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Pippo Inzaghi – The Footballer People Loved To Hate

“That lad must have been born offside.”  If you don’t know who said this quote then you probably shouldn’t continue reading. Because whenever Inzaghi’s name pops up, English pundits or commentators never fail to remind us of what they think is an incredibly witty saying. Or at least they used to. In the past, Inzaghi was viewed as the stereotype Italian footballer. Diver, cheater, cunning, and obviously just lucky to score simple tap ins. Now Inzaghi is known and respected by almost everyone. Acknowledged as one of the best goalscorers in history, a master of positioning, a symbol of passion, and an ageless football legend that has won – and scored – (in) every tournament in the game.

The relationship between the normal football lover and Inzaghi was always one of jealousy and despise. He seemed untalented. A good goalscorer, but apparently anyone could have scored those easy goals, especially if he had Zidane and Del Piero or Rui Costa and Kaka supplying him. Plus his over-the-top goal celebrations and falling at the slightest contact didn’t help warm him up to the neutrals. He was always misunderstood. Inzaghi was first introduced to the English – and international – scene with Juventus in the Champions League. Back then when La Vecchia Signora had the likes of Del Piero, Zidane, and Davids on their team-sheet. Their match-ups vs Man United were classic Champions League encounters which led the two teams to become protagonists in many Pepsi adverts in the late 90s and early noughties. When United won the treble in 1999, they had to get past a Juventus side that had went 2-0 up with two Pippo Inzaghi goals. Anyway, it’s sort of ironic that to the cynics Inzaghi represents luck in every possible way, while he’s been one of the most unlucky professionals of the past generation. Injuries and unfortunate selections by coaches almost always seemed to get in his way, but over the years we have learned to never write off Inzaghi. Bury Pippo and he comes back stronger.

JUVENTUS’ REJECTION, THEN REDEMPTION

Filippo InzaghiMilan’s number 9 first burst onto the scene with Atalanta in 1997 when he scored 24 goals in Serie A to win the Capocannoniere award. This earned him a move to Juventus which, theoretically, could have put him as Italy’s number one striker. Instead, despite winning a Scudetto and reaching a Champions League final, due to his not-so-perfect relationship with Del Piero, and the emergence of Trezeguet, Pippo’s time was up at Juventus. Maybe his time was up as well at the top. Or at least the cynics who Pippo loves to prove wrong thought so. A transfer to Milan put him alongside Rui Costa, Alessandro Nesta, Andrea Pirlo, and Clarence Seedorf as the new arrivals that would form the core of a successful and extraordinary Milan side for years to come. Carlo Ancelotti, another Juventus reject, took Milan to the Champions League final in 2003 versus Juventus, only two seasons after he and Pippo swapped Turin for Milan. Buffon denied Inzaghi the winner in the final, but Milan went home with the cup and Pippo had gained his redemption over his ex-team. As for Buffon, Pippo had already scored THAT goal against him earlier in the season.

LA NAZIONALE’S LEAST FAVORITE NUMBER 9

Throughout Inzaghi’s international career, Italy almost always used a strike pairing of a classic center forward, and a trequartista. Del Piero and Totti might have been poster boys for Italy’s fading generation, but it was the Vieri’s and Toni’s that scored the goals.  Pippo made his Azzurri debut in 1997 but failed to crack into the starting 11 in France 98 in favor of his best buddy, Christian Vieri. In World Cup 2002, which was an unfortunate tournament for Italy and Inzaghi, not only did Vieri deny him a starting spot once again, but the linesman also unfairly denied him his first World Cup goal. In Euro 2000, one would think Inzaghi would’ve received the starting nod since Vieri was out injured, but instead Zoff opted for a weird rotation system between him, Delvecchio, and Montella. Despite scoring vs Turkey and Romania, and starting the semi final vs the Dutch, Pippo didn’t get a single minute in the heartbreaking final. He missed out on what was most probably his finest and last shot to become Italy’s number one center forward in a major tournament in Euro 2004, due to a nasty knee injury which came after a lethal qualifying campaign with Italy and 12 Champions League goals that lead Milan to Champions League glory. On paper his international career seemed over, but one should never write off Inzaghi. An extraordinary comeback from injury earned him a spot in Italy’s World Cup winning squad, and his first and only World Cup goal. Though it was Toni who edged him this time, Pippo’s time at the top wasn’t over yet. In fact, it was yet to come.

INJURY HEARTBREAK, COMEBACK WITH A BANG

Pippo has never been lucky with injuries. In fact, while he was at his prolific best, in 2003, injury was just about to knock on his door. He was just off a Balon d’Or worthy season with 30 goals, including 12 in the Champions League winning campaign. And was finally Italy’s leading man in the Euro 2004 qualifications, in which he also finished as top scorer for the Azzurri.  His injury woes started in December 2003, and he continued to struggle with them, failing to reach a consistent run of games until the 2005/2006 season. Many had doubts about Pippo’s ability to come back, as he had almost missed an entire year and a half while also passing his 30th birthday, but Milan stood by him and offered him a contract extension in November 2004, which was a vote of confidence that Pippo repaid well. He returned stronger than ever in late October 2005, and scored the winner on his return vs Palermo in the 78th minute. SuperPippo was immediately back in business. He continued the season in an outstanding fashion, scoring 17 goals in total including last minute winners vs Lecce and Lyon, as well as another goal vs Lyon and a brace vs Pippo’s personal favorites, Bayern. He capped off the campaign by earning a spot in Italy’s 23-man squad for the World Cup in Germany, and returned home with a gold medal.

PIPPO’S LEGACY

Pippo InzaghiAfter winning the World Cup in 2006, Inzaghi returned to a Milan in crisis. Strike partner and talisman Shevchenko was gone, so was the classiest number 10 – Rui Costa, and Calciopoli had left the club’s reputation and finances severely damaged. Milan endured a difficult campaign in the league, but in the Champions League it was business as usual. It might have been Kaka who took the team through the group stages, and past Celtic, then followed by United, and undoubtedly Milan wouldn’t have reached the final if not for Seedorf’s heroics against Bayern, or Gattuso bossing United’s midfield, or Nesta leading the defense into safety, but the final was all Pippo. His moment at the top had finally arrived. Two years earlier, Milan had thrown away the Champions League to Liverpool on the cursed night, with Pippo watching from the stands. But now it was time for redemption. Milan defeated Liverpool, and got their revenge as well as the club’s 7th Champions League, while Pippo Inzaghi won over the world and booked his place in the history books with the all time greats. At the age of 33, Filippo Inzaghi had reached the most important moment of his career. That was the day he earned the respect of all the neutrals, because the Milanisti already idolized him long before.

THE PERFECT SEND OFF – ONE LAST HURRAH AT THE TOP

His legacy continued with vital goals helping Milan win the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup, thus ensuring Milan and himself continued to rule the world. He continued to break goal records, passing the 300-goal mark in his career, and finishing his European adventure with 70 goals, the second best of all time. As the seasons passed by, age started to take its toll and his role started to diminish. Nevertheless, he remained clinical as ever and proved it on what was his twilight at the top stage. When Jose Mourinho was coaching Inter in 2009, he had remarked that Pippo was the striker he was most afraid of in the Milan camp. That day Pippo came off the bench to score a wonderful equalizer. Only problem is that it was canceled for offside. Which reminds me, did you know that Ferguson once quipped that “Pippo was born offside”? Of course you did, but apparently English pundits seem to think that this is brand new information. Anyway, in 2010, Mr. Mourinho was then coaching Real Madrid who were about to face AC Milan in the Champions League. Once again he mentioned that Inzaghi was Milan’s best striker and the one most likely to cause Real’s defense trouble. The press thought he was joking around, but Pippo, aged 37, came on when Milan was 1-0 down at San Siro to score twice in a magical night that demonstrated once again what man can achieve out of pure passion and determination.

SuperPippo

As he prepares to leave the pitch, one can’t help but stand in awe and be immensely proud of what Filippo Inzaghi managed to achieve over the course of his career. No, I’m not talking about accolades though he has them in abundance (A World Cup, 2 Champions Leagues, and 3 Scudetti are amongst the numerous trophies he won) nor about his goal records (70 in Europe, 25 for the national team, 126 with Milan, 197 in Serie A including 10 hat-tricks, 313 overall). What Pippo has achieved far exceeds all that. Boasting a technique amongst the worst in the history of professional footballers, Inzaghi based his game purely on passion and intelligence. Two elements that didn’t let him down. He couldn’t dribble, nor make a simple long pass, but desire, determination, and extremely intelligent movement were his keys to scoring. And boy did he score. There’s a reason Pippo was constantly offside Sir Alex, it’s because he times his runs off the last defender’s shoulder. He gets called offside many times each game, but the one time he’s through cleanly, it’s a guaranteed goal. He scored with every part of his body: right leg, left leg, headers, shoulders, stomach, you name it. He scored lucky goals, freak goals, easy goals, offside goals, and whatnot. But he also scored Champions League winning goals, derby goals, last minute winners, and tons of goals that will forever be carved in the memories of fans. Pippo Inzaghi may have been born offside, but he was born to score.

He burst into fame as a loathed cheating ‘lucky’ goalscorer, but bows out as a legend of the game, an idol amongst Milan fans, and one of the best Italian footballers in history. He can leave without any regrets, and with his head held high. He played for the fans, and never ever let them down. There’s a reason why such a technically limited footballer is idolized by millions of fans and respected by everyone else, it’s his passion. His desire. His dedication and hard work. Pippo lived to score and you could see in his celebrations how much he enjoyed putting the ball in the net by any means possible. Football will never forget Pippo Inzaghi. Goodbye you champion, you taught me how to live life.

Inzaghi Saluting Milan Fans

Calciopoli – Italian Football’s Graveyard; Who’s Responsible?

A Journey Through Calciopoli Outside The Regular Walls

Calciopoli was an Italian football scandal that involved some of Italy’s elite football clubs. The scandal erupted when a few telephone interceptions showed a relationship between team managers and referees. The teams were accused of manipulating games by selecting favorable referees. As a result of these accusations trials took place and each of the teams involved were punished. Juventus were relegated to Serie B, were stripped of the 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles. They also had 9 points deducted. (they started in Serie B with a point tally of -9 and not 0). AC Milan had 8 points deducted from their 2006/2007 Serie A season. They also had 30 points deducted off their 2005/2006 Serie A campaign but still managed to make it to the Champions League. Fiorentina, another team that was punished, had 15 points deducted from their 2006/2007 Serie A campaign and were out of the Champions League. Lazio and Reggina had point deductions as well. As a result of the punishments, Internazionale Milan was awarded the 2005/2006 Italian Serie A trophy.

Perfect picture, eh? No. There’s much more about Calciopoli than the above would suggest. From illegal activities that lead to the discovery of some shady phone calls to the appointment of pro-Inter people in organizations related to Italian football, to the fact that Inter eventually turned out to be the only party that benefited from the scandal raises questions that SHOULD be highlighted and answer. We’ve decided to take the time and let you know what has been forgotten or what was meant to be buried with time.

Inter – Only Team To Benefit From Calciopoli

Anyone who watches series like C.S.I would know that the number one suspect of a certain crime would be the one with the biggest motive and evidence that connects him to the murder. Well, it’s sort of the same story. Who had the biggest motive to destroy Juventus and AC Milan? I’ll let you come with the answer yourself. Why would Inter want to destroy Juve and Milan? Well, the only way to make it back to domestic success would be with the top 2 teams out of sight. Before Calciopoli, Inter Milan hadn’t won the Scudetto since the 1988-1989 Serie A season. During that period, Juventus and Milan dominated Serie A. Both teams had won a combined 11 Serie A titles since Inter’s last. These facts clearly show that Inter were a relatively “weaker” team than AC Milan and Juventus in Serie A. That was of course before Calciopoli. Now if one takes a look at the titles won by Inter after Calciopoli, the record is crazy. Inter won 5 consecutive Serie A titles, with no real competition in 3 or 4 of them. Inter also went on to become a team that attracted a lot of great players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was vital for most of these 5 titles. Coincidence? Don’t think so, but that’s just a piece of the puzzle. Please, continue reading.

Telecom Italia – FIGC – Gazzetta Della Sport – Moratti

Putting the “Inter benefited the most” argument aside, one must take a look at the parties involved in the “development” of the Calciopoli case. How were they connected? Was Inter again involved in a rather sarcastic way? Sarcastic it is, as conflict of interest doesn’t come out of nowhere.

First Party: Gazzetta Della Sport

Gazzetta Della Sport is an Italian sports newspaper that is known by the name “ Gazztta Dell’ Inter” by rival fans. The newspaper is owned by Carlo Buaro, vice president of Inter and a self-proclaimed Interista. How is the newspaper related to Calciopoli? It all started when the newspaper itself performed an ILLEGAL ACTIVITY and published transcripts of Luciano Moggi’s telephone conversations. Those transcripts however didn’t make their way to any incriminating party involved. However, Gazzetta Della Sport’s involvement doesn’t stop there. The media frenzy that resulted from these transcripts forced FIGC (the Italian football federation) to open an investigation.

Second Party: FIGC

Carlo Buora

Before Calciopoli evolved, Adriano Galliani was the president of FIGC. Due to the scandal, Galliani was forced to resign from that job since AC Milan were one of the clubs accused of involvement in a certain type of cheating (“certain type” will be discussed further on in the research). His resigning from the presidency of the FIGC was no controversy but actually a step forward toward “a better trial”; or at least one would have hoped so. The person that was appointed to replace Galliani was Guido Rossi. He was a director at Internazionale Milan from 1995 to 1999. He is also a self-proclaimed Inter fan, a shareholder in the club, and a friend of Massimo Moratti. As part of his first assignment Rossi would be in charge of Calciopoli. Interesting, eh? Well, here’s another interesting thought: Guido Rossi handed the 2005/2006 Serie A title to Inter after Juventus were relegated. His relationship to the case doesn’t stop there. He later on resigned from his position as president of FIGC and became president of TIM (Telecom Italia).

Third Party : Telecom Italia (TIM)

Telecom Italia (TIM) was the company that recorded the conversations that lead to the scandal. That doesn’t mean that Inter were part of all this or even that Telecom Italia “purposely” involved themselves indirectly in the case. However, the following issue does raise some suspicions. On the board of TIM were both Massimo Moratti and Carlo Buora. The connections between the many parties involved in Italian football and Calciopoli don’t end there. Inter’s second largest shareholder after Moratti, Mario Provera, is the owner of Pirelli, which owned TIM at the time and is the official shirt sponsor of Inter Milan. So in a nutshell, all parties involved were connected in every possible way.

Calciopoli: The Trial

Luciano Moggi

This “circus” doesn’t stop there. What was Milan and Juventus REALLY accused of? Well, in a nutshell, “having an exclusive relationship with the referee designators”. That relationship itself was seen to have given both teams an advantage. Milan were accused of having that relationship with referee designator Pairetto. Meanwhile, Juventus were accused of having that same relationship with another referee designator, Bergamo. The teams violated a rather minor infraction – unsportsmanlike conduct. One can say that both teams deserved to be punished. But what was the punishment for such violation? A fine. The punishment never exceeded that. How did it reach titles stripping and point deductions? Well, our friend Guido Rossi comes up again. He decided to make “contacting a referee designator” an infringement (wasn’t against any rules before that). He managed to group all the calls together and sprinkle a little magic, “enough” to accuse the clubs of “match-fixing” when there’s no evidence whatsoever of that. So basically he grouped a series of minor infractions to create a rather major one.

During trial, 171000 phone calls “magically” missed from the court documents and were not taken into consideration when Juventus, Milan and the rest of the teams were punished. The calls that were taken into consideration were the ones that seemed “perfect” enough to incriminate the clubs and parties punished. What about the rest of the phone calls? Couldn’t these phone calls have helped brighten Juve and Milan’s picture? Or even accuse a certain club of cheating? Say, Inter Milan? Some of the phone calls eventually came out and the Inter presidents were overheard speaking to referee designators.

Either Punish All, Or Punish No One

The facts stated show that Calciopoli may as well have been invented by Inter to incriminate other teams. If Juventus did wrong by having an exclusive relationship with the referees then why were all phone calls involving Inter ignored? Moggi himself said it: either all should be punished – or none. And since many were, then Inter should have as well. They should be punished upon the same standards that Juve were punished on.

 

Sources: wikipedia.com, acmilanblog.net.