The curious case of Cássio

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Cássio José de Abreu Oliveira, or simply Cássio to you and me, has been the subject of media speculation since the aftermath of Adelaide United’s FFA Cup Final triumph on Tuesday night. The Brazilian fullback has been an Adelaide player since 2007, and is revered by Reds fans for his dedication to the club.

Celebrating his 35th birthday in January, Cássio is well into the twilight of his career and has made just three appearances in the last two seasons as the left back has struggled to overcome persistent muscle injuries.

But rumours have emerged that there is a rift between Cássio and coach Josep Gombau after the player’s omission from the post match medal ceremony. There was good reason for this perceived snub though, as Cássio has not played a minute of football this season and failed to even make the bench for a single FFA Cup match.

Following the club’s historic Cup win, Gombau said that Cássio had not visited the changing rooms before the match to wish his teammates good luck, while the other unselected members of the squad had done.

“If I am honest I didn’t see Cássio today. He didn’t come before [the match] to the changing rooms, everybody was there, everybody was involved, everybody came in after the game to say congratulations to the players,” Gombau said.

“Everybody stayed inside the changing room, and I didn’t see him.”

Cássio and Gombau have never quite seen eye to eye since the Spaniard’s arrival, with Football Central learning that the fullback was made to train on his own after a disagreement early in Gombau’s tenure.

“Josep was talking to the group and he always demands eye contact. Cássio was upset and wouldn’t look at him, so Josep told him to look at him,” a witness revealed.

“I am not sure if Cássio said something but he kept looking at the ground, so Josep sent him to the sheds halfway through training, and made him train alone during the next session.”

While this may paint a picture of a pedantic coach who is more worried about what his players are doing with their eyes than their feet, the fact is that Gombau’s squad was undergoing a strenuous learning process and attention to detail was the order of the day.

“Josep has built a team first mentality and maybe Cáss hasn’t embraced it like the other players.”

This mentality has certainly served Adelaide well since Gombau’s arrival, with a finals appearance last season followed by United’s first major silverware since the 2005/06 Premier’s Plate. The majority of the players that have been under Gombau’s tutelage have wholly bought into his methods and their performances have improved significantly as a result.

Two of those who have shone brightest this season have been new signing Craig Goodwin and the rejuvenated Tarek Elrich, who have taken turns to fill the left back position. This presents Cássio with another obstacle in his pursuit of game time, because when Gombau has a fully fit squad to choose from, there is no place for the veteran fullback.

While it may be tough to read for many Reds fans who still believe he has something to offer, the uncomfortable reality is that there are simply too many factors pushing Cássio towards the exit door, and most likely retirement.

Soon to be 35, one of the club’s highest earners, unable to maintain fitness, an apparent reluctance to embrace the coach’s methods and with two players ahead of him in the pecking order, Cássio is coming to the end of his time as an Adelaide player.

Andrew Cussen

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