Straight from the dark heart of Italy
Inter fans are caught in quite a quandary over the most appropriate way to react to Zlatan Ibrahimovic when the big fella makes his return to the San Siro on Wednesday night.
There are those who feel that the Swede should be welcomed back with applause and a general show of good-will.
And then there are those, somewhat in the majority, who believe that studied indifference is the order of the day.
No booing or jeering: just pretend the lanky, long-haired Judas doesn’t exist and everything will be fine.
Seeing as Italians in general don’t do indifference - as witnessed by Siena fans taunting Daniele de Rossi at the weekend over the murder of his father-in-law - and Inter followers in particular find it difficult to remain impartial at the best of times, this second option seems a non-starter.
Marco Materazzi, of all people, has been calling on everyone not to rise to Ibra’s baiting that it was thanks to his good self that the Nerazzurri finally won the title again – legally, on the pitch – after 17 fruitless years.
Jose Mourinho is too worldly-wise and far too smart to fall for those sly little digs, or for that matter to let loose “The Matrix” in a man-marking role, i.e. kick and kick again, when Lucio or Walter Samuel can inflict enough pain in more subtle ways.
No doubt Ibra will be steeling himself and calling upon all his reserves of self-confidence and natural arrogance when he steps on to the pitch.
He's well overdue a headline-grabbing performance in Europe and some of the locals are concerned that it will happen against them.
That would be a real slap in the face, and although it’s doubtful he would go to the lengths of a Emmanuel Adebayor-type “celebration,” if he does find the net expect a bit of badge-kissing or the universal I-can’t-hear-you hand-to-ear gesture.
The "shush" is always an option
A mere show of ingratitude would be more than enough to end any apathy amongst the sell-out crowd.
However, having said that, there is a new hero on the scene now and rather than attempting to unsettle Ibra (or not), the fans will be getting right behind Samuel Eto’o.
Mourinho has hailed him as the “best” player he has ever worked with, but then he said the same about Ibra.
Anyway, the Cameroonian has demonstrated in the opening three league games that he could be one of the best buys of the last decade: with two goals and countless assists, he has become the focal point for the new pleasing-to-the-eye Inter.
Apparently, he gets on well with the rest of the squad and by all reports has demonstrated no prima donna tendencies at all.
And on Monday, he was even seen strolling around the city centre, stopping for a chat here and there.
What were Barça thinking about when they let him go?
Well, Ibra obviously, but Wednesday evening could well give some indication which club landed the better deal.
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Didn't Ibra give it to the Inter fans after hitting that Exocet against Fiorentina last season? Or was he just 'cleansing his soul' as Mourinho would affirm?
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