The 32-year-old has been at Samp for eight years after leaving hometown club Fiorentina and has worn the captain's armband, scoring on average a goal every three games and becoming a key player.

But the Italian League Federation threw the book at him when trace amounts of cocaine were found in his system after January's 2-0 defeat to Internazionale, his initial ban of 16 months increased to two years following an appeal by the Italian Olympic Committee.

Serie A
Serie A preview
31/08/2007 AT 10:59

The player had only that season been banned for two months for his involvement in a betting scam.

"I want to return to the pitch to regain the fans' affections," he said after the Intertoto Cup win over Cherno More Varna.

"I'm training on my own because football is my passion and the thing that I enjoy most.

"I'm going to appeal and try to reduce the sentence which I feel is disproportionate."

Sampdoria moved swiftly to sign Roma forward Vincenzo Montella after the ban was confirmed on May 31st. The suspension will expire in February 2009.

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Serie A
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