SO WHAT really riled AC Milan pitbull Gennaro Gattuso enough to make him pick a fight with Joe Jordan, a man whose missing front teeth are a permanent testament to his grizzled fearlessness?
Insults, as the Gattuso camp suggest, perhaps. But this was evidently a man also tormented by defeat, by the humiliation of being outplayed, outfought and well beaten in front of his team’s own fans.
And, without delving too far into amateur psychology, perhaps Tottenham’s triumph poured salt on an already raw wound: that caused by English dominance of Italian sides in the Champions League.
Remember when beating the cream of Serie A was an exotic treat?
Manchester United’s comeback at a Zinedine Zidane-led Juventus (right) on the way to lifting the trophy in 1999 was met with rapture. When Arsenal routed Inter Milan 5-1 at the San Siro in 2003, their joy was matched only by shock at the result.
Nowadays it seems humdrum in comparison. Italian teams no longer frighten English teams like they did.
It is no wonder going by recent seasons. Last term United ended Milan’s hopes in a 7-2 aggregate drubbing. The previous year all three Italian clubs were dumped out at the last 16-stage by English opponents. And the term before that every Serie A team to reach the knockout bowed out upon meeting Premier League sides.
Inter are the only team to buck the trend, beating Chelsea last season on their way to a historic treble. That can be put down to the Jose Mourinho factor, however, given their relative weakness this year – as ruthlessly exposed by Gareth Bale and Tottenham themselves at White Hart Lane in November.
Now that the Portuguese alchemist has fled to Spain, however, normal service has resumed – and how. So superior are English teams now that Milan, three points clear at the top of Serie A, proved no match on their own ground for Tottenham, a team who may very well not even finish in the Premier League top four.
Gattuso was a part of the Milan side that won the 2003 final on penalties against Serie A rivals Juventus. How long ago that must seem now.
TALE OF THE TAPE: JORDAN V GATTUSO
Joe Jordan NAME Gennaro Gattuso
Jaws; The Shark NICKNAME Ringhio (AKA ‘Growl’)
59 AGE 33
Cleland, Scotlan BIRTHPLACE Corigliano Calabro, Italy
d6ft 1in HEIGHT 5ft 9 1/2in
Bruising centre-forward REPUTATION Belligerent midfielder
Spurs keeper Milja Aleksic broke his jaw in altercation with Jordan PREVIOUS Sent off for slapping Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a 2003 match