Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic still box office as San Siro produces Hollywood twist

By Sports Desk July 07, 2020

The touching pre-match tribute to Ennio Morricone, the great Italian film composer who died, aged 91, on Monday, fitted nicely for what was about to unfold at San Siro.

Possibly for the last time in their decorated careers, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – two of the most destructive gunslingers in modern European football – were ready to do battle as Milan and Juventus lined up.

More so than perhaps any other players of their generation, Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic's on-field deeds have frequently carried cinematic qualities. From the rippling physiques and inimitable preening, to their seamless combination of brute force and artistry, both men scream Hollywood.

Characters who polarise the audience were always the best pegs for Morricone's irresistibly lush arrangements and Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic are good, bad and ugly to many all at the same time. If Lionel Messi's lack of overt edge leaves you cold, these two have always been your guys. Your antiheroes.

While Ronaldo and Messi existed unrelentingly in one another's orbit for the best part of a decade, the fleeting and often explosive addition of Ibrahimovic to the equation has usually left fans wanting more.

It is churlish to bemoan the lack of spectators given the ongoing gravity of the global situation but some occasions miss a live audience more than others. This potentially final installment of a flashpoint rivalry was one of those.

Although this match eventually made a case of its own, they were never likely to top the stupendous 2013 World Cup qualification play-off, where the pair scored all the goals over two legs that concluded with Portugal eliminating Sweden on away goals. Morricone could have gone to town on that one. Drama, tension, plot-twists, elation, despair. It had everything.

Almost seven years on, each player is past the peak they revelled in back then, even if Ronaldo's absurd goal scoring numbers make a compelling counter-argument.

The passage of time necessitates refinement. Today they are wily, all-knowing stars in complete control and happy to exist on the margins, rather than all-action leading men – more Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino than his Man With No Name pomp.

This was their lot during a brooding first half. Ronaldo cut inside from the left win to thump a trademark dipping drive just beyond the far post. He was more frequently seen remonstrating with the officials, most notably when Ibrahimovic's penchant for martial arts was on display and his boot grazed the five-time Ballon d'Or winner's ear as he attacked a right-win set piece.

Ibrahimovic twice brought routine saves from Wojciech Szczesny before breaking clear in stoppage time. 1-0? No, cut! Offside, and the deadlock remained.

Tearing the length of the field to score goal-of-the-season contenders might no longer be Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic's game, but Adrien Rabiot happily made that his business in the 47th minute.

The former Paris Saint-Germain midfielder barged Franck Kessie out of the way and nutmegged Theo Hernandez to cross the halfway line on the right wing. Rabiot then opened his elegant stride to breeze beyond Alessio Romagnoli and brought things to a thrilling crescendo. As Milan's defence scattered he unfurled a majestic left-footed strike into the top-right corner.

A befuddled Rossoneri were struggling to regain composure – none too effectively in the case of Andrea Conti and Simon Kjaer, who got in each other's way defending Juan Cuadrado's raking ball.

And there he was. Ronaldo, finger on the trigger. Goal 26 of the Serie A campaign was a formality and Juve were going 10 points clear of a faltering Lazio.

Only, one man had other ideas. It was time for an audacious third-act twist almost too implausible for any composition.

The VAR playback of the 62nd-minute scene did no favours for Leonardo Bonucci. Handball. Penalty. Of course Ibrahimovic stepped up. Of course he scored.

There he was again four minutes later, that strapping back onto which you could probably project movies facing the Juventus goal. Ibrahimovic's penalty box presence was as booming as his lay-off was deft. Kessie was on hand for a redemptive finish, his earlier humiliation at the hands of Rabiot forgotten.

Ibrahimovic then left the chaos, his part played perfectly. But Milan were not done as Ronaldo's compatriot Rafael Leao ensured 0-2 had become 3-2 in the space of five berserk minutes.

If he'd been tasked with soundtracking this undulating drama, Morricone might have been tearing up his score at this point. At the very least, the keen Roma fan would have been disgruntled at the unlikely lifeline handed to Lazio's ailing Scudetto bid.

A roof-falling-in error from Alex Sandro allowed Ante Rebic to complete a 4-2 triumph. Six goals, the perfect number.

At full-time, Ibrahimovic strode around, a picture of satisfaction. Topless, of course. Just as Ronaldo, beaten and wounded, would have done had roles been reversed.

Perhaps the veteran Swede will survive the behind-the-scenes ructions at Milan to return next season. Is another sequel with the intoxicating sound and colour of the tifosi as opposed to the eerie emptiness of now too much to ask?

Related items

  • Dybala thanks former boss Sarri following major changes at Juventus Dybala thanks former boss Sarri following major changes at Juventus

    Paulo Dybala tweeted out his appreciation for Maurizio Sarri the day after the Italian coach was sacked by Juventus.

    The Serie A champions decided to take swift action following Friday's Champions League exit to Lyon, announcing the end of Sarri's reign less than 24 hours after the second leg of the last-16 tie.

    Juve did not wait long to name his replacement either, giving the job to Andrea Pirlo just over a week after appointing the former Italy international as their new under-23 team coach.

    The internal promotion came as a surprise too, considering links to former Juve player and current Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane, ex-Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino and Simone Inzaghi, who is in charge of domestic rivals Lazio.

    Reacting to the departure of Sarri, Dybala published a picture on Twitter of the pair together with the comment: "Thank you so much for everything Mister!"

    Argentina international Dybala enjoyed an excellent 2019-20 season under the former Napoli and Chelsea boss, scoring 11 goals and providing six assists in the league as the Bianconeri finished top of the table for a ninth successive year.

    Dybala - who was linked with a move away from Turin last year, including to Manchester United - was named Serie A MVP for his performances in domestic games, including Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana games.

  • Pedro says farewell to Chelsea ahead of expected Roma move Pedro says farewell to Chelsea ahead of expected Roma move

    Pedro has confirmed his departure from Chelsea after "five wonderful years" with the Premier League club.

    The Spanish forward is out of contract with the Blues and is rumoured to be heading for Italy next, reportedly to join Serie A side Roma on a two-year deal.

    His final appearance for Chelsea came to a painful end, as he suffered a dislocated shoulder during the FA Cup final loss to Arsenal. He has since undergone surgery on the injury and did not feature in the Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich on Saturday.

    In an Instagram post on Sunday, Pedro reflected on his successul time at Stamford Bridge, thanking all those who helped him feel at home following his move from Barcelona in 2015.

    "After five wonderful years my stage at Chelsea comes to an end," he wrote.

    "Thanks a lot to the club's board, to the coaches and team-mates I've had, and of course to the fans: thank you for the experience of being a member of your big family. I've been very happy here, you've made me feel like home.

    "It's been a pleasure and an honour to play for this club and win the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League titles, as well as competing in one of the world's best football leagues.

    "I made the right choice, I take with me wonderful and unforgettable memories."

    Pedro was part of Antonio Conte's Chelsea squad who secured the Premier League title in the 2016-17 season, while he also won the FA Cup and the Europa League with the London club.

  • Gomes signs five-year deal with Lille, loaned to Boavista Gomes signs five-year deal with Lille, loaned to Boavista

    Lille have confirmed the signing of former Manchester United midfielder Angel Gomes, who will spend the 2020-21 season on loan at Boavista.

    The talented 19-year-old opted to move elsewhere rather than continue his career at United, having come through the academy system at the Premier League club.

    Gomes made his first-team debut back in May 2017 but has found first-team opportunities limited; his only three starts in the 2019-20 campaign all came in the Europa League.

    While United were keen to sign the England youth international to a new deal, he instead allowed his contract to run down.

    In an Instagram post in midweek, Gomes wrote a farewell message thanking all those at the club who had helped him through the years.

    "Sadly the time has come to end a beautiful chapter that has been my life for 14 years," he wrote, before adding the time had come to make the "next step" in his career.

    Gomes has signed a five-year contract with Lille, though he will have to wait to make his debut for the Ligue 1 side.

    Instead, the teenager is set for a year with Boavista, who finished 12th in the Portuguese top flight.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.