Posted: Wednesday November 2, 2011 9:14AM ; Updated: Wednesday November 2, 2011 9:49AM

Cassano to have heart surgery; set to play again

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MILAN (AP) -- Italy striker Antonio Cassano will have "minor'' heart surgery that will likely enable him to play again in a few months, AC Milan said Wednesday.

Cassano has been at the Policlinico facility since Saturday, when he was taken for tests after suffering what the club described as a brain problem on the team plane following the team's 3-2 victory over Roma.

Cassano was reportedly joking with teammates on the plane, before suddenly developing problems with his vision, speech and movement.

Milan said in a statement that Cassano will undergo the heart procedure sometime in the next few days, and that his recovery time will be better determined after the surgery.

"Presumably within four, five or six months Cassano should be cleared to play,'' Milan vice president Adriano Galliani said.

Cassano has a cardiac anomaly which caused a brain problem due to impaired blood flow, the club said.

"He has a minor heart problem that caused this minor discomfort and over the next few days he will undergo surgery to close the opening,'' Galliani said.

Combined with knee surgery for Giuseppe Rossi last week, Cassano's condition leaves Italy without its two starting forwards as it prepares for next year's European Championship.

Cassano already missed the 1-1 draw with BATE Borisov on Tuesday that qualified Milan for the next round of the Champions League.

After Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored against BATE, teammate Kevin-Prince Boateng celebrated by lifting his jersey to reveal another jersey with Cassano's name and No. 99 on it.

A steady stream of current and former teammates have been visiting Cassano, and even Diego Maradona wrote a letter of support that was published in Corriere dello Sport on Wednesday.

"I know about the thoughts, worries and torments that are going through your mind. I know that feeling of confusion and, why not, even solitude, that makes everything suddenly look black,'' Maradona wrote. "I know well, and that's why I feel close to you and Rino Gattuso, who is also experiencing a sad period.''

Cassano's hospitalization came less than a week after Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso announced the extent of a nerve problem affecting his left eye, which could keep him out for months, or the rest of the season.

Milan has also been without forward Alexandre Pato due to a thigh injury, leaving Ibrahimovic and Robinho as the club's only two healthy strikers.

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