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Overtaking Baggio could solve Inzaghi’s image problem
After bagging his 300th career goal last month, AC Milan’s Filippo Inzaghi has set his sights on Roberto Baggio’s tally of 318.
The 35-year-old hit a hat-trick in Sunday’s 5-1 thrashing of Torino in Serie A to take his total up to 304 and he looks good to achieve his target next season.
This got me wondering whether reaching a milestone set by a universally recognised great of the modern game will win over those still sceptical about Inzaghi’s talents.
Inzaghi’s goal feats often fail to receive the enthusiastic greeting they get in Italy outside his homeland, especially with British fans and journalists.
“English colleagues have often suggested that ‘SuperPippo’ was nothing more than a ‘poacher’ and a ‘six-yard merchant’, with a marked penchant for taking a ‘dive’ to boot,” Irish Times correspondent Paddy Agnew wrote in his book Forza Italia.
Agnew, who has covered Serie A since the 1980s, argues that Inzaghi is no more of a diver than his colleagues who have played in the Premier League “Saint Michael Owen, Ruud Van Nistelrooy or Wayne Rooney included”.
But the accusation that he is little more than a goal-hanger may be harder to shake off. His first goal of the 2007 Champions League final against Liverpool, which he deflected in with his arm, is seen by many as a typical Inzaghi effort.
What critics fail to take account of is that Inzaghi’s knack of being in the right place at the right time is more than just luck, it stems from the understanding he has with his team mates and his superb ability to read the game.
What’s more, you don’t score 300 plus goals just by sticking out random body parts. Indeed, I’d says Inzaghi’s second strike in the 2007 Champions League final, where he rounded the keeper and coolly slotted in from a tight angle, was much more typical than his first.
And while he is not a playmaker forward in the mould of Baggio, scoring goals is not his only contribution, as displayed by the smart lay-off he produced to create Clarence Seedorf’s winner for Milan at Chievo Verona two weekends ago.
Inzaghi has already pulled off many achievements, including being part of Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning squad, so I doubt that one more will dispel the reputation he has gained, in Britain at least, for simply being an expert poacher.
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PHOTO: AC Milan’s Filippo Inzaghi celebrates with team mate David Beckham (R) after scoring against Torino during their Serie A match at the San Siro, April 19, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi