Once upon a time, the Derby della Madonnina would have been billed as a title decider, a battle between two giants of Italian football. Now, it’s sadly little more than a contest to see who can avoid embarrassment in a match between two clubs desperate to prove the worthiness of their project.
A match that will pit seventh versus ninth in the league and a rookie versus a title winner, fans of the Premier League will be eager to see another duel on the pitch: the fiery rivalry between what was a great striker, Fernando Torres, and an almost perfect defender, Nemanja Vidic.
“It’s become a personal thing between them now and it’s a battle that Vidic has never been able to win,”explained David Villa in an interview in 2010. One need only look at the stats to agree with the former Barcelona star.
Between September 2008 and September 2010, Manchester United and Liverpool played each other on five occasions. In those games, Vidic was sent off three times while Torres managed to score in three consecutive games. In the first match the Serbian saw red, the Spanish striker was on the bench and the last time the Spaniard scored, Vidic escaped with only a yellow card.
However, their battles were epic and went beyond the striking stats, with Managers of both sides frequently asked their opinions on the matter.
“It becomes psychological. When you have never been able to do the something, the pressure mounts,”Villa opined when asked the same question.
Vidic was a leader on the pitch and a world-class defender. Yet despite his intelligence and great ability in the air, Torres knew just how to expose his weaknesses. Running at him with pace and accelerating at just the right time, Vidic was forced into actions he would always later regret due to his inability to cope.
Nimble and fast on his feet, the Spanish striker knew just how to get the better of his opponent, both on a mental and physical level. Vidic not only lost the battles, but his player of the year candidacy after losing 4-1 at Old Trafford in 2009. Torres stood in the way of the path to perfection and individual trophies.
Nevertheless, both the defender and striker enjoyed wonderful seasons at their respective clubs in England, winning trophies and the adulation of the fans. Now in Italy, the mighty seem to have fallen.
Having both moved to Serie A over the summer, the Milan derby is supposed to be yet another occasion to enjoy the duels between these two riveting players. Instead, the only thing the two have shared since their arrival to the peninsula is a poor start to their respective campaigns and the probability that neither one will start the match of the season.
Yet while the Spaniard is surrounded by optimism and the hope he will finally explode on to the scene, others are pessimistic on Vidic’s chances to impress. La Gazzetta dello Sport recently published a piece in which they identified the top XI flops after 11 match days. The Inter star made the cut and tabloids have already begun speculating on his future and a possible exit as early as January.
Should either star feature, albeit as a substitute, one wonders the outcome of the battle. Will we see Torres fly or will Vidic overcome the powers of the Spaniard in Serie A?