MILAN (Reuters) – Sassuolo defender Francesco Acerbi has played every minute of every match for the Italian club since Oct. 18 2015 without being injured, suspended, substituted or dropped.
On Sunday, the 29-year-old, who was twice treated for testicular cancer earlier in his career, reached a remarkable milestone as he completed his 100th consecutive full game in all competitions in the 1-0 Serie A win at Sampdoria.
“A fantastic day to celebrate an incredible record. Francesco Acerbi has played in all our last 100 matches without missing a single minute,” the club said on Twitter.
The last time Acerbi was not in the team was Oct. 4, 2015 when he missed the match against Empoli through injury.
Two weeks later, he returned for the 2-1 win over Lazio and has remained in the side ever since, clocking up 86 appearances in Serie A, four in the Coppa Italia and 10 in the Europa League.
His sequence has continued under three different coaches; Eusebio di Francesco, who left to join AS Roma at the end of last season; Cristian Bucchi, who was sacked in November; and current Sassuolo manager Giuseppe Iachini.
Yet, at one point, Acerbi’s career had been hanging in the balance.
He was treated for testicular cancer in 2013 when he had a tumour removed. Although he returned to action, the problem was found to have returned when he failed a doping test.
A preliminary doping ban was reversed after the Italian Olympic Committee accepted that the positive test was due to traces of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is produced by some cancerous tumours.
Fully recovered, Acerbi returned to action in September 2014 and shortly afterwards made the first of two Italy appearances in a friendly against Albania.
He told reporters after Sunday’s game that Di Francesco had tried to rest him last season.
“I did not want to stop playing, this is my passion,” he said. “I’m never satisfied. I prepare myself for the whole week, when I’m eating, resting and in my head so I can keep playing better.
“After my illness, I’ve realised that I don’t have time for regrets.”
(Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Ken Ferris)