Filippo Inzaghi’s best Marco Tardelli impression is one of the purest and most real displays of passion in the modern game, and it was on display twice last night as the AC Milan striker bagged another two European goals against Real Madrid. The 37 year old now moves ahead of Gerd Müller and Raúl as the top scorer ever in European competition with a whopping 70 goals to his name. It was a night of landmarks for Inzaghi as he also overtook Marco Van Basten on the list of highest scoring AC Milan players.
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson once said that Inzaghi was born offside, and that comment was certainly justified given the manner of his second goal against Madrid. Referee Howard Webb and his assistant failed to spot him in an offside position and the rest, as they say, is history. Never the quickest or the most skillful, he makes up for those missing attributes by being in the right place at the right time and has played most of his career on the shoulder of the last defender.
Inzaghi got his start in football as a teenager with home town side Piacenza but it wasn’t until he moved on loan to both Leffe and Verona that he started to score goals regularly. He returned to Picaneza for the start of the 1994/95 and went on to score an impressive 17 goals in 41 games in all competitions. A largely disappointing spell at Parma, in which Inzaghi made his Serie A debut, followed before a transfer to Atalanta provided the perfect platform on which to make a real name for himself. He bagged 24 goals in 33 games to finish as the league’s Capocannoniere (top goalscorer) for the 1996/97 season, and it was then that the big boys came knocking.
It was Juventus who managed to secure Inzaghi’s signature, shelling out a reported 23 billion lire to secure his signature, and success was instant as he linked up with Alessandro Del Piero and Zinedine Zidane to win Serie A in his first season at the Stadio delle Alpi. Further success wasn’t forthcoming however, and with just a Champions League runners up medal to add to his one for Lo Scudetto, he joined league rivals AC Milan in 2001 having fallen out of favour following the acquisition of David Trezeguet.
His career at the Rossoneri took a while to get going due to a knee injury, but it wasn’t long before an effective partnership was formed with Andriy Shevchenko. In his second season at the San Siro, Inzaghi was instrumental in Milan’s march to the Champions League Final where they defeated his old side Juventus on penalties at Old Trafford. The 2003/04 Serie A title followed before the heartbreak that was the 2005 Champions League Final against Liverpool. Milan led 3-0 in that game but squandered the lead and lost in a shootout. Inzaghi was able to lay that particular ghost to rest however when he netted both goals against the same opposition to secure the 2007 trophy.
In recent seasons he has become more of a squad player at Milan, but the club saw enough in the summer to offer an out of contract Inzaghi a new deal to run until the summer of 2011. To date he has scored 315 goals, making him the fourth highest scoring Italian of all time behind Silvio Piolla, Guiseppe Meazza and Roberto Baggio, and he only needs three more goals to overtake the latter. Inzaghi has also scored the most hattricks (ten) in Serie A over the past quarter of a century.
One of my favourite Inzaghi moments came when his Milan side travelled to Fratton Park in 2008 to take on a Portsmouth team looking to cause a shock in the Europa League. The stadium was an intimidating cauldron of noise as the home fans smelled blood, and it all looked to be going to plan as their side led 2-1 as the clock showed 90 minutes. However, in true Inzaghi style, Pippo pounced to play the role of party pooper, scoring an injury time equaliser to claim a point and send thousands of Pompey fans home wondering what might have been.
As well as an illustrious club career, Inzaghi also has over a half century of caps for the national team with a strike rate of almost a goal every two games (57 appearances, 25 goals), and he was a member of the 2006 World Cup winning squad.
The good old fashioned centre forward looks to be on the way out with the modern striker needing to be more dynamic and versatile. If this turns out to be Super Pippo’s last season of professional football then it could be a while before a suitable heir to the throne is found.
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