The ex-Serie A forward, who played over 100 games in the top tier of Italian football between 1993 and 2010, returned in the fifth tier

Former Fiorentina and Sampdoria striker Francesco Flachi made his return to football this weekend at the age of 46 – a dozen years on from his ban for cocaine use.

The ex-Serie A forward, who played over 100 games in the top tier of Italian football during a career stretching between 1993 and 2010, was suspended for 12 years following a relapse while at Brescia in Serie B.

With a desire to end his career on his terms, Flachi has made a return with fifth-tier outfit Signa 1914 near his hometown of Florence after training with the club throughout the past five months.

Flachi played 30 minutes in Signas 2-2 draw against Prato 2000, and the former Italy youth international said afterwards that he was delighted to finally return.

“This day cancels 12 years of disqualification. It is my rebirth,” Flachi told Gazzetta dello Sport. “This is the proof that I have also rebuilt.

“What have I felt? At first I felt dizzy, I havent slept for a week due to tension.

“Now Im so happy, I want to thank everyone who made me feel like I was before: a football player.”

The players cameo turn allows him to potentially finish his career on his own terms, a dozen years on from his apparent swan song at Brescia after he was suspended for a second cocaine breach.

Before his drugs ban however, he had made his name with Fiorentina and Sampdoria, helping both clubs out of Serie B during his respective tenures, while winning the Coppa Italia in 1996 with the former as a youngster.

But it is perhaps his haul of 110 goals with Sampdoria that remains his most famed achievement, with only Gianluca Vialli (141) and Roberto Mancini (171) having netted more goals for the Blucerchiati over the years.

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