Antonio Cassano had originally decided on hanging up his boots.

Antonio Cassano has announced he will continue playing for Hellas Verona — just hours after he had told the Serie A club he wanted to retire.

Cassano, 35, spent last season training with Sampdoria’s youth team before being told in January that he was no longer welcome and then being formally released from his contract with the club.

The former Italy international joined Verona eight days ago, but living in the city — around 290 kilometres from his family home in Liguria — was proving too much for the former Roma, Real Madrid, Sampdoria and Inter Milan forward, who told the club he wanted to tear up his contract and return home.

However, he had a change of heart and informed the media at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon that he had instead decided to “win this great challenge,” admitting that he had just “suffered a bit of a meltdown,” before confirming that he is “not quitting.”

“[Verona coach] Fabio [Pecchia], the sporting director [Filippo] Fusco and the president have been close to me in view of my difficulty and they asked me if I could consider moving my family here,” Cassano said. “I would like to apologise to Verona for what happened.

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“After a year and a half at home, it was not easy to be in a preseason camp without my family. My wife told me that she and our kids could not cope not seeing me playing football and this gives me great strength.

“I made a mistake, but my road now is about having a great season with Verona. Apologising to everybody is the least I can do. I still have a lot to give and am putting myself back in the spotlight. I’ve lost seven kilos lately and all I can tell people is that it will take just two touches for me to make them forget everything.”

Fusco hopes Hellas fans will be patient and understanding with Cassano, saying he needs to be given time and space as he seeks to relaunch his career.

“It’s not easy to start the engine of a car which has been idle for so long,” he said. “Over the past year and a half, Antonio had lost a certain routine. He was struggling, but he has a great deal of motivation. He’s going to start enjoying himself again, but it will take time and he knows that too. But we are ready to wait for him.”

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.


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