the World Cup held in the same country the following year. He was instrumental as Italy reached the quarters, only for the Azzurri to be defeated by the hosts on penalties. After missing Euro 2000 through an injury, Bobo was once again a key figure at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan: he scored four times and matched Rossi and Baggio’s record for the most goals scored by an Italian player at World Cup tournaments in the process (nine goals). However, his goalscoring exploits wren’t enough for Italy to progress beyond the last 16, with hosts Korea knocking them out. After taking part in the 2004 European Championship in Portugal, he played his last game for Italy on 12 October 2005, when he scored his last goal against Moldova – the same opponent he faced when he made his Azzurri debut. This was Vieri’s 23rd goal in 49 appearances for his country.