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Allies at war

As it turned out, French recruit David Trezeguet became SuperPippo's successor
Last season proved that Turin wasn't big enough for both David Trezeguet and Pippo Inzaghi. While Hernan Crespo and Andriy Shevchenko battled it out for the Capocannoniere crown, the two Juve rivals were battling each other. Antonio Labate reports on the clash which has helped send Pippo to Milan.

Pippo Inzaghi's love affair with Juventus has ended. After four glorious years he's been forced out of the club by a young Frenchman who showed last term that he was more than a match for the man they call SuperPippo. Both strikers had similar agendas at the start of last season. The initial aim was to score the goals that would lead Juventus to their first Serie A title for three years. The second was to outscore each other in a bid to partner Alex Del Piero on a regular basis.

In the end the Scudetto was lost, but Trezeguet finished the season as a winner by convincing the club that he could he Juve's No 1 striker in the years to come. In hindsight then, Coach Carlo Ancelotti probably had the most difficult job in Serie A. Not only was he in charge of a club who don't see the title as an objective but as a requirement, he had to keep four key forwards happy all season.

'Carletto' hoped that the Italian Cup and the Champions' League would keep the number of games high enough to chop and change without risking results. However, once they had been knocked out of both the Coppa Italia and Europe by early November, juggling Del Piero, Inzaghi, Trezeguet and Darko Kovacevic was always going to be a struggle. Knowing quite rightly that four didn't fit into two, the problems started to mount.

Pippo grabbed a hat-trick in the first game of the season

Inzaghi quickly laid down his credentials in Juve's first official game of the season. He netted a hat-trick in the 4-4 draw with Hamburg to rescue the side from defeat. His French counterpart hit back almost immediately by scoring the winner in the 2-1 victory against Panathinaikos in Turin just a week later. Both set out their stall early on and Ancelotti decided to see what the pair could do together despite his justifiable doubts over their partnership. Deportivo La Coruna were the first team to have to defend against the Trezeguet and Inzaghi duo and by all accounts the pair were pretty unspectacular. It seemed that Ancelotti knew best and it's no surprise to learn that the two were only fielded simultaneously at the start of a game just nine more times all season - and four of those was because Del Piero was injured. The two strikers knew that they had to do time on the bench.

"Obviously I don't like being a substitute but it happened to almost everyone at Juventus last season," said Inzaghi. "It wasn't easy for Ancelotti but he had to make decisions. As professionals we needed to accept them." Trezeguet mirrored his views: "A great team needs to have a number of good forwards and then the Coach can decide who should play." Understandably their perspectives changed somewhat as the season developed.

Player form was the only element that Ancelotti could use to separate the two and at times it had outstanding effects. It was Trezeguet who had the better of the early exchanges in the League campaign after he netted his first Serie A goal in the 2-2 draw at the San Siro against Milan in Week 3. Two games later and he was the main reason that Juve were back on the title path as a double at Reggio Calabria saw the Bianconeri erase memories of the shock home defeat to Udinese just days earlier.

Trezeguet proved right away that he was worthy of the Juve shirt

This was the Trezeguet that Juventus had hoped would arrive in Turin - the scoring machine who proved against the Azzurri in the Euro 2000 Final that given a chance he would take it. "I know that many people in Italy, Juventus supporters included, were not too fond of the goal I scored in the European Championships. But I'm confident that they will learn to love me," promised the forward.

"A striker who doesn't score isn't a striker. Here in Italy people judge you above all on your efficiency. Players like Oliver Bierhoff and Gabriel Batistuta are not great technicians, but their strike rate is impressive. And if there is one thing that I like doing, then it is scoring goals."

The golden child has settled well in Northern Italy after completing his £14.5m switch to Juventus. He was showing the tricks of the trade that he had picked up on the streets of Argentina, where he grew up after his father moved his family from Rouen, France. At just 17 he was signed by Monaco from South American side Platense and he soon became the new king in the Principality. In the 1997-98 season he hit the target 18 times and was deservedly given his French international debut in early 1998 against Spain. Having played in the victorious World Cup Finals, Trezeguet had by now become 'Trezegol' and he scored the crucial winner in the 3-2 win over Iceland which saw Les Bleus qualify for the 2000 European Championships. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, the New Year brought a new Inzaghi - even if in reality it was the same old Pippo. And coupled with Trezeguet's muscle injury sustained against Vicenza, the 27-year-old was given renewed hope that he would again be Juventus' No 1 striker. After all people across the peninsula seemed to forget that the Italian international, as Ancelotti has openly admitted, has goals in his blood.

He and his brother Simone - currently at Lazio - brushed up their skills as youngsters by playing football in the home before their mother Marina sent them out on to the street. They caused more havoc there as a neighbours used to complain on a daily basis as the Inzaghi boys used numerous garage doors for target practice. It served them both well.

Pippo returned to the game when Trezeguet was injured and won back his place in the line-up

Trezeguet's goal prowess had somewhat helped Juve fans forget that Inzaghi had scored 56 times in his first three seasons in Turin as he averaged more than a goal every two games. Some had even erased the memories of SuperPippo finishing top of the scorer's chart with Atalanta in 1997. But those memories would come flooding back midway through the campaign as the Azzurri striker went on a goal rampage between January and April. His double against Fiorentina at the Delle Alpi spared Juventus' blushes, and he would go on to score a hat-trick against Vicenza before netting against Napoli, Milan, Udinese and Inter.

It was in those months that Juventus kept a reasonable distance to Roma all thanks to the man whose goals personify nothing more than simplicity. He's not on the field to entertain - he's just there to score. But Inzaghi's strike in the 3-1 win over the Nerazzurri proved to be the last for his side as, like the previous season, he sensationally went off the boil.

While slight injuries didn't help Inzaghi in the title run-in, it was perhaps the events of that afternoon in April when The Old Lady were held at home to Lecce that compromised his season. Pippo had started the game on the bench for fitness reasons but with the score at 1-1, the Piacenza-born striker was sent on to score the winner. In the end he did everything but hit the back of the net. He instantly brought a bit more life to the proceedings but he must still be carrying the mental scars from that Sunday after his missed chances saw Juve throw away two points - the same number by which Roma won the title.

After the Bianconeri were handed a dubious penalty, Inzaghi decided that he would take up the responsibility despite missing from the spot just four days earlier for Italy. His well-placed kick beat Antonio Chimenti but agonisingly ricocheted off the post. To add further insult to injury, the former Parma striker then hit the same post again deep in injury time as the Southern minnows held out for an unlikely point. Inzaghi was never to be the same again.

Trezeguet scored 7 goals in 6 games in Juventus' season wrap-up

But Ancelotti had the perfect answer for Inzaghi's goal drought as the latter was benched in favor of young David. Out of the shadows arrived Trezeguet who by this time was courting the interest of Arsenal and Liverpool. He had lost his patience sitting alongside his Coach for most of the season and blasted his own decision to join the club. "If I knew how things would have turned out then I would have never agreed to come here." But successive strikes against Fiorentina, Bologna, Perugia, Vicenza and Atalanta suddenly gave Juventus renewed belief in the forward.

"When things are going well it's clear that I want to stay here. I have a contract until 2005 and I want to respect it." The goals kept coming and the succession of three points saw them slowly reel in Roma - even if in the end the Giallorossi were crowned champions.

All of a sudden it was Pippo who was entangled in transfer talk. "I've spent some wonderful years at Juventus and have been treated well," he said as he could do nothing while his French colleague received all the plaudits. "It's important to know that Silvio Berlusconi and Adriano Galliani at a club like Milan appreciate me, and that through the years their confidence in me has not changed. That is why, if I had to move clubs, Milan would be my first choice."

Super Pippo finally did make the move once the Rossoneri had raised the estimated £23m which Juventus asked for. Despite his San Siro switch many people with Juve hearts will remember him as someone who had black and white blood. His mantle should be adequately taken over in Turin by Trezeguet, even if both men are aware that they played key parts in Juve's season. In many ways they were the goal twins that never were, brothers who had to be kept apart in order for Juventus' title dream to continue. They were rivals then and they're rivals now. Their duel will no doubt continue this coming season.

This article is entitled "Allies at war", taken from Football Italia, issue 8, August 2001. The images are not original.

Related links:
» Football Italia
» Football Italia magazine section