MILAN - There was something in the air that night, something that turned Alvaro Recoba into the Incredible Hulk against Lecce. It was a strange sensation - one that had allowed Chino to put six goals past Antonio Chimenti in just four years. Impressive and important goals in equal measure - decisive doubles scored on special matchdays. One of which was one of the best goals of this his career, which consisted of a flick around the defender before lobbing the goalkeeper. This was a bittersweet afternoon, however, as it was the same game in which Ronaldo suffered his first injury. Following this, he then enjoyed some great away days at Via del Mare, first scoring during a 3-1 win back in September 2000. This was matched by goals from Cordoba and Keane.
However, it was the month of March, close to his birthday, when Chino really showed his best. His trips to Via del Mare always had an added energy about them, perhaps because they often fell around his special day. Chino was born on 17 March 1976 in Montevideo, and he featured in Lecce on his 25th birthday on 18 March 2001 with his age printed on a shirt underneath. He knew that these were special days for him. The year before he had fired in a free kick against Bologna on 18 March 2000. But he lit up that match against Lecce too, absolutely inspiring Tardelli’s Inter on the day. Played in with a delightful ball from Jugovic, he skipped past Chimenti and slid it into the empty net just before the ball rolled out of play to make it 1-0. He then snatched the winner after the interval via a free kick, his effort too hot to handle for the Giallorossi goalkeeper.
It was then 364 days later, on 17 March 2002, when Chino left the team bus with the No.26 shirt that he’d prepared during the week after receiving a surprise visit from his family for his birthday. This match eventually finished 2-1 to the Nerazzurri, with Recoba scoring what is also on the shortlist for one of his best-ever goals. This stemmed from a run from his own half before he then slid the ball cooly into the back of the net.
There was undeniably something Recoba loved about playing against Lecce, particularly on his birthday - something that gives us optimism ahead of Sunday’s away encounter!