Gattuso, The Fighting Rhino from Italy

There are always two sides to this guy’s coin. Some loved him and others hated him. Some praised him for every drop of sweat and blood he shed in the middle of the field. Others hated him because of his hard play and provocation which became a scourge for all opponents. Ask Steven Gerrard how annoyed he is after the chance to fight this man in two Champions League Finals.

“He looks aggressive, but in fact he’s creepy like a kitten. I don’t mind fighting him every week, he can’t hurt you. I never saw him play a great ball, “said Gerrard. The man Steven Gerrard is referring to was born one winter in Corigliano Calabro, one of the poorest areas of southern Italy. The harshness of life at the Corigliano Calabro may have had some effect on this man’s tough character.

His senior career began in Perugia in the 1995/96 season, then made strange career strides to British soil, before finally returning to Salernitana. In the summer of 1999 he was brought to AC Milan and the rest is history. This guy is called Gennaro Gattuso, and for all his hard playing on the pitch some of us call him The Rhino.

Gattuso has a collection of nearly the entire title an Italian player could possibly win over the span of eighteen years of his professional career. Two Serie-A titles, one Coppa Italia, two Super Italia, two Champions League titles, one European Super title and two Club World Titles.

It is enough? Not yet. Gattuso is one thing that even Steven Gerrard dared to sell his life to get: a world title with the Italian national team. With this long array of titles, what would we like to describe the game of a Gattuso?

If the football field is the bar, then Gattuso is the bouncer. It doesn’t seem important, but without Gattuso patrolling the middle of the field, no Pirlo will be free to play the tempo. Nor would Kaká dance the samba through the heart of the defense and then pass a pass for Inzaghi to slice into the net by Inzaghi who appeared out of nowhere and ran like an inconclusive drunk.

Not far from his fierce figure in the middle of the field, Gattuso’s figure cannot be separated from various things that intersect with violence. If anything could scare Zlatan Ibrahimovic, then Gattuso was the one.

Prior to partnering as a teammate, Gattuso once slapped Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a duel when AC Milan faced Ajax in the 2002/03 Champions League season. Zlatan was silent, AC Milan qualified for the next round and lifted the trophy at the end of the final.

Not only fellow players, the assistant coach of the opposing team has also been a victim of Gattuso’s violence. Joe Jordan had this experience when AC Milan hosted Tottenham Hotspur in the 2011/12 Champions League. Unmitigated, Joe Jordan got smashed twice. Gattuso choked Joe during the match, then headbutted the poor man when the two confronted again at the end of the game. It was really a bad night for Joe Jordan – who actually played for AC Milan for two years. Nobody knows if he still has the taste of pizza, spaghetti or anything Italian after being beaten by Gattuso that night.

Not only opponents, teammates themselves have also been victims of Gattuso – although this time in a context that is not too serious and tends to be ridiculous. In his biography, “I Think Therefore I Play”, Andrea Pirlo recounts the moment when Gattuso went crazy after he was totally bullied by members of the AC Milan squad such as Massimo Ambrosini, Alessandro Nesta, Filippo Inzaghi, Christian Abbiati, and Massimo Oddo. I was so angry, Pirlo said, “Gattuso took a fork and tried to bring it closer to us. Some of us missed the match because of Rino’s fork attacks. “

Another story, a decade after Gattuso clashed with Ibrahimovic, the two returned to arguments when they both defended AC Milan. But this time it was Gattuso’s turn to be the victim.

Not accepting Gattuso’s teasing during the training session, Ibrahimovic, who passed by in the dressing room immediately greeted Gattuso’s arrival, locked him, then slammed the man into the trash. One scene called Thiago Silva, although violent but very funny and even kept him laughing for a whole week.

“It’s so crazy, we all started laughing at the thought of how Gattuso’s face looked. I swear I couldn’t stop laughing for one week!” said the Brazilian defender recounting the miraculous incident that was happening before his eyes.

Gattuso’s playing nature continued even when he changed roles to become coach. The incident took place when he was coach of Pisa and led his team to face SPAL in the Serie B. It seems that in the middle of the match, Gattuso was annoyed because the item he asked for was late and was caught slapping his assistant on the sidelines. Fortunately the match was won by Pisa and at the end of the match, Gattuso and his assistant finally celebrated the victory together.

But amid all the images of violence surrounding Gattuso, many people forget that the glory days of AC Milan and Italy in the early 2000s might not have existed without Gattuso’s presence. The combination of Andrea Pirlo and Gattuso was the key to the success of AC Milan and Italy at that time. If Pirlo was the cook, Gattuso was the broomstick. If Pirlo is the architect then Gattuso is the skin. Gattuso is the reason why Pirlo had enough room to play so artistically at his peak – and sent AC Milan as well as Italy to the top of the world.

Regarding dedication, Gattuso is also the champion. Gattuso suffered from an eye muscle working problem in the final years of his career as a football player. But that did not prevent him from continuing to appear trengginas at the end of his career.

In one match, Gattuso played with only one eye throughout the match and even made him collide with Alessandro Nesta. “During the AC Milan match against Lazio, I played an hour and a half using only one eye,” said Gattuso, as rewritten by the Spanish daily AS.

According to Gattuso, his eye condition was due to his eye muscles not working properly. “You see one object but it is in four or different positions,” said Gattuso. “I hit a player because I thought it was an opposing player but it turned out to be Alessandro Nesta,” he continued. The collision was quite significant, even making him absent for some time.

This eye muscle disorder has recently returned to bother. Gattuso, who now coaches Napoli, was seen wearing a blindfold when accompanying his team to compete in Napoli’s last few matches this season. He even admitted that he was sincere and advised that if one day he died, he wanted to be buried in the middle of the field. “This condition makes you physically feel very tired, especially if you have to see 24 hours a day,” said Gattuso, quoted by AFP.

On another occasion, Gattuso told the media crew about his struggles and surrender regarding the illness he was facing. “For a month there have been rumors that I will die, don’t worry, I will not die. But if I die, I am ready to go to where I live: on the football field,” he continued.

The days ahead may be very tough for the Rhino. But the battle is not something strange for him to win so far. And hopefully there will be many more years for us to watch the Rhino fight, even if this time from the sidelines.


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