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By ESPN Staff

Cassano is not an alien, says Italy's Donadoni

FLORENCE, Italy, May 25 (Reuters) - Temperamental striker Antonio Cassano should not be treated like he is from another planet, Italy coach Roberto Donadoni said on Sunday.

Eyebrows were raised last week when the 25-year-old was surprisingly named in Donadoni's provisional Euro 2008 squad, having not been called up since 2006.

The Sampdoria forward, on loan from Real Madrid, has had a superb season but also served a five-match ban for verbally abusing a referee and throwing his shirt towards him.

'Antonio Cassano is just a lad, don't make him into an alien,' the coach told a news conference on the first day of Italy training ahead of Friday's final friendly with Belgium.

'I believe after that heavy suspension in the league he has understood what it means to be in a group.'

Team mates including full back Gianluca Zambrotta have also backed the talented frontman.

'I am not surprised to see Cassano with the national team,' Zambrotta said. 'He's had a good season and I don't believe he needs particular advice. We are not talking about a 16-year-old boy.'

Cassano's inclusion in the 24-man squad, which must be trimmed by one before Wednesday's deadline, ahead of the June tournament in Austria and Switzerland, meant there was no place for AC Milan striker Filippo Inzaghi.

The 34-year-old Inzaghi criticised Donadoni for not calling him originally to say he had been left out, but the coach was unrepentant.

'I respect him but he must respect me. I have nothing to be sorry for. What we said to each other stays between us and the issue is closed,' Donadoni said.

The world champions face the Netherlands, Romania and France in Group C.


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