From the Rossoblu to the Nerazzurri and vice versa. While we wait for Inter v Bologna, looks back at the story of two Italian legends

MILAN - Around 120 miles separate Milan from Bologna. A popular route for commuters, in the summer of 1998, this journey became the realisation of a childhood dream. The dreamer in question was Roberto Baggio, right back from his early days kicking a ball around his local pitch in Caldogno. He wanted to play for Inter, the team he loved and the club he and his family still support to this day.

In the autumn of 1998, that child's dreams came together in spectacular fashion at San Siro.

On 25 November, Inter hosted Real Madrid in their penultimate match of Champions League Group C. Just six months earlier, Los Blancos had claimed their seventh European crown, beating Juventus in the final in Amsterdam. Yet there are some nights when La Scala del Calcio shows no fear, not even in the face of the reigning European champions. Nor was too much respect shown by a man who five years earlier had claimed the Ballon d'Or.

Baggio came on for Ivan Zamorano with a quarter of the match remaining with the scoreline reading 1-1. He betrayed no emotion. As if his brooding aura - later reportedly referenced by Jorge Valdano, a Real director and former star player -
would put the dream of that child from Caldogno out of reach.

However it took just 22 heady minutes for the mask to fall.

Baggio received the ball in the box from Diego Simeone, played a lucky one-two with opposition player Ivan Campo and shot with his right. His effort wrong-footed Bodo Illgner who instinctively dived to his left, leaving his feet with the task of keeping out the Nerazzurri number 10's effort. The Real Madrid keeper however couldn't get enough on the shot and was unable to prevent it from finding the back of the net.

San Siro erupted and Baggio took off his shirt, no doubt a moment he'd always been waiting for. He was finally able to lap up the adulation of his home crowd. The fans would love him even when the going got tough, expect a lot from him and ultimately rue his departure. It was much the same story for supporters of Bologna the previous season or indeed any of the sides he played for. Regardless of the occasionally harsh criticism he received, the one constant over the course of the Divine Ponytail's career was how much people loved him.

That love reached new heights in added time on that 25 November against Real Madrid. Eight minutes after making it 2-1, he struck again to seal the points. Baggio controlled a through ball with his left from Simeone - him again - before dropping his shoulder and rounding Illgner to finish. That made it 3-1 to Inter. He then cupped his hand behind his ear to really hear the roar of the 80,000 inside San Siro. To hear exactly what that childhood dream sounded like.

Within that roar, there was also the celebration of Gianluca Pagliuca, at the other end of the pitch keeping goal for Inter. The native of Casalecchio with his cat-like reflexes, played under Vujadin Boskov in Genoa and joined from Sampdoria in the summer of 1994. A few months before Baggio signed, Pagliuca starred in one of the most iconic European matches in Inter history. On 6 May 1998, at the Parc des Princes in Paris, Inter dispatched Lazio with goals from Zamorano, Zanetti and Ronaldo to lift the UEFA Cup. It ended 3-0, thanks in large part to Pagliuca, who kept a clean sheet for the Nerazzurri. He produced a superb stop to keep out Roberto Mancini's volley in the second half.

A year later, in the summer of 1999, and 12 months after Roberto, Gianluca also made the trip between Milan and Bologna. His, however, was the opposite route to Baggio. It was a homecoming, a return to where he was from. Pagliuca would go on to play a further seven seasons at Bologna, becoming captain and staying with the club even after their painful relegation to Serie B.

A little over 120 miles separate Milan from Bologna. An everyday route for some became an epic journey for this pair of Italian football legends, spurred on by their dreams. Inter v Bologna is all that and more.

Davide Zanelli

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