Wednesday August 9 2017
Happy birthday, Pippo Inzaghi

Today is the 44th birthday of former Juventus, Milan and Italy striker Filippo Inzaghi.

Famously described by Sir Alex Ferguson as having been “born offside”, Super Pippo was in fact born in Piacenza, and he started his career with the Papaveri.

Following loan spells with AlbinoLeffe and Verona, the striker made his breakthrough with Piacenza in the 1994-95 season, scoring 15 goals in 37 Serie B games.

That form earned a move to Parma, but after one frustrating season Inzaghi was sold to Atalanta.

In Bergamo he found his best form, hitting 24 Serie A goals to finish as Capocannoniere, being awarded Young Player of the Season.

That attracted the interest of Juventus, with the Bianconeri paying around €10m to bring Inzaghi to Turin.

Under the guidance of Marcello Lippi, Pippo formed a deadly understanding with Zinedine Zidane and Alessandro Del Piero, scoring 27 goals in 46 games as the Old Lady won the Scudetto and reached the Champions League final.

An injury to Del Piero and the departure of Lippi hampered Juve over the coming seasons, but Inzaghi continued to find the back of the net with ruthless regularity.

However, toward the tail end of the 2000-01 season he lost his place in the side to David Trezeguet, playing just 28 Serie A games.

Despite a record of 89 goals in 165 games, Inzaghi was sacrificed that summer and he made the switch to Milan.

The striker admitted that both he and the Rossoneri faithful struggled to adapt to each other at first, but a mutual love soon formed between them.

After an injury-hit first season, Inzaghi 30 goals in 49 appearances during his second campaign, scoring in the second leg as the Diavolo won the Coppa Italia.

Even better for the Milan faithful, his 12 goals in the Champions League fired his side to the final, where they beat Juventus on penalties.

The Scudetto followed in the 2003-04 season, though Inzaghi once again struggled with injuries, a pattern which would continue for the following campaign.

Between those two seasons Inzaghi scored just eight goals in all competitions, a truly spartan return for the supreme goal poacher.

His form picked up in the 2005-06 season, earning him a place in the Italy squad for that summer’s World Cup.

Once again playing under Marcello Lippi, Pippo had a bit-part role in the Azzurri side, but he did score the game sealing goal to beat the Czech Republic in the group stage.

Italy would go on to lift the trophy, allowing Inzaghi to add the World Cup to his trophy cabinet.

He would add another Champions League the following season, scoring twice against Liverpool to win the trophy.

The Scudetto came once again in 2011, though by this time Inzaghi was playing more of a super-sub role as Zlatan Ibrahimovic led the line.

The 2011-12 would prove to be Inzaghi’s final season in football, and going in to the final game of the season against Novara, he had played just eight games all season, without scoring.

Juventus had already sealed the Scudetto, so Pippo was given one last chance to make the linesman’s arm work at San Siro, replacing Antonio Cassano after 67 minutes.

With the game tied at 1-1 in the 82nd minute, Clarence Seedorf chipped a ball over the top of the Novara defence.

Just on the shoulder of offside, Inzaghi intelligently bent his run to ensure the flag didn’t go up, before meeting the Dutchman’s pass with his chest.

Often clumsy and ungainly outside of the box, his touch in the area was as perfect as ever. Goalkeeper Giuseppe Gamiti sprinted off his line to try and block, but it was already too late: Inzaghi fired a perfect half-volley into the back of the net.

Pippo had always celebrated every goal as though it were his last, but this one proved emotional even by his standards.

Inzaghi sprinted over to the corner flag, screaming in delight, before being mobbed by his teammates. Then, with tears in his eyes, he faced the Curva Sud, sank to the turf and kissed the Milan shirt for one last time.

The striker’s style meant perhaps he was not as appreciated outside of Italy as his record deserves. Johan Cruyff once famously said “actually he can't play football at all. He's just always in the right position”.

That of course implies that there was some luck involved, but Inzaghi made it clear his knack of always being in the right place was due to his careful study of opponents, and his game intelligence.

It was therefore logical that he’d move into coaching, and after a spell with the Primavera team he was appointed as Milan Coach in 2012.

However, with next to no backing in the transfer market the Rossoneri struggled, and fans were treated to the rather unedifying spectacle of the club courting Carlo Ancelotti while Inzaghi remained in situ.

Pippo calmly batted away all questions on the matter with the utmost dignity, and when he was relieved of his duties in the summer the Curva Sud made it clear they didn’t hold him accountable.

“We once saw a Milan that honoured its legends, now we see Milan use one of its greatest symbols to hide the rotten core behind it,” the angry ultras said.

“They may have done that, but you will always remain to us the man who screamed like he was possessed after every goal, and the Curva always recognised your importance.

“Today will certainly not end our respect and sentiment for you. We’re not like that, we do not forget what you are for us and what you did for Milan.

“Whenever you need us, we’ll be there for you, always.”

Now at Venezia, Inzaghi’s side earned promotion to Serie B last season. He was once the king of the Serie A penalty box, and Super Pippo may yet achieve a similar reputation on the bench.

Filippo Inzaghi

Games: 623
Goals: 288
Honours: Serie A [1997-98, 2003-04, 2010-11], Champions League [2002-03, 2006-07] Coppa Italia [2002-03] Serie B [1994-95]
Italy caps: 57
Italy goals: 25
Honours: World Cup [2006]
Coaching honours: Lega Pro [2016-17], Coppa Italia Lega Pro [2016-17]

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