Inzaghi and Milan: A Love Story at Crossroads

Eighteen-year old Modern Languages student Annalisa D’Antonio bleeds red and black. Moved by this Milanista’s sacrifice to stay at Milan in the winter transfer window, she recounts better times when SuperPippo was the flavour of the club. Follow her on Twitter: @mrsgilardino. Forza Milan!

Waking up to news reports all but confirming that one of your favourite footballers is on the verge of signing a contract with another team is not the way you would want to start your day. “A legend should be untouchable and stay with his club forever” was the immediate thought that ran through my mind. But with the way this certain legend has been treated in recent months, should we really hold on to him or let him go, so he could show his true value elsewhere?

In case you were wondering, the player I’m talking about is Filippo ‘Pippo’ Inzaghi, goal scorer supreme, and scorned by opponents best illustrated by the “born in the offside position” comment from Sir Alex Ferguson. Pippo has made an art form out of playing on the shoulder of the opposing team’s defensive line, always keeping them on their toes, waiting for the perfect moment to get onside and go for goal. Having grown up idolizing Paolo Rossi and Marco van Basten, no doubt that he puts his all in what he does best – score goals.  You know he’s a legend when at thirty-eight and a half years old, there’s still a decent team (Siena, a Serie A outfit) out there that is willing to give him a year and a half contract with the guarantee that he would be playing as a regular first team member.

 Inzaghi joined Milan in the summer of 2001, after having donned the Juventus jersey for four seasons and scoring 58 goals and winning a Scudetto, a Supercoppa Italiana and an Intertoto Cup. Since then, he’s helped the Rossoneri win two Scudetti, a Coppa Italia, two Champions Leagues, a UEFA Supercup, FIFA Club World Cup and a Supercoppa Italiana. In this time, he has scored 72 times for the Rossoneri in domestic league. Not an ordinary feat, but nonetheless an attainable task for the third active highest goal scorer in Serie A history. Pippo holds the record for scoring the most hat tricks – 10 in total – in the Italian league in the past twenty-five years as well as in the Champions League where he is tied with Michael Owen with 3 hat tricks. But Pippo’s greatest glories have always been in the Champions League and international club competitions. He is Milan’s top International goal scorer in their history with 43 goals. Inzaghi was one of the most vital players in the 2007 Champions League final as he earned the “Man of the Match” award with his brace en route to Milan’s victory.  A couple of months later, he contributed to Milan’s 4-2 victory over Boca Juniors in the FIFA Club World Cup final by scoring a brace.

Whether his team is playing against a small side or a big rival, in an important competition or a friendly match, Pippo gives it his all. When he scores, he can’t contain himself from the excitement. His trademark celebration is usually running around, yelling with his mouth wide open and arms flailing – almost like he has just scored the winning goal in a World Cup final. His goals and his celebrations have long made him a wild fan favourite.  This huge fan appreciation made it hard for him to leave Milan on such a short notice, as he stated “Milan is My Home“.

The last one and half years have not been good for him. He started only one Serie A match in 2010-11, and indeed in that match, he saved Milan’s blushes scoring the equalizer at home against Catania. Earlier in a season opening friendly, he had showed that an old dog could learn new tricks, with this supreme volleyed goal from outside the box against Barcelona. But his greatest act would come in November against Barcelona’s great rivals. When Real Madrid came to play their return leg match of Champions League, they were on top of the group having beaten Milan at home. Manager Jose Mourinho took a sly dig at Milan’s strike force of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Pato and Robinho by saying he ‘feared Inzaghi the most’. Milan manager didn’t start Pippo but brought him on with 30 minutes left and Milan trailing by a goal. And indeed, Mourinho’s worst fears came true with Pippo scoring twice in true Pippo-esque fashion – first from a Casillas howler which he somehow headed in and second from a suspiciously offside position with a neat finish. Milan would ultimately draw 2-2 but that point earned from two Inzaghi goals would take them to the next round. But Pippo would not be there as cruelly just a week after that Real match; Pippo would suffer a cruciate ligament injury going for a goal against Palermo in Serie A. With everybody pronouncing his career had ended, Pippo would fight back as only he can and make an emotional return to the team as Milan wrapped up the 18th scudetto.

 Despite his age, Pippo still feels like he has a lot to offer.  He feels physically fit and always up for the challenge to play a tough game and score more goals. Siena is well aware of his qualities and it is for this reason that they offered him a year and a half contract with all the trimmings to entice him to join their club. Although flattered, he found it extremely difficult to leave his teammates, his fans and the club behind. You could see that he’s devoted to the Milan colours; not only is he a great player, he is also a phenomenal person. He put aside his own happiness, knowing he won’t be playing, and yet still chose Milan because he felt that his history with the club and his fans were far more important. I’m positive that there will be many more instances where Massimiliano Allegri will make Inzaghi warm up and opt for another player at the last minute. Or he might even make him go on the pitch in the last couple of minutes of the game, but I’m hoping that Allegri will have a modicum of respect for this world-class striker in this final stretch of the season.  The type of respect he has not shown since being at the helm of Milan, especially considering his recent slap in the face: his exclusion from the Champions League squad.

Allegri has recently announced the 25-man squad for the Champions League knockout stages. Some changes have been made to the squad; while some expected others not so much. Stephan El Shaarawy was added to the roster as well as recently acquired Djamel Mesbah and Maxi Lopez. The deletions that were a given for the upcoming rounds were Taye Taiwo who signed with Queens Park Rangers in the English Premier League as well as the injured Antonio Cassano and Gennaro Gattuso. But above all, there is one deletion from the CL roster that has come as a surprise to us all. Inzaghi has been left out of the squad, yet again. Milanisti were angry and shocked when Pippo, one of the greatest goal scorers in the Champions League history, didn’t make the cut the first time round. Now that he hasn’t made the list, Pippo definitely won’t be able to break Raul’s European record.

Inzaghi turned down a one and a half year contract with Siena because he couldn’t imagine his eleven-year history with Milan ending without a proper and well-deserved goodbye. He knows that there are difficult months ahead of him, probably many of which will be spent on the bench or in the stands. All in all, he feels as though it was the right decision and it’s worth living through the next three hard months. Now there are some who believe that due to the injury-prone front line of Milan there is a chance he might fight back onto the pitch and back into greatness. But with players due to be coming back from injury, as well as the signing of Maxi Lopez, the realization has hit us all that the chances of that are slim, and yet another reason why we are glad he has decided to fight throughout these last couple of months and stay. As he said in his exclusive interview with Milan Channel, he wouldn’t trade the friends he’s made or the special fans he has for anything. It’s hard to erase it all in just two hours… this campione deserves a grand finale at the San Siro in May, in front of the Curva Sud[1].

[1] The Milan gallery in the San Siro is historically called the Curva Sud. Curva is a curved stand and Sud is south.