Pippo Miiiooooooooo!

Warning: Kleenex may be required for this post.

Rumors of the imminent departure of 38 year old Filippo Inzaghi from Milan in January have picked up steam. While he has tried to be very professional over the last couple of years, I have a feeling that some ugly truths will come out in the aftermath, whether about the club, the coach, the player or all of the above. So before our innocence is lost, I thought I’d better do a little bio on the man I call a legend, a player whose name is in nearly every record book possible for his predatory brilliance on the pitch.

Super Pippo has two modes: focused predator and passionate hysterics

Some men were simply born to score goals. Sir Alex Ferguson once referred to Pippo as “born offside,” but that belittles the ridiculous accomplishments that Super Pippo achieved by actually finding the back of the net. He started off humbly enough at his home club, Piacenza in 1991. He was then loaned out to Leffe, playing in Serie C1, for the 1992-93 season. Then loaned again to Verona, who played in Serie B, for the 1993-94 season. He then transferred to Parma for the 1995-96 season, where he would play alongside other players who would later be his teammates on the national team like Buffon, Cannavaro, Zola, and Dino Baggio. He would also score two Serie A goals with Parma, one against Piacenza which moved him to tears, a tiny hint of the emotional player he would become. He also scored 2 goals in European competition with Parma.

No it wasn't THAT nerazzurri.

The following year, he moved to Atalanta, which proved to be a brilliant breakout year for him. Not only did he score against every single team in Serie A, with 24 league goals, he was the capo cannoniere for the league, or top scorer. His exploits earned him the Serie A Young Footballer of the Year award, and he was given the captain’s armband for his last match of the season. But he would once again move on at season’s end, this time to powerhouse Juventus.

At Juventus, he partnered with the legendary Del Piero and Zidane to create an intimidating attack that tore through defenses for 4 seasons. It was during this time that he became the first player to score 2 hat tricks in the Champions League, having scored one against Dinamo Kiev and another vs. Hamburger SV. Pippo scored a hat trick vs. Bologna that was a game decider and also the goals which saw Juventus win the Scudetto for the 1997-98 season. It would not be the last time he came up big in the big game, but he also scored quantities of goals, having scored 89 goals in 165 matches for Juve.

While at Juventus, he got a taste for trophies

It was in 2001 that he made the switch to league rivals AC Milan. And despite a knee injury that kept him out of the first half of the season, his return saw him build a fantastic partnership with Shevchenko, a scoring duo to make defenses tremble. In the 2002-03 Champions League season, he scored his record third hat trick in that competition, as well as another decisive goal in the quarterfinals vs. Ajax, for a total of 12 European goals that season. It was probably also emotional for him that Milan won the Champions League trophy that season from his former club, Juventus, on penalties. His trophy collection grew with Milan winning the Coppa Italia trophy in 2003 as well as the Scudetto in 2003-04.

The 2005-06 season saw him overcome some persistent knee injuries and come up big yet again in both Serie A and Europe. Two goals against Lyon and two goals against Bayern Munich saw another 4 goals added to his tally in European competitions. But it was in 2007 that he left an indelible mark on the hearts of fans everywhere. Not only did he score the decisive goal against Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals, but he would score both goals against Liverpool in the Champions League Final to win, 2-1. This match was particularly emotional as it was a rematch of just two years before when Milan had been up 3-0 at the half, only to see Liverpool equalize and win on penalties. Pippo’s brace was redemption for that embarrassing loss, and he was named UEFA’s Man of the Match. He has even cited those goals as the most important in his career. As a completely biased and worshipping Milan fan, I think they should engrave his name on that trophy for what he did in that game.

Victory is sweet, revenge sweeter, especially if you score both goals to win.

Pippo would then score the equalizer to lead the way to Milan’s 3-1 defeat of Sevilla for the Super Cup that year. And then he became the first striker to score in all international competitions by scoring 2 goals in the final of the Club World Cup to help defeat Boca Juniors, 4-2.

Despite having a lot of nagging knee injuries, Pippo still managed to rack up the goals both in Serie A and in Europe. In fact, in the spring of 2009, Milan thrashed Siena 5-1 and marked Super Pippo’s 300th career goal. He also scored 2 hat tricks that season in Serie A to make a total of 10 league hat tricks, making him the player with the most hat tricks in Serie A in the last 25 years.

300 career goals and no end in sight. Defenses were warned.

Last season may have seen the last of Pippo’s heroics in the Red and Black. Coming on as a sub for the last 30 minutes, and with Milan down one to Real Madrid, Pippo scored 2 goals, which brought him to 70 goals in European competition, and gave him the top scorer in Europe at that time. It also put him ahead of Marco van Basten and Gerd Müller in number of goals scored for Milan, with 125 goals for the Rossoneri. And he was also the second oldest player to score in European competition. It also put him top of the Rossoneri’s scoring charts in European competition by beating out Shevchenko with 40 goals in a Milan jersey in Europe.

And I haven’t even mentioned his heroics with the Azzurri. Just briefly, he has 25 goals in 57 appearances, tying him in 6th place for the most goals scored for Italy. He was Italy’s top goalscorer in qualifications for both the 2002 World Cup and the 2004 Euros. He was also a part of the 2006 team that won the World Cup, giving him another notch in his trophy belt.

Just a week after his heroics vs. Real Madrid, playing against Palermo, he suffered a devastating cruciate ligament knee injury that ruled him out for most of the rest of the season. Despite his age, he fought back, though, and made a brief appearance when we played Cagliari at the San Siro on the last day of the season. Having not been given much playing time this season and also having been conspicuously left off of the Champions League roster for the group stages, the hungry predator that is called Super Pippo is not likely to sit around much longer waiting for 6 minutes of playing time every 10 games. And while I miss him pacing up and down the sidelines like a caged tiger almost as much as I miss watching him devour defenses, keep the assistant refs honest, and score goals and celebrate like he’d just saved the world, you can’t keep a wild animal locked in a cage. Just like you can’t keep a Super Pippo on the bench.

No matter what happens, I will always remember him as the striker of my dreams. He will always be my favorite poacher, a predator that cannot be caged. Whether he moves on or retires, I will always see in my head his pacing up and down the sidelines, his testing the offside trap again and again, his exquisite and even his simplest of goals, and the celebrations that make my heart leap with joy otherwise unknown. He will always be Pippo mio.

This post inspired by the music of Muse’s “Hullabaloo Soundtrack" b sides
Pippo Miiiooooooooo! Pippo Miiiooooooooo! Reviewed by Elaine on 2:05 AM Rating: 5
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