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"Man Descends from Gattuso"--Italian Proverb

As part of a series of interviews of international soccer stars, Simon Kuper of the Financial Times profiles AC Milan and Italy's indefatigable holding midfielder Gennaro Gattuso. Kuper points out that Gattuso is a force in and of himself, the spiritual leader of both Milan and Italy, a role he will certainly play as the Rossoneri travel to Old Trafford Tuesday to play Manchester United in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals.

Gattuso comes from Italy's southern region of Calabria. Like so many from the poor region, Gattuso left his small town seeking a better life abroad. He joined Glasgow Rangers, where he fit in perfectly with the British who "tackle like men," he says. "In Italy, if you tackle a player they moan to the referee." Indeed, it was in Scotland that Gattuso honed his skills as a midfield terrier. The next season, at age 20, he returned to Italy to play for Salernitana and a year after that joined Milan, where he's been ever since.

As the Italian saying goes, "Man descends from Gattuso." Perhaps Milan's most beloved player, Gattuso likes to bury opponents and then shake their hand, which itself is a scary looking experience, Kuper says. Indeed, Gattuso's game is far from Milan's pretty passing game, but he knows his place: steal the ball and give it to Kaka, the player who mounts just about every Milan attack. "He is so perfect that sometimes I have to touch him to make sure he really exists," Gattuso says of Kaka. A workman-like midfielder in every sense, Gattuso will be forced to shut down the likes of Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

Read the whole story at Financial Times »

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