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No more Super Pippo in the Champions League

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By Carmelo Ruggieri

Tuesday 06 September 2011

He has been Peter Pan for the last five years, a man who would not grow old, who on the biggest of occasions would still turn up to save the day, steal the spotlight and look so happy doing it you could mistake his beaming grin for the face of an old man who had just discovered the whereabouts of the fountain of youth.

However, of course, there is no fountain of youth, and by the looks of it, for this man this season, there will be no big occasion either. It is a hard pill to swallow not just for Milan fans, but for football fans in general, that Filippo Inzaghi will not feature in the Champions League this year after his omission from the squad by Max Allegri.

At a glance, one may think little of this. After all, Pippo is a 38-year-old injury-prone player. In addition, the Italian champions’ forward line still looks tantalising with the presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alex Pato, Antonio Cassano and Robinho. Breaking this down, however, and you have got a player who does not often last 90 minutes (Cassano), another one that is often injured (Pato) and the other whose finishing is often more miss than hit (Robinho). Then there is Ibra who is famous for not producing when it counts, particularly in Europe. There are four great players here, yet, whose records even when combined pale in comparison to Inzaghi’s remarkable 70 goals European haul.

Super Pippo has built a reputation for being the man for the big moment, hence his nickname. This was ever so highlighted in the 2007 Champions League final. In the lead up to the Liverpool rematch senior Milan players urged Coach Carlo Ancelotti that the ageing hitman should start ahead of the younger Alberto Gilardino. Ancelotti relented, despite his concerns that Inzaghi was past his best. Yet, two goals later and a second Champions League winners medal round his neck, the poacher proved that he was still very much alive, that he was still ‘Super’.

In Milan’s loss to Tottenham in the round of 16 last season, where they dominated possession in the second leg, there was a lingering feeling that if Inzaghi had played, by tooth, nail or even backside, he could have once again saved the day.

Pippo had already done it in the previous round at home to Real Madrid. With Milan trailing one nil at half time Coach Max Allegri looked to the bench and brought on the veteran poacher on the hour mark. Minutes later, Milan were ahead after two typically cliché Inzaghi goals. The first a tap in from and the second a low finish under the onrushing Iker Casillas after latching on to a pass from a position that was at least a yard, if not two, offside. Maybe Sir Alex Ferguson has been correct all these years about Super Pippo being ‘born offside’.

It was a night that again showed that despite his increasing years Inzaghi remains deadly in front of goal. He has not lost this ability that he has displayed throughout his career no matter the opposition or the occasion. He is just as effective as he was in his younger years so in this sense he very much is Peter Pan.

Despite everything, Allegri opted to exclude Inzaghi from his Champions League squad, a decision that the player did not take well at all. In fact, he is apparently so irate that he is considering a move back to his old club Atalanta, a move which would effectively end any hopes he has returning to the European stage and overtaking Raul’s record 73 European goal haul. While other European clubs such as Inter and Man Utd will be fielding ageing, but still affective stars, such as Ryan Giggs and Javier Zanetti, the man born offside will have to make do with week nights as a spectator as others take over the spotlight.

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