The number nine jersey at AC Milan has iconic status – playing as the lead striker for one of the most famous clubs in world football has always been a tough burden to carry. But down the years, players such as Dutch maestro Marco van Basten, Ukraine hero Andriy Shevchenko and “Super” Pippo Inzaghi have etched their names into Rossoneri folklore.
In the early 80’s the UK had tried its best to devalue the legendary shirt by sending lumbering giants such as Joe Jordan, Mark Hateley and Luther Blissett to the San Siro, but in the 21st century there is a new curse which is sweeping the club. Something the locals are calling the “macumba di SuperPippo Inzaghi”, the curse of SuperPippo…
The next number 9 ?
— TeamMilanAC (@TeamMilanAC) January 29, 2020
The first victim of this emergent affliction was Brazilian striker Alexandre Pato, who arrived in Milan in the summer of 2007 from Corinthians. Predicted to be the hottest striker to come out of South America since Ronaldo, Pato hit the ground running after touching down in Europe and became one of the most recognised number 7s in world football.
Then he changed to the feted number nine and suddenly, inexplicably, Pato was unable to hit a cow’s backside with a banjo. Despite his loss of form, he grew his curly locks and stayed at Milan for six years, but cynics will say that this was because he was sharing his bed with owner Silvio Berlusconi’s daughter. When the celebrity couple broke up, Pato was packed off back to Brazil before rocking up at Chelsea in June 2016 where, once again, he was crap.
AC Milan's squad in 2008-09 was ridiculous ?? pic.twitter.com/clRDIQ13Gl
— Goal (@goal) January 29, 2020
Italian pin-up boy Alessandro Matri grew up in the youth ranks at Milanello and after spending a few years out on-loan in the lower leagues, he finally got his chance to shine at the club who had nurtured his outstanding talent. At first all was well and when Juventus came calling in 2011. Matri had finally hit the big time and was predicted to be Italy’s great new hope.
After copping off with one of Italy’s most desirable women, Federica Nargi, the great new hope turned into the great new nope. Eyebrows were raised when Milan, having off-loaded Pato, took a gamble on Matri sticking him in the number nine jersey. It didn’t work out and despite several moves to try to kick-start his career again, the 35-year-old is currently without a club.
— footballitalia (@footballitalia) January 31, 2020
August 2014 and Milan looked to have pulled off a fantastic coup by bringing Spanish goal machine Fernando Torres to Italy as they looked to wrestle domestic supremacy from bitter rivals Juventus. Torres was immediately given the number nine shirt and was pretty shit from day one.
You were more likely to see Elvis Presley back on stage than see Fernando find the back of the net and, with no chance of extending his Italian top-flight career, Torres finally cut his losses and headed back to Atletico Madrid for free in the summer of 2016.
His total time on the pitch in Serie A totalled 592 minutes and although he managed a solitary goal in this time, the “macumba di SuperPippo Inzaghi” had claimed its biggest victim.
? Fernando Torres on his time at #ACMilan:
“It’s a club that I have loved since I was a child, but when I joined it was not the right time both for me and for them.
"I thank Milan for letting me go back to Atletico, a club I’ve always loved."
— SempreMilan (@SempreMilanCom) June 23, 2019
Argentine hitman Gonzalo Higuain had been brilliant at both Napoli and Juventus, so many experts questioned why the Old Lady decided to loan him out to Milan at the start of the 2018-19 campaign. A difficult character at the best of times, things started quite well for Higuain at the Rossoneri and in his opening four Serie A games, he netted on two occasions.
Then a muscle problem kept him sidelined for a month before back to back red cards saw the Milan hierarchy lose patience with yet another player who found the number nine jersey too hot to handle. Stamford Bridge, which seems to be a grazing ground for failed AC Milan strikers, came calling once again as his old mucker at Napoli Maurizio Sarri attempted to restore Gonzalo to his former glories.
He didn’t of course, but now Higuain is back in Turin wearing the number nine and playing some of the best football of his career despite starring in a fly on the wall club documentary in which he spends ten minutes telling us what his beard means to him.
The latest player to fall foul of the Inzaghi curse is Polish frontman Krzysztof Piatek. Back in January 2019, Piatek was the hottest name on the Italian transfer market after scoring over 20 goals for Genoa in the first-half of the 2018-19 campaign. Forking out nearly 40 million quid for a guy that had had just six months in Serie A seemed a little daring, but the Pole repaid the trust that the Milan power brokers had put in him by continuing his exceptional form until the end of the season.
Last summer, the warning signs should have been flashing when Piatek was pictured wearing his new number nine shirt for the upcoming campaign. By the end of the year he had a permanent place on the substitute’s bench at San Siro before being sold to Hertha Berlin for £20M in last month’s transfer window.