Tuesday September 13 2016
Inzaghi: 'Champions League is special'

Filippo Inzaghi discusses his Champions League memories at Juventus and Milan, and his idols growing up.

The former striker scored 46 goals in the competition, lifting the trophy twice with the Rossoneri and losing in the 1998 final with the Old Lady.

“My father was and is a great football enthusiast,” Inzaghi explained to France Football.

“I’d dream in front of the TV with him, watching the European Cup as it was still called then. As a player or a supporter, I always followed it.

“In fact, I believe my childhood memories have been replaced by those where I was a protagonist. I remember each of the 85 matches I played, from first to last, without exception.

“I was obviously attracted to the strikers, I could name my compatriot Paolo Rossi at Juventus, but Marco van Basten was the absolute idol for my generation. He was elegant and decisive.

“But don’t forget the colleagues I battled with to win top-scorer, including Raul and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

“The Champions League is something special. For example, the fact you always play in the evening gives it a special atmosphere.

“I felt a real pleasure in competing in it, and that probably made things easier: so much so that I was more prolific than in the League.

“Was that also because of the type of opponents? Without a doubt, in Italy everyone knew me by heart. On top of that, I almost always played for big clubs who were often competing against teams who sat in and defended.

“By contrast, the attitude in Europe is different. Even the teams which are theoretically weaker go out to play and try their luck. So I found a lot more space to operate in.

“I’ve always been a football fanatic, so I knew the strengths and weaknesses of the players who were to mark me.

“I tried to identify who the weakest defender was, to discern the movements that would put him in trouble. There were video sessions with the Coach, then my own personal preparation.

“It wasn’t complicated: when I stayed at home, I spent my time watching matches. In fact, there wasn’t much which escaped my notice.

“The most difficult defenders to face? I remember well the duels with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United, with Gabriel Heinze. There was also Jamie Carragher of Liverpool who was a fierce opponent.”

Juventus and Milan have contrasting fortunes in the competition, with the Rossoneri having lifted the trophy seven times and Juve just twice.

“It’s hard to explain, I don’t know if there’s a reason. Yes, Milan have European DNA and have won a lot of Champions Leagues.

“But I think Juventus intend to change that with their summer recruitment.

“When will Milan return? I’m a supporter of that club, I spent 14 years there as a player and a Coach and my heart remains.

“I just hope they rediscover this competition as soon as possible, especially the fans who are the ones suffering the most from this long absence.”

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