Defenders around the world can breathe a sigh of relief: Filippo ‘Super Pippo’ Inzaghi, goal poacher par excellence, has officially retired from football.
Inzaghi was, in many ways, the antithesis of the modern striker. Indeed, while his nose for goal was unquestionable, his slight frame, relative lack of pace and no-frills playing style at times made him seem distinctly out of place alongside the fast, skilful, all-action forwards of contemporary football.
What he did have, however, was an unparalleled knack for being in the right place at the right time, which once prompted Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson to quip: “Inzaghi was born offside”. And with his supreme anticipation, timing and ability to convert chances with foot, head, knee or backside, the Italian often appeared to have a sixth sense when it came to scoring goals.
Super Pippo, who turned 39 on 9 August, scored 315 goals in his career, including 25 for the Italian national team. Several clubs, including sides in the UEFA Champions League, were thought to be interested in prolonging his playing career. However, Inzaghi, the elder brother of fellow former professional Simone, decided instead to hang up his boots and take on a new challenge: coaching AC Milan’s U-18s.
“I’m starting from scratch in a very humble way, because what I did as a player does not count anymore – even though it will always remain in my heart,” Inzaghi said following his appointment.
Here, FIFA.com brings you ten key dates from the career of this most unconventional of strikers, and looks back at the achievements of a player who won nearly every major honour in the game, including the FIFA World Cup™.
28 August 1991: Inzaghi made his professional debut for Piacenza, his formative club, in a 1-1 draw with Modena in the Coppa Italia. His first appearance in Serie B followed on 1 December in a goalless draw with Salernitana. He then spent time in the lower leagues before joining Parma in 1995, having scored 41 goals in 96 matches over four seasons.
2 September 1995: The young striker scored his first European goal in the second leg of Parma’s Cup Winners’ Cup tie with Swedish club Halmstad. The Italians ran out comfortable 4-0 winners, having lost the first leg 3-0. That goal would prove to be the first in a record-breaking European total of 70, which included two for Parma, 27 for Juventus and 41 for AC Milan. Of those 70 strikes, 50 came in the UEFA Champions League, ten in the UEFA Cup/Europa League, two in the Cup Winners’ Cup, one in the UEFA Super Cup and seven in the Intertoto Cup.
The Italian’s tally of 70 goals in 115 matches – an average of 0.61 per game – eclipsed the old European record held by German great Gerd Muller, who managed 62 in 71 outings. He remained the all-time leading scorer in European competitions for several seasons before eventually giving way to Spanish forward Raul, the current record holder with 77 goals in 161 games. Inzaghi is still, however, the only player to have scored at least one goal in every European competition.
29 October 1995: Super Pippo’s first Serie A goal came in Parma’s 3-2 win over his former club, Piacenza. He would go on to find the net 155 times in total in the Italian top flight, with two goals for Parma, 24 for Atalanta, 57 for Juventus and 72 for AC Milan.
8 June 1997: Inzaghi made his international debut under Cesare Maldini in Italy’s thrilling 3-3 draw with Brazil during the Tournoi de France. From there he went on to score 25 goals in 57 appearances for the Nazionale, including seven in FIFA World Cup qualifiers, one at the finals of Germany 2006, 12 in UEFA EURO preliminaries, two at continental finals and three in friendlies.
10 May 1998: After joining Juventus at the start of the 1997/98 campaign, Inzaghi forged a formidable partnership with Alessandro del Piero. On the penultimate matchday of the season, he scored a hat-trick in the 3-2 victory over Bologna that sealed the title for Juve.
9 September 2001: Despite a strong scoring record for Juventus, Inzaghi found himself squeezed out of the door, not helped by the club’s signing of David Trezeguet. Juve’s loss was AC Milan’s gain, however, and he scored his first goal for I Rossoneri in their 5-2 victory against Fiorentina. The following season proved to be the most prolific of his career, as he scored 17 goals in the league and 12 in the UEFA Champions League to help AC Milan to their sixth European title.
24 September 2003: It was then, at the peak of his powers, that Inzaghi suffered the first in a series of injuries that would stretch over a difficult two-year period. His woes began with a nasty head injury in a Serie A game against Perugia, and continued with a calf strain, a fractured left ankle, a broken hand and a bout of knee tendonitis. Despite his seemingly endless bad luck, Inzaghi never lost hope and did eventually return to the top.
23 June 2007: Inzaghi won the 2006/07 UEFA Champions League almost single-handedly for AC Milan, scoring twice in their 2-1 victory over Liverpool in the final. His shirt from that game was later sold at auction for €17,335, with the money raised donated to the neonatal intensive care unit of the Holy Family Hospital in Nazareth.
16 December 2007: In the FIFA Club World Cup final, Inzaghi scored the first and fourth goals as AC Milan secured a 4-2 victory against Boca Juniors.
13 May 2012: At the age of 38 years and nine months, Inzaghi scored the final goal of his career in a match against Novara. “If you are not born a Ronaldo or a Kaka, you can still become a great player through commitment, serenity, perseverance and loving what you do,” said Super Pippo, before turning the page on his exceptional career.