Former Man Utd Star Explains Why Retiring Andrea Pirlo Was ‘the Best Midfielder in the World’

​Former Manchester United man Park Ji-sung has insisted that Andrea Pirlo was ‘the best midfielder in the world.’

The South Korean was full of admiration for the Italian maestro, who is to hang up his boots at the end of the current MLS season with New York City FC.

Manchester United's South Korean player

Park remembers clearly coming up against Pirlo when they represented United and AC Milan respectively, and he doesn’t believe there was better than him around that time.

Speaking to ​Goal, he said: “He was not a big player physically, but his ability in passing, taking free-kicks, shooting from distance, play-making was the best in the world at that time.

“I believe he was a great player who could dictate the game. He was the biggest threat to any team who played against his team.”

Parma FC v AC Milan - Serie A

Park was the man tasked with trying to neutralise chief orchestrator Pirlo in the 2010 Champions League last 16 tie, and he was relatively successful in his duty as United surged into the quarter-finals after winning 7-2 on aggregate.

Speaking of the role Sir Alex Ferguson specifically assigned him, Park added: “I tried to block him so that he cannot be in possession of the ball. When he had the ball, I tried to prevent him passing the ball in front of him.

Toronto FC v New York City FC

“To mark Pirlo was not easy. It was hard mentally, physically but consequently Milan had a difficult game against us.”

There has been an outpouring of adulation for Pirlo since he announced his decision to retire, with many labelling him as one of the finest playmakers ever to have played the game.


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Mauro Icardi Reveals That He Wants to Reach the 100-Goal Mark Playing for Inter Milan

​Mauro Icardi has been Inter Milan’s talisman as captain and striker in the last couple of seasons.

Ahead of of the Milan Derby on Sunday evening, Icardi revealed to the Chinese press at Inter’s Suning training centre of his desire to reach 100 goals and more while playing for the Nerazzurri. 

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“I want to reach 100 goals in an Inter jersey, even if becoming the club’s all-time top scorer would be frankly difficult to achieve,” the Argentine forward told the press, as quoted in ​Football Italia. 

Icardi has score 84 goals in 153 games for Inter with six goals in seven appearance so far in this year’s Serie A campaign. 

He expressed his gratitude in being apart of Inter’s top 10 record goal scorers, but believes he can achieve more with the Italian side.

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“I am very happy to be in the top 10 scorers for this club, but it’s a long way off the top. In any case, my aim is to score many more goals for Inter.”

He believes his development as a striker comes from training every day and receiving help from the Inter staff.

“I work every day to improve and the staff here really help me. I try to get better every day and never stop. Every player can always improve, no matter his age or experience.

Bologna FC v FC Internazionale - Serie A

“I am strongest inside the penalty area, but I do want to improve my overall game. My work has only just begun.”

Icardi is on-track for another double figures in goals this season, hopefully breaking his 100-goal record with the form his side are in. 


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3 Key Battles Which Could Decide Sunday’s Key Milan Derby at San Siro

As red prepares to do battle with blue at San Siro on Sunday evening, we look ahead to ahead to three key areas where the game will be won or lost. 

Inter have made the more impressive start, sitting third in the table and still undefeated, while Milan have stuttered in their rebuild and lie in seventh. However, as we all know, form goes out of the window come derby day. 

3. Leonardo Bonucci v Mauro Icardi

In a window where AC Milan acquired 11 new faces, it was the capture of Leonardo Bonucci which was most noteworthy. One of the most sought after defenders in Europe, accrued for a bargain price, seemed like the perfect piece of business to propel the Milanese sleeping giants back where they belong.

Fastforward two months into the season, and Milan fans are scratching their heads. Bonucci has looked a diminutive figure so far, compared to his all conquering days at Juventus. However, the Rossoneri faithful will be hoping that Sunday’s clash will reignite Bonucci’s flame. 

His task is not an easy one; Inter represents Milan’s sternest test to date, boasting a formidable frontline spearheaded by the prolific Mauro Icardi. The Argentine will be looking to inflict yet more pain upon Bonucci, after scoring an impressive seven times in nine games against Bonucci’s Juventus (his second best tally against sides in the Serie A). 

In essence, whoever comes out on top out of these two will go a long way in deciding the fate of the match as a whole.

2. Borja Valero v Franck Kessié

To summon in the new age of the Derby della Madonnina, fittingly the struggle in midfield will be between to new signings. However, that is essentially where the similarities end, apart from their shared ability to completely take over a game.

Borja Valero is the archetypal Spanish passing maestro. He purveys supreme distribution to his teammates with excellent technical skill, and can control the entire tempo of a game if he is permitted. He is also ageing, and has never possessed any kind of real pace.

Franck Kessié is a raw, dynamic and daring footballer. He is indeed a powerhouse in midfield, but also possesses an extraodinarily low centre of gravity, and thus an exceptional ability to weather challenges flying in before skipping past and launching an attack. 

A large factor in who controls the game on Sunday will be determined by how each team deals with the threats posed by these two almighty players. 

1. Vincenzo Montella v Luciano Spalletti

It’s fair to say these two managers know quite a lot about each other. Indeed, Milan coach Montella played under Spalletti for four years at AS Roma, during Spalletti’s first spell at the club between 2005 and 2009. 

Montella’s first real job in management was as interim manager for Roma at the end of the 2011 season, succeeding the man who had previously replaced the sacked Spalletti in 2009, Claudio Ranieri. 

Spalletti has faced his former player and one time predecessor three times in a managerial capacity, and has a 100% win record against him. What’s more, it is his Inter that go into this weekend as derby favourites, after picking up 19 points from a possible 21 in a competent start.

Certainly, it is still a work in progress, and he is still trying to imprint himself on the team and find his best XI, but he has been able to get results in spite of this. Compare this with Montella’s hesitant start to this campaign, not helped by a deluge of new faces to integrate and an owner anticipating success, and Spalletti looks to well and truly have the managerial edge. 

However, with rumours rife that Montella is running out of time to save himself, don’t rule out  the importance of this game for Montella’s camp as a factor in how his team well set up. Failure here may put him down an unsalvageable path, and there is no finer motivation than that. 

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Inter vs AC Milan: Picking a Combined XI Ahead of Sunday’s Derby in Serie A

The Derby della Madonnina has been relatively insignificant, considering the history between the two sides, for the last few years now. But with both clubs now harbouring genuine hopes of regaining their place among the Italian elite, Sunday’s clash promises to be a must watch. 

Here is a combined XI of players from the two fierce rivals. 

11. GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma

The 18-year-old is an unbelievable talent considering his age, and has caught the eyes of all big clubs around the world with his assured performances & exceptional maturity. 

Whilst Samir Handanović has had a good start to this campaign with four clean sheets from seven games, it is the Italian who starts in goal in this XI. 

10. CB: Miranda

At 33 years of age, Miranda remains an integral player for both club and country. For Brazil, he is favoured ahead of big names such as Thiago Silva and David Luiz, both of whom cannot make the squad. 

Signing from Atletico in 2015, initially on loan, he has become a stalwart in defence and one of Serie A’s best. 

9. CB: Leonardo Bonucci

Although his life in Milan has got off to a shaky start, there is no doubt Leonardo Bonucci is still one of the best centre-backs in the world.

There is a reason so many clubs were willing to pay exorbitant amounts for the 30-year-old in the summer, and why Milan pounced at the chance to get him for a bargain €42m, even if it meant scuppering other potential deals they had planned. 

He can do things with the ball at his feet that no other players in his position can. 

8. CB: Milan Škriniar

The young Slovakian defender is still only 22 years old, but already looks like he has what it takes to become a world class centre-back. Bought in the summer for a bargain €23m from Sampdoria, he could become a San Siro legend.

Imposing on the pitch, and unforgiving in the tackle, he has also shown his subtlety at times in his first season with Inter, as well as admirable pace for a centre-back. 

7. CM: Franck Kessié

The Ivorian was one of the standout performers in Serie A last season, helping Atalanta to an unanticipated fourth place in the league. 

After catching the eye of several big names across Europe, it was seen as a coup when Milan agreed terms with him in January 2017. 

With two goals and an assist already this campaign, and some commanding performances, he has adapted well to life with the Rossoneri. 

6. CM: Borja Valero

The seasoned Spanish midfielder is yet another summer recruit to make it on this list, highlighting further the many moves made by both sides in the summer. 

Valero has brought a calmness and an assuredness to Inter’s midfield that has been sorely lacking in recent years. He is a true pass-master, and has pulled the strings with aplomb so far, lending a control to Inter that hasn’t been seen in a long time.

5. CAM: Suso

The former Liverpool man never made it at Anfield, but he has burst in to life since he put on the red and black jersey. The 23-year-old Spanish starlet was a shining light in an otherwise disappointing campaign last year for the Milan side. 

Despite a relative lack of game time considering his performances last season (mainly due to the integration of all the new faces at the club), he has still accrued three goals and four assists in 11 outings so far, and will look to impose himself in the derby clash on Sunday.

4. RW: Antonio Candreva

The industrious winger has established himself as an indispensable member of the Inter starting XI, playing in every single game for the Nerazzurri last season. 

Steadily linked with a move to Chelsea throughout the summer, it’s easy to see why Antonio Conte is such a fan of the Italian. He amassed a creditable six goals and 11 assists last year, but it is his versatility and willingness to sacrifice himself for the team that sets him apart. 

3. LW: Ivan Perišić

Ivan Perisic is one of the most devastating wingers in world football right now. He has an inate ability to score goals from anywhere, making him one of the most dangerous attackers there is.

Perenially close to a move to Old Trafford during the summer, Inter fans will be delighted to still have him on the books. He has played in every minute of Inter’s Serie A campaign thus far, and has a hand in six goals in the seven games.

2. ST: Mauro Icardi

The Argentine striker, already club captain at just 24 years old, is a talismanic figure at the club. The prolific forward tallied 24 goals last season, contributing six assists to further his development as one of the world’s most formidable strikers.

A fiery character, his combative nature has won him a plethora of admirers at  San Siro, as well as more than a few enemies within the ranks of the ultras, but he remains a totemic player for blue & black. 

1. ST: André Silva

The former Porto striker is one of the most highly rated young players in world football at the moment. Whilst failing to score thus far in the Serie A, he has been notably prolific in the Europa league for the Milanese giants; scoring six goals in six appearences. 

He has an exceptional scoring record for his country as well, with 11 goals in 17 appearances for Portugal. 

He has already been linked with Barcelona, after their director of football reportedly watched him in Portugal’s recent win over Andorra in the World Cup Qualifiers. 

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Inter v AC Milan Preview: Classic Encounter, Team News, Prediction & More

​Inter face off with arch-rivals AC Milan this Sunday, in what promises to be one of the most exciting Milan derbies in a long time. The duo will face off at San Siro under Chinese ownership for the second time, with Inter the nominal hosts. 

The Nerazzuri have made an encouraging start to the season under new manager Lucanio Spalletti, and will be looking to continue that on Sunday, but Milan have looked far less assured, and after the 2-0 loss to Roma at home before the international break, manager Vincenzo Montella is under considerable pressure. 

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The abundance of new faces to integrate has been a problem for the Italian, and he will be hoping the international break will have helped them to refresh so they can kickstart their season with a derby win.

Both harbour genuine hopes of emerging from the depths to challenge again this season, with Champions League football imperative for both clubs after being absent for far too long. It promises to be an intoxicating encounter.


Classic Encounter

With such a rich history, there have been so many classic games between these two over the years. 

From the infamous Champions League clash in 2005, called off when flares rained down on the San Siro pitch from Inter fans after a disallowed goal, one striking Milan keeper Dida, all the way to the pulsating 2-2 draw from last April – this fixture has had everything.

The infamous picture from the 2005 Champions League Quarter Final Clash

However, a game that particularly resonates is Inter’s famous 4-3 win in 2006.

The action was played at a breakneck speed, as Inter raced to a three-goal lead thanks to goals from Hernan Crespo, Dejan Stankovic and Zlatan Ibrahimovic before Clarence Seedorf replied. Materazzi then made it 4-1 as Alberto Gilardino and Kaka added late consolations. 

Inter v Milan 2006

Not only was this a spectacular game, it was also one of the most star-studded and anticipated in history. AC Milan boasted a fierce back line with Cafu and Nesta, as well Kaka in his prime and Pirlo behind him. 

Meanwhile Inter had an equally fearsome team; Javier Zanetti and Ivan Cordoba at the back, Patrick Viera in midfield and Ibrahimovic up front. An unbelievable collection of talent all round, summoning up extreme nostalgia for the glory days of Italian football. 


Form

Inter are second in Serie A after an unbeaten start that has seen them pick up 19 points from a possible 21. While they haven’t been blowing teams away, and Spalletti is still experimenting with his team, they have been still been able to get the results to back it up.

AC Milan v AS Roma - Serie A

AC Milan have had a far more hesitant start to the season; seventh in the league table, having lost three of their seven games in Serie A. Their vast set of new players have had indifferent starts to life in Milan, and coach Montella will be hoping Sunday’s derby can coax them into life.


Team News

Inter playmaker Marcelo Brozovic picked up an injury during the international break with Croatia and won’t be fit in time for Sunday.

Benevento Calcio v FC Internazionale - Serie A

For Milan, recent Turkish signing Hakan Calhanoglu will miss out through suspension after his red card against Roma, and Andrea Conti and Luca Antonelli both remain absent with injury.

Defender Mateo Musacchio picked up a knock in training, but is still expected to start for the Rossoneri. 

Predicted Inter XI: Handanovic, Nagatomo, Miranda, Škriniar, D’ambrosio, Vecino, Valero, Candreva, Joâo Mario, Perišić, Icardi.

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Predicted AC Milan XI: Donnarumma, Romagnoli, Bonucci, Musacchio, Abate, Suso, Kessié, Biglia, Rodríguez, Silva, Kalinić.


Prediction

There is no doubt that home team Inter are favourites going in, but form is usually irrelevant on occasions such as these. If Milan can win the midfield battle, and 20-year-old Franck Kessié can impose himself on the game, then they have a definite chance.

However, with new signings still acclimatising, and coming up against a settled Inter side that possesses a lot of firepower, you fear for the Rossoneri. 

Prediction: Inter 2-1 AC Milan

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Arsenal Target Man Olivier Giroud Targeted by Italian Giants After Finding Gunners Chances Limited

Olivier Giroud could be close to leaving Arsenal for an Italian club, after losing his place in the Gunners’ starting XI to new signing Alexandre Lacazette.

According to CalcioMercato, the French forward – who has been a Gunner for five years, but has failed to start a league game so far – could be on the verge of switching to either Juventus or Internazionale.

During the summer, the 31-year-old came close to joining Everton but eventually chose to remain at the North London outfit for another season. 

Since his arrival at Arsenal from Montpellier, Giroud has scored 100 in 237 appearances and won three FA Cups. However, the threat of becoming Arsene Wenger’s backup choice might make him change his mind. 

The reigning Serie A champions are reportedly keen on signing him as a potential replacement for Mario Mandzukic, who, despite recently renewing his contract until 2020, is rumoured to be up for his final season in Turin. 

Giroud would represent a valid alternative to Gonzalo Higuain, who has looked off his peak fitness in the first part of the season.

On the other hand, Giroud could also have the option of playing under Luciano Spalletti and alongside Mauro Icardi, as Inter’s second forward. The Nerazzuri would benefit from the Frenchman’s thirst for goals, as they only managed to net 14 times in Serie A so far. 

Italy, however, may not be the only option for Giroud, if he decides to move on from England with French sides Lyon and Marseille both having shown interest towards him. This could be a chance for the 31-year-old to return to his homeland, after moving to the UK five years ago.


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Tom Ince Admits Disappointment at Failed Liverpool Move & Reveals Why He Turned Down Inter

​Ex-Liverpool starlet, Tom Ince has admitted that he was disappointed after a move to former club Liverpool was blocked by Blackpool’s owners in 2013. 

Ince, now at Huddersfield Town, was impressing for the Seasiders at the time, but claimed that the owners refused to sell him back to Brendan Rodgers’ Reds due to financial reasons.

Reflecting on the failed move, Ince told the Telegraph: “Liverpool was very close but the Blackpool chairman did not want to be out of pocket because Liverpool owned a percentage of the sell-on fee.

Yeovil Town v Blackpool - Sky Bet Championship

“He made it difficult and they would not let me go. That was disappointing because I felt I would have been given a chance under Brendan Rodgers.” 

Thanks to Ince’s form, he then found himself on Inter’s radar, a club that his father, Paul, played for between 1995 and 1997. It would have been a big step up for the now Huddersfield winger, but he opted to stay in England to establish himself in the Premier League.

He added: “When Inter were interested in me I stood in the San Siro and the English boy inside me told me to go to the Premier League.”

Instead, Ince endured failed moves at both Crystal Palace and Hull City, where he believes the systems played at both sides didn’t suit his style of play. 

“I had a taste of the Premier League with six months at Crystal Palace but it did not work out. Tony Pulis played a different way and I did not suit it,” he says. 

“At Hull it was similar. I started the first few games but then the manager went a different way.”

Huddersfield Town v Leicester City - Premier League

However now, the 25-year-old has found himself playing under a manager who believes in exciting football – something Ince can get on board with.

“David Wagner is unique. He is detailed and thorough and you see the Dortmund way in him. He wants entertainment and excitement and players to enjoy the game and express themselves.” 


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Next Generation: 7 Bright Prospects Who Are Taking Serie A by Storm So Far This Season

It’s pretty fair to say that the 2017/18 Serie A season is so far shaping up to be the veritable soap opera many hoped it would be.

Juventus have defied their doubters and won six out of their seven opening matches, while Napoli have steamrollered their way to the top of the league in emphatic style after winning every match. 

Lazio have been the surprise package with some gutsy performances, while big spending AC Milan have thus far failed to deliver on what many had thought would be a rapid return to glory. 

New boys Benevento have pulled a Crystal Palace, losing all their opening games, while former whipping boys Crotone have began to show signs of their ability to cling on to their Serie A status with remarkable determination.

For a league characterised by experienced, weather-beaten figures, the young blood have come out fighting and ready to prove their worth this season – and here’s seven youngsters who have taken the league by storm so far.

7. Milan Škriniar – Inter

If having the city as a name wasn’t enough to endear him with the fans, Škriniar’s rock-solid performances have made him a very popular figure at San Siro this season.

The 22-year-old is rightfully regarded as one of the most exciting defensive prospects in world football, and his anchor-like performances at the back for Inter so far this season will not have escaped the attentions of Europes top managers.

6. Lorenzo Pellegrini – Roma

While Lorenzo Pellegrini has been used sparingly by his manager so far this season, when he has been handed an opportunity to play he has been exceptional.

The 21-year-old has proven a midfield maestro, pulling the strings with a maturity of a player well-beyond his years.

The youngster particularly impressed when coming on against AC Milan last weekend, showing up the home side’s wealth of midfield talent with a superb display in the 2-0 victory.

5. Thomas Strakosha – Lazio

While AC Milan wonderkid Gianluigi is starting to come better known for throwing his toys out the pram than keeping clean sheets, Lazio’s Thomas Strakosha is rapidly becoming one of the most exciting keepers in the league.

The 22-year-old Albanian international’s stunning performances against Sassuolo before the international break topped off what has been a high-octane, all-action opening for his side.

Lazio’s hell for leather style of play has left the keeper exposed on a number of occasions, requiring his acrobatic brilliance to save his side’s bacon.

4. Rolando Mandragora – Crotone

Crotone surprised a lot of pundits by beating the relegation drop last season, and their dogged performances could be enough to see them hang on again in this campaign.

While it’s not exactly been champagne (or even prosecco for that matter) football from the Calabrians, 20-year-old Rolando Mandragora, who’s surname refers to a hallucinogenic plant, has produced a series of thoroughly dazzling performances.

The Juventus loanee is clearly a class above his teammates, but the midfielders desire to prove himself in Serie A is really working a treat.

3. Godfred Donsah – Bologna

Bologna are rumbling along reasonably well enough so far this year, and Godfred Donsah’s powerful midfield displays have been the real highlight of the performances.

The 21-year-old isn’t just a powerful lump in midfield, but also boasts quick feet and quality passing abilities.

Donsah has earned himself many an admiring glance from some of Europe’s top clubs, and Bologna will do well to keep the Ghanian star if his fine performances continue.

2. Federico Chiesa – Fiorentina

There is an extraordinary amount of hype around Fiorentina winger Federico Chiesa, and so far this season he is justifying it with aplomb.

Son of the ludicrously talented Enrico Chiesa, young Federico has clearly inherited his father’s formidable footballing genes, and ensured his wonderkid status with a stunning strike.

Chiesa will be imperative to Fiorentina’s success this season, and the speedy winger could be the difference between the whether the side can challenge for the Europa League or not. 

1. Nicolò Barella – Cagliari

Cagliari have endured a rocky start to this season, but the performances of Nicolò Barella have given their fans something to cheer about.

The 20-year-old has put in some dynamic midfield performances, including a man of the match showing in his side’s crucial 1-0 victory over Crotone.

The Italian under-21 international has a bright future ahead of him, and his youthful enthusiasm is certainly giving Cagliari a real edge to their play this season.

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PHOTOS: Nike Launch Limited Edition Hypervenom GX Boots to Honour Montebelluna 20th Anniversary

Nike are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first boots to debut from the iconic Montebelluna facility near Venice, Italy by releasing a limited edition Hypervenom GX.

Nike explain how Montebelluna, through innovation and the use of premium materials, ‘famously provides Nike’s professional players with boots engineered to their exact specifications’.

Hypervenom GX

And 20 years on from the Air GX that came out in 1997, the new Hypervenom GX will pay tribute to those Nike classics.

New technology means the Hypervenom GX will be as much as 35% lighter than the Air GX, but the design draws plenty of inspiration from its predecessor – notably the asymmetrical lacing.

Hypervenom GX

Improved lacing technology means that the old oversized tongue could be shrunk.

‘Supple’ Alegria leather features prominently, while the Italian flag appears on the heel and on a subtle label woven onto the left side of the boot.

Hypervenom GX

Inter striker Mauro Icardi and Milan counterpart Andre Silva will be wearing team colour versions of the Hypervenom GX in the Milano city derby this weekend.

Images from ​Nike.com


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Javier Zanetti Claims Derby Outcome Will Determine Milan Clubs’ UCL Qualification Credentials

​Inter Milan vice president and Argentine legend Javier Zanetti claims the outcome of Sunday evening’s Derby Della Madonnina at San Siro will be decisive for both Inter and Milan’s Champions League qualification chances come the end of this current campaign. 

The Nerazzurri have the opportunity to extend their advantage over their fierce city rivals to 10 points with a victory. The ex-blue and black captain is under no illusion to the importance of the clash as reported to Gazzetta Dello Sport, via Football Italia. 

He said: “A victory would increase the self-esteem of a group that are already showing compactness and totally involved in their new technical course.

“For us, the team are already at a great level technically and we’re convinced that they are solid and complete.

The Milan derby can always guarantee a passionate atmosphere

“We want to cause everyone problems this season, and we’re capable of doing that. After that, our main objective is certainly to return to the Champions League.”

On the pitch will be many impressive footballers but no superstars, however one player in particular has caught Javier Zanetti’s eye; fellow countryman Mauro Icardi. Many are convinced he will be a potential star player for Inter Milan as his game continues to flourish.

Zanetti can recognise his potential and work ethic, adding: “Icardi an icon? He’s not stopped improving while he’s been here. For example, he won a place in the national team, working hard and without being influenced by anything.

“He’s a serious professional, who’s really in love with Inter, and we want to win something important together.

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The respect Zanettii can show his young counterpart is comparing him to another Argentine striking great, adding: “He attacks the opponents’ goal like Crespo. Hernan was lethal in the penalty area. He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.”

Without politics, potential superstars or genuine title hopes, this Sunday’s derby will have more than local bragging rights at stake.


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