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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 4, 2006

Cassano aiming to shed bad boy image at Real

MADRID, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Italy striker Antonio Cassano said he was anxious to shed his bad-boy image after completing his transfer from AS Roma to Real Madrid on Wednesday.

'Everyone has labelled me as a difficult character, but I want to show them that I'm not like that,' the 23-year-old told a news conference at the Bernabeu following his €5.5 million move to Spain.

'I'm here to change and improve as a person and a player.'

Cassano, who was embroiled in a dispute with former club Roma over his contract which was due to expire at the end of the season, recognised he had made mistakes in the past.

'Who hasn't made mistakes? I certainly have and I've paid dearly for them,' he said. 'As for the reasons for why I left Roma, all I can say is that whenever there is a divorce the fault lies with both sides and that is true in this case.'

Cassano is only the second Italian to sign for Real, following in the footsteps of defender Christian Panucci who played for the club between 1997 and 1999.

The Italy international was presented with the number 19 shirt by Real's vice-president Emilio Butragueno in the absence of honorary president Alfredo Di Stefano who is recovering in hospital after a heart bypass operation.

Butragueno said the Italian was aware of the pressure he was under after signing a 4-1/2-year deal with his new club.

'Cassano is an undeniably talented player, who despite his youth has played at the top level in one of the most competitive leagues in the world for several years,' he said.

'He knows how to cope with the pressure and is aware that Real Madrid demands the maximum of every player both on and off the pitch.

'He is the second Italian to wear the Real Madrid shirt and knows that it is a big responsibility to represent his country while at this club.'

Cassano replied by saying it was a 'dream come true to play for the strongest and most famous club in the world.

'It is a very emotional moment for me,' he added. 'It is one thing saying you want to play for Real Madrid, but quite another when you are presented to the fans at the Bernabeu.'

One of the brightest prospects in Italian football, Cassano has made just five Serie A appearances this season because of injury and his contract dispute with Roma.

The striker passed a medical with the club without any problems, but admitted that he was not yet fully fit.

'I've not trained for 15 days and I'm not in ideal shape, but if the coach wants to play me straight away then I will be delighted.'

Cassano is the 12th player to join Real since they won their last major trophy in June 2003 and brings the club's total expenditure during that period to over €185 million.

His arrival will allow Real to fill the gap left after the departure of Michael Owen and injury to club captain Raul.

The Italian, who will face stiff competition for a place in the starting line-up with close season signings Robinho and Julio Baptista also bidding for a spot alongside Ronaldo, said he was unworried at being labelled as the club's new 'galactico'.

'I don't mind if I'm called a 'galactico', but the important thing is to prove it on the pitch and I will do just that.'

He also made it clear that he was targeting a return to the Italy squad ahead of this year's World Cup.

'The first thing I want to do is to regain my form and then convince (Italy coach Marcello) Lippi to take me to Germany. Without being arrogant I believe that if I'm in form then I'm he sort of player he should be taking.'