Filippo Inzaghi: The goals don’t lie
Not many players can say they have a World Cup, European Championship, Champions League and domestic medals to their name. Most of those who are in that rare category are praised and admired by nearly everyone who follows the beautiful game.
Sure enough, there are some polarising players that have entered that group, such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Gennaro Gattuso, who, as the old saying goes, are like marmite in that you either hate them or love them.
However, when considering polarising players, one from that bunch stands out in particular. That player is Filippo Inzaghi.
While those criticising Ronaldo have no problems in admitting that their negative views on the Portuguese have nothing to do with his skills or achievements, as they are instead more related to his behaviour and what many consider to be arrogance, Pippo faced questions about his skills and accusations that he was just an average attacker benefitting from the creativity of the players behind him.
Those questions and accusations have continued even since the end of his playing career in 2012. However, before making such shallow comments, one should primarily remember two figures: 370 and 46.
Those are the numbers of goals Inzaghi scored in Serie A and the Champions League, respectively.
Some would point to ex-Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous, but largely false quote: ‘That lad must have been born offside.’ Others have a different view.
Emiliano Mondonico, Inzaghi’s former coach at Atalanta, once said: “It’s not Inzaghi who is in love with goals; it’s the goals that are in love with him.”
First achieving a modest level of prominence in Italy during the 1994-95 Serie B season, when he scored 15 goals for Piacenza, his goal-scoring record at his next stop, Parma, would prove dire, to say the least. Nonetheless, that didn’t stop Atalanta from taking a chance on him.
During the 1996-97 season, his first and only season with the club was, simply put, spectacular. Twenty-four goals, as well as the Capocannoniere and Serie A Young Footballer of the Year awards. He even served as team captain in the last game of the season before, sure enough, the big clubs came knocking.
He was signed by Juventus in the summer of 1997, and during his four years in Turin, he scored 58 league goals and 27 European ones. In addition, he won the Scudetto in his first season and was a runner-up in the UEFA Champions League to Real Madrid.
Even though he had a good tally for the Old Lady, he was sold to AC Milan in the summer of 2001, mainly because Juventus had already decided to use Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet to lead their line. It is in the red and black of the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza where Inzaghi’s star shone the brightest.
Though his first season was not very promising, mainly because of injury, his second, 2002-03, saw Inzaghi show what he was capable of, especially in the Champions League.
He scored a hat-trick against Deportivo La Coruna at the Estadio Riazor and a brace against Bayern Munich at the Olympiastadion, as well as the goal that put his side 2-1 up against the German team at home in Italy. His goal against Ajax in the second leg of the semi-final also warrants mentioning in this regard.
Despite ending that Champions League season as the second-highest goal-scorer with 10 goals, only behind Ruud van Nistelrooy by two, Super Pippo nonetheless came first where it matters most – Milan beat Juventus on penalties and lifted the trophy in Manchester.
The three following seasons were not his best, though he did manage to win another Scudetto in 2004.
Inzaghi’s status as a great was emphatically sealed in the 2006-07 Champions League campaign. After a 2-2 draw in Milan against Bayern, many favoured the Germans to advance, but Inzaghi and Clarence Seedorf had different plans. They each scored a goal to help the Rossoneri advance.
The final, at the Olympic Stadium in Athens, saw a rematch of the 2005 epic duel between Milan and Liverpool. This time however, the outcome would be different, with Pippo ensuring that that the Milanese giants left with the cup.
The naysayers would surely claim his first goal, the one that bounced off his chest, was pure luck. However, that doesn’t change the fact that, like he had been throughout his career, he was once again in the right place at the right time.
Even if one shares the view that the first goal was luck, the second one, which saw him dribble past Pepe Reina before scoring, added to his legend.
It was only fitting, then, for Inzaghi to end his career with the winning goal in the 82nd-minute in Milan’s last match of the season, against Novara.
Love him or hate him, saying that Inzaghi wasn’t one of the greats, especially in terms of rising to the occasion when it matters most, would be a lie.
The numbers, as well as his trophy cabinet, support the belief that Pippo Inzaghi was not only one of calcio’s great forwards, but one of the most efficient predators the modern game has seen.