The hottest ticket in town in Italy this weekend is in Milan where on Sunday night, AC and Inter lock horns in the latest instalment of the Derby della Madonnina.
Down the years, it’s surprising just how many footballing superstars have turned out for both clubs, so let’s now take a look at five of the biggest traitors to grace one of the biggest games in the Serie A calendar.
Looking at him these days it’s hard to imagine that Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima was once the greatest footballer in the world, but that’s exactly what he was when Inter broke the world record transfer fee to bring him to Italy in 1997. For five years at the Nerazzurri, he was (when he wasn’t injured) simply unplayable on his day and despite only making 68 appearances in total for Inter, he scored 49 goals during his time there to earn himself the nickname O Fenômeno (“The Phenomenon”).
When he decided it was time to top up his trophy cabinet he jumped ship and headed to Real Madrid where he won just about everything, but lengthy spells on the sidelines and too much partying at the Rio carnival played havoc with his waist-line so by the time he arrived back in Italy to play for AC Milan, O Fenômeno had become El Gordo (the fat one).
Despite his lumbering frame and a body that was as brittle as a matchstick, he still scored nine goals in 20 appearances for the Rossoneri.
Having missed the vital penalty in the shoot-out in the 1994 World Cup Final in the USA, Juventus were looking to off-load Roberto Baggio and Milan decided to take him for a knockdown price of around five million quid. The Rossoneri had the last laugh however after Il Divin Codino (The Divine Ponytail), who apparently turned down the chance to get off with Madonna, helped Milan win the Serie A title.
Injuries once again took their toll and just a year later, Baggio was off to Bologna where he rediscovered his goalscoring touch. Following the World Cup in France in 1998, Baggio joined up with Inter, who he claimed had been the club he’d supported as a kid.
When Roy Hodgson took over, he decided, for some unknown reason and despite having two of the most famous players in the world in his squad, to play Baggio out of position on the wing and shortly after, Il Divin Codino thought f**k this and cleared off down the road to join provincial side Brescia.
In 2006, another player who claimed he supported Inter as a boy, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, jetted in to try to help the Nerazzurri win something.
The big Swede did just that, however, winning three consecutive Scudetti and two Italian Super Cups. During his time with Inter, Zlatan was also voted European Footballer of the Year and, in a three-year spell with the club, he rifled in 57 goals in 88 appearances before completing a dream move to Barcelona.
It took Zlatan about two days to fall-out with coach Pep Guardiola however so, at the end of his first season in Catalonia, he went back to Italy and joined Milan on-loan and after helping the Rossoneri to win the league title, he made the move permanent in 2011.
Heading into 2012, Zlatan was to get itchy feet again and in January of that year he did what most Napoli fans wanted to do at the time and that was t**t Salvatore Aronica, which earned him a three-match ban. Ibra used his time off wisely by negotiating a lucrative move to Paris Saint-Germain that summer.
What have Ryan Giggs and Andrea Pirlo got in common? No, it’s not knobbing your brother’s wife, it’s the fact that both players started their careers at a big city club before making a name for themselves at their bitter rivals.
Pirlo spent three years at Inter between 1998 and 2001 but most of this time was spent out on-loan at both Reggina and Brescia. In 2001 and with the advantage of hindsight, the Nerazzurri did the unthinkable and sold him to AC Milan for around 15 million quid and you can’t even blame Roy Hodgson this time as he’d already left the club by then.
Ten years later, Pirlo had won two league titles, two Champions Leagues, a Coppa Italia, an Italian Super Cup, two UEFA Super Cups and a FIFA World Club Cup and become one of the most recognisable footballers in the world.
Milan were so enthralled by him that they forgot to negotiate a new contract with him so he touted himself around with Juventus becoming the lucky recipients, picking him up on a free-transfer.
If you asked many Italian men of a certain age who they would most like to come back as in another life, then there’s a good chance many would say Christian “Bobo” Vieri. He was the archetypal centre-forward, made from granite and even Pele thought he was decent because he put him in his list of the 125 greatest living footballers to celebrate FIFA’s centenary.
What makes him revered by so many of the Italian male population, however, is that if you Google the names of any Italian showgirls of the past 20 years then there’s a good chance they’ve been in the sack with Bobo.
Vieri scored 103 goals in 143 appearances for Inter between 1999 and 2005 before a huge falling out with President Massimo Moratti signalled the beginning of the end. When “Bobo” found out Newcastle United were interested, he became frightened and desperate; so much so, he decided to head across town to join AC Milan. Vieri only played eight times for the Rossoneri and it seems absurd that a player of his quality never won a league title in his entire career.