x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Golden generation of Italian football ready to move on

AC Milan will start next season without the likes of Rino Gattuso, Filippo Inzaghi, Alessandro Nesta and perhaps Clarence Seedorf.

Filippo Inzaghi, right, and Clarence Seedorf will not play alongside each other in AC Milan colours next season.
Filippo Inzaghi, right, and Clarence Seedorf will not play alongside each other in AC Milan colours next season.

Rino Gattuso had tears in his eyes, which was forgivable because the occasion was as emotional for him as for many of his AC Milan teammates and, across Italy, for an unusual number of his contemporaries.

And in Gattuso's case, only the hardest-hearted observer – and perhaps a few Inter Milan supporters; Gattuso has always played the aggressive cheerleader in derbies – would not have been pleased that at least the tearful eyes of the old rogue were functioning well.

Earlier this season, Gattuso's career appeared threatened because he was suffering from double vision.

With the title race already resolved ahead of the last weekend of the Serie A season, there was space on Sunday for several operatic bows. Gattuso's was one of them.

He will leave Milan this summer after 13 years there, aged 34. His eyesight is OK again, so he will get another job harrying somebody's midfield although it will be at a level lower than Milan's.

Likewise Alessandro Nesta's next gig. At 36, Nesta is two years older than Gattuso, and when folk compile their imaginary XIs of the greatest footballers of the Noughties, Nesta will feature in more of them than Gattuso does. At his peak, Nesta was as accomplished a central defender as existed.

So Sunday's roll-call went on. Pippo Inzaghi scored his 156th Serie A goal, his last for Milan and possibly – though he insists he would like to poach a few more, somewhere – his last in Italy.

Inzaghi will turn 39 in August. Clarence Seedorf set up Inzaghi's goal in the 2-1 Milan win against Novara.

Seedorf, 36, has played probably his final match for Milan, too, with Dutchman pondering various possible destinations for next season, including the Brazilian league. Gianluca Zambrotta and Mark Van Bommel, two 35 year olds, will also be heading away from Milan.

But as the San Siro registered its appreciation of men who have delivered league and European titles in their time there, in Turin a more amplified homage was in progress.

For the last time, Alessandro Del Piero appeared in a Juventus jersey in front of his home crowd in the 3-1 win over Atalanta.

He has been at Juventus for 19 years, represented them in four different "home" stadiums in that time.

He bowed out as an Italian champion, for the sixth time (or the eighth by his reckoning; he includes in his record the 2005 and 2006 "titles", both clouded by the calciopoli scandal).

Naturally, Del Piero obliged his fans, many of whom were crying, with a goal. It was his 289th for the club.


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