Milan. An unlovable city, I think. A magnificent duomo, though, and the Bagel had arranged a rooftop tour in the afternoon. A very spiritual experience, mainly due to the thousands of spurs disciples’ hymns of devotion in the piazza below. But apart from that, and on my second visit, the charms of Milan are not obvious. From a purely football fan perspective, it’s hard to embrace a city where eight euros a pint is the standard. And Bremen wurst beats Milan risotto.
The San siro is an awesome beast. A gargantuan behemoth, a larger stadium from the outside I have never seen (anyone?). But it’s also hard to love. Once you’ve walked round the stadium to be told that there has been a printing error on your ticket, and walked all the way back – then the fun really starts. Those twisty helter skelter towers you have to walk up to get to your seat in the gods are ridiculous. The bloody duomo has a lift. Why can’t they?! It takes fully fifteen minutes to spiral around twelve times, whilst the locked off central staircase you wind around would take a quarter of the time. And last but not least, you have to cross not one but 12 rivers of piss on your dizzy ascent. Maybe that’s why the beer is so expensive – we’d all be soaked to the ankles if it was affordable.
Then when you get to your seat, turns out you can ‘sit anywhere’ which in practice means our row 3 seats were row 23. Cheers Italy. You fail to match the Germans’ efficiency, but also their sense of fun. And that’s without the robocop riot police just itching for an excuse to wade in.
But it is still an unbelievable stadium. And it’s as big time as we could want for a group stage away game. It’s where we’ve wanted to be for years, and I suppose criticising Inter for being unloveable is as pointless as criticising Werder or Twente for not being European champions. They are just on a different level to us.
Well, us and ten of our players anyway.
What can you say about the game? It was over in fifteen minutes, and they looked superb. Like a slower but smoother (and better) Arsenal, as Bagel put it. They got to the edge of our penalty area with ease and once there their flicks and feints paid off as often as not. Liquid football. But… whilst they didn’t need any help we gave them as much as we could anyway. We have got to stop with this rabbit in the headlights routine. We weren’t doing the simple things well, and we’ve already seen that against inferior European opponents that will kill you. Against Inter it will humiliate AND kill you. Too much space conceded, too much time given on the ball, too easily beaten – even without the letter of the law sending off you got the impression we were being toyed with, goals scored on an as you wish basis. As the third went in, this threatened to be the longest, most humiliating night of my football watching life. Let’s not kid ourselves. Inter got to four, and took their foot off the floor. Whatever else happened only happened because they knew they were home and dry, even if what followed was glorious and more of a close shave than anyone could have predicted.
But Inter taking it easy against ten men should mean they keep it at 4-0 or perhaps give away one consolation goal. The whole team stood up to be counted in the second half. But one man stood up to introduce himself to the world.
What is your definition of world class? If it’s someone who can star in a top league, Frank Lampard qualifies. If it’s someone who’s done it in finals, major tournaments and the champions league, Teddy Sheringham qualifies. Had a great world cup? Toto Schillaci was world class then. El-hadji Diouf, anyone?
World class. A much bandied about label. One I’ve heard used, in all seriousness, about many Tottenham players. Keane. Gomes. Ginola, Vfondevfoort already. I’d suggest none of these players make it, perhaps Keane on current form.
To me world class is someone who looks special on any stage. Not just good enough to hold down a place in one of the great teams, but someone who can be a star in that team. Perhaps a little more is required otherwise fat frank gets in and I’m not comfortable with that. Someone who has that sprinkling of star dust. Who can take the football lover’s breath away. Whether it be playing the right ball, perfectly every time (Xavi). Pace allied with finishing and the arrogance of genius (Crouch, Eto’o). The arrogance of genius combined with the arrogance of arrogance (Ronaldo). Or the simplicity of being Un. Bleedin. Stoppable.
I’ve been thinking it for a while. I’m going to say it. Gareth Bale is not only the best player we’ve had in years. He is the one world class player we’ve had since, hmm, Klinsmann first time around. I’d suggest he is the hottest property in world football right now. Not the best, but the best that money can buy in the current market (sadly). Rooney included. Anyone would want him. Everyone does.
Gareth Bale wasn’t the only man on the pitch in the second half. At least I dont think he was. Bale Bale Bale goes the chant, and so went the second half. But credit to the others too. What a magnificent recovery of dignity. If ever there was glory in defeat (a moot point!) this was it. I haven’t seen any replays yet but that first run looked astonishing, matched only by the finish against the similarly ‘world class’ Julio Cesar. At the time I thought it was a shame to waste it on a consolation goal. I suppose in a way it still was but sometimes you have to ignore the context and focus on the moment. What Bale did, against world class defenders who were doing their damndest to stop him, couldn’t have been done by too many other players in world football. Once maybe, in a decent player’s career. But twice in one match – that’s world class. Messi. Ronaldo. Gareth Bale. I can’t really remember the third except I think it was just well taken rather than phenomenal. Gareth, you are a disappointment but I still [makes crappy heart symbol with fingers here] you.
One thing about a game against one of the best teams in the world – there are no hiding places. And our weak spots were cruelly exposed. When the Bale money comes in (£40m and rising I reckon) let’s spend half of it on two absolutely quality full backs because whilst our strikers are average, our full backs aren’t even that, not at this level. Benoit’s humps (his humps, his lovely lazy humps) up the field are decent defensive clearances in the premiership. At this level they invite pressure back immediately and are unacceptable. And Hutton isn’t good enough, period. Kaboul needs a run when he gets back, he’s our best option at the moment and needs a chance to nail down a position – it’s his for the taking.
But look. We knew we weren’t going to win the cl. We are still favourites to get second spot. We can look forward to the home game with real relish. The champions league is ace. We didn’t get beat 7-0. Chrissy got the one goal she wanted and more. And last night a world star was born.
Tottenham eh? Bloody hell!