Di Canio's former chairman at Swindon, Jeremy Wray, described the Italian as "a high-wire act, but worthwhile" during his time at the County Ground, and the Italian is certainly prone to making headlines.
From pushing referees to making 'Roman salutes', scoring sensational goals to being involved in spectacular bust-ups, Di Canio's playing career was never boring and he has hardly mellowed as a manager.
So what do Sunderland have in store for themselves as Di Canio returns to the Premier League? We take a look back through some of the Italian's most revealing quotes to find out.
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"He took three or four sideways steps before falling over in rather a strange way, like someone diving to win a penalty." - The Sheffield Wednesday striker has little sympathy for the referee Paul Alcock after nudging him to the ground in 1998 in a game against Arsenal.
"I want to say that I'm very, very sorry for what's happened. I had a fair hearing. I'll see the Sheffield Wednesday fans on Boxing Day, the first game after my suspension." - However, Di Canio was in more humble mood after being banned for 11 games for the incident.
"I argue with referees a lot. I do this when I don't see a fair attitude from them. Sometimes I would like to say something in a more gentle way but you have snap decisions. It's difficult to say something like an Oxford student, 'I'm sorry, why didn't you give me a penalty'. I'm jealous of players who can say it calmly but I can't do that." - The Italian still has issues with authority when speaking in 2000.
ON HIS POLITICAL VIEWS
"I am a fascist, not a racist. I give the straight arm salute because it is a salute from a 'camerata' [comrade] to 'camerati'. The salute is aimed at my people. With the straight arm I don't want to incite violence and certainly not racial hatred." - Di Canio reacts to his infamous salute in a derby win over Roma.
"I think he [Mussolini] was a deeply misunderstood individual. He deceived people. His actions were often vile. But all this was motivated by a higher purpose. He was basically a very principled individual. Yet he turned against his sense of right and wrong. He compromised his ethics." - Di Canio expands on his views about former Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
"I pushed him [Fabio Capello] and he lost his balance. He fell over a bag. I'd been challenging his decisions. Capello was saying things to me like 'Vaffanculo' ['f*** you']. I understand his point of view better now. I was young." - Di Canio reflects on a training-ground row during his time at Milan, whom he represented between 1994 and 1996.
"My dad gave me the best lesson in life. I was 25, a top player with Napoli and a husband and father. I was angry that Italy had not picked me for the 1994 World Cup and I answered my mother in a rude way at the table. In front of everyone, including my wife and daughter, my father got up and slapped me. Poom! I deserved it, I had been arrogant and stupid." - Speaking in 2012.
ON ITALIAN AND ENGLISH FOOTBALL
"The first thing I had to do was to fight back the tears, even though it seemed that they would never stop. When I arrived at the stadium, I had a lump in my throat which I thought would choke me. I was overwhelmed by the experience. And so I wept. And I trembled. The pounding of my heart tormented me. I felt unable to control my thoughts or my actions. I lost the power of speech. And yet I kept on crying like a baby. I am not a man accustomed to weeping. But here, everything was different." - Speaking about his return to Lazio in 2004.
"Doping in English football is restricted to lager and baked beans with sausages. After which the players take to the field, belching and farting. English football culture is one of pure, intense competition, and that's why I have always preferred it to Italy." - Writing in his autobiography.
ON HIS PLAYERS AT SWINDON
"If he doesn’t think he made a mistake in the way he behaved he has to think who he is? Petr Cech? He was nothing until the day he joined me, not the club but me. He didn’t have one second as a professional, nobody wanted him because he’s 181cm. In English football everybody want 199 like the f***ing Preston goalkeeper. He should have his career cut and you know that is true, but just because we believed in him he is very good." - Di Canio takes aim at goalkeeper Wes Foderingham having substituted him after just 21 minutes of a loss at Preston.
"I saw Leon insulting my colleagues. So, as his manager, I put my arm round his shoulder and told him to go down the tunnel. He kept on swearing. I had to grab his shirt and put him up against the wall. It wasn't violent. But he'd been saying 'f*** off' repeatedly, to people older than him. Imagine Sir Alex Ferguson in that situation. Eventually I had to say, 'OK. Now, you f*** off.' The chairman was wonderful. I said, 'Either he goes, or I go.' He said, 'The club is with you.' In that moment, we gelled. I think I have shown that I have matured. I didn't lose my temper." - Speaking about a bust-up on the pitch with striker Leon Clarke, who later left the club.
"With some players, if he has a chihuahua character I can't make a chihuahua into a rottweiler. He could be a proud chihuahua but he remains a chihuahua." - In 2011.
ON OTHER SPARRING PARTNERS
"I read a tweet from Rio Ferdinand. He is my friend, but Rio was saying: 'Oh no, Di Canio was too tough. I hope this goalkeeper doesn’t have a big problem mentally now.' I want to say to you, my friend Rio, I know in the last two years I’ve seen you more on Twitter than on the pitch." - In 2012.
"I laughed in the face of 70,000 Man Utd fans when I scored, you could imagine what it would be like if I was worried by the words of him who I've never heard of before." - A stinging riposte to Crawley manager Steve Evans.
ON THE SAMURAI CODE
"I like the code they lived by. The loyalty. The honour. There's a story about a Samurai who committed hara-kiri because he arrived late for an appointment. In the past few years I've become closer to that Japanese spiritual mentality."