'Jordan Busted My Balls': Gennaro Gattuso And THAT Milan v Tottenham Flashpoint

Gennaro Gattuso turns 46 today
12:57, 09 Jan 2024

It was Mathieu Flamini who started it. The Frenchman’s two-footed challenge, straight legs and all, on Vedran Corluka brought the Champions League round of 16 clash between AC Milan and Tottenham Hotspur to boiling point.

San Siro went wild as Flamini called on the crowd to raise the roof some more, but it wasn’t half as wild as it was about to get between Gennaro Gattuso and Joe Jordan.

Play had barely resumed after a stretcher had been summoned for Corluka when Thiago Silva was sent flying by Steven Pienaar. A Milan free-kick was not forthcoming, causing an irate Gattuso to question the fourth official. But it was Jordan, the Tottenham first-team coach with whose response he found the greatest ire.

The Scot was not having the Milan players’ histrionics. Flamini’s foul deserved a red card, but he’d got a yellow. Then Thiago Silva was after a free-kick, probably rightly, but Spurs were still in need of keeping a lid on what was developing.

Jordan didn’t want the Milan skipper in the ear of the officials for the remaining 35 minutes, and he let Gattuso know that in no uncertain terms. Gattuso gave the then-59-year-old a mouthful then threw out his hand, pushing him in the chin.

It remains a flashpoint which stands out from an otherwise compelling but fractious fixture. Except it wasn’t really a flashpoint, since it continued on after Peter Crouch’s late winner had given Tottenham a 1-0 advantage heading to the second leg at White Hart Lane.

Milan’s backs were up after a disallowed Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal in the fourth minute of injury-time. But while many of their players surrounded the referee at full-time, Gattuso was back in Jordan’s vicinity, the pair exchanging words once more. As they went at it, the Italian midfielder embarrassed himself, aiming a headbutt at his adversary and causing a right old ruckus which ended with a huge number of players from both teams having to hold Gattuso back.

“I lost my head,” Gattuso admitted afterwards. “I did things I should not have done and I take responsibility for that. Jordan busted my balls for the whole second half, but I should not have reacted like that. I apologise, and if a ban arrives I will accept it.”

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He was banned from the second leg in any case, with his booking on that San Siro night ruling him out for an accumulation of yellow cards, and while his Milan side had a real go at Spurs the Londoners held on for a 1-0 aggregate win.

Gattuso went on to end his 13-year association with Milan the following season but would be back as the club’s head coach in 2017. After Vincenzo Montella had been sacked, the Rossoneri promoted ‘Rino’ from the primavera (under-19s) coaching position for what many predicted would be a car-crash appointment.

But Milan lost only four of their final 24 matches in Serie A to finish sixth, then were only just edged out of a top-four finish the following year. For a club really going through the ringer behind the scenes at the time, that was no mean feat, but both parties agreed to move on that summer with Gattuso heading off to Napoli the following winter.

Most recently, after taking the Fiorentina job only to then have his contract rescinded before the start date had even arrived, Gattuso left his role as Valencia boss in January 2023 just six months into the gig. It was his eighth managerial job in just shy of 10 years, while Marseille have stabilised recently after appointing Gattuso in September.

He even came close to getting the Spurs head coach role back in the summer of 2021, but a social media campaign among supporters put a stop to Daniel Levy’s pursuit of the former midfielder. While the eventual appointment of Nuno Espirito Santo didn’t go at all well, it is hard to imagine Gattuso having done anything other than badly in a job which would have seen the fans against him from the start.

Just imagine if he’d made Joe Jordan his number two, though.

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