Rui Costa is there and Marco Materazzi is there. Beauty and the bran. The elegant Portuguese shouldered the weight of his grizzled elbow on the opponent.
Peace amidst the chaos as a pair of football rivals pause to reflect on a hollow wall of red smoke and billowing flames.
“Everyone is focused on the flares, on the smoke,” photographer Stefano Rellandini, who captured the iconic image 18 years ago, told BBC Sport. “But near the center of the pitch I saw a certain moment.
“Materazzi is nicknamed like an executioner; he is not a gentle player. Rui Costa is the opposite – gentler, more artistic in his football. Within seconds Materazzi put his elbow on Rui’s shoulder Costa.
“So when I saw that, I shot it. I only had one frame of that sequence. That was the moment.”
The picture has its own legacy, but it also captured the end of AC Milan and Inter Milan in the most recent Champions League match; a 2005 quarter-final that was abandoned after flares and other objects rained down on the San Siro turf from a section of Inter fans, one that hit and injured Milan goalkeeper Dida.
With 73 minutes to play in the second leg, the referee abandoned the match and the tie was later awarded to Milan, who were leading 3-0 on aggregate.
“The atmosphere that night was like every time you have an AC Milan and Inter derby at the San Siro,” said Rellandini, who was working for Reuters at the time.
“It is always strong. They do not fight a lot, but the choreography of the supporters is great and good, so you can really feel it, even if you are not a player.
“When you put your feet on the pitch, you feel that it’s not a soccer game. It’s something more.
“You’re really close to the players. It was a great atmosphere; there was adrenaline.
“It only exploded when they denied the goal from Esteban Cambiasso. That completely changed the situation.
“The supporters of Inter Milan were scared. They started throwing things, flares, and didn’t stop for about 15 or 20 minutes. It was like a war.”
Tensions flared. Milan kicked Inter out of the competition two years ago on away goals, despite both semi-final legs ending in a draw at the San Siro. Milan beat Juventus on penalties in the final at Old Trafford.
Milan also head into the 2004-05 campaign as Italian champions – a sixth Scudetto since Inter last won the Serie A title in 1988-89.
Owner Silvio Berlusconi built his second truly great Milan team and the businessman-turned-politician trusted Carlo Ancelotti, a member of the team that won back-to-back European Cups in 1989 and 1990. , to provide a period of success as a manager.
For the quarter-final second leg a formidable back four of Cafu, Jaap Stam, Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini sat behind Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Massimo Ambrosini and Kaka, with Hernan Crespo – formerly of Inter – and Andriy Shevchenko in front. Rui Costa was on the bench.
Inter, on the other hand, are spending heavily to try and compete with Milan and Juventus. Chairman Massimo Moratti broke the world transfer record twice in three years, first signing Ronaldo from Barcelona in 1997 and then acquiring Christian Vieri from Lazio in 1999.
Crespo and Seedorf arrived at Inter for big deals, but failed to come away with any significant silverware, before joining the Milan division.
Fabio Cannavaro also came and went – a blundering two spells that ended with a move to Juventus.
In 2005 the Inter midfield was built around the Argentine pair of Cambiasso and Juan Sebastian Veron, while ahead of them the precocious Brazil forward Adriano enjoyed his most productive season in a black and blue shirt.
The team is improving. The results are not.
Inter carry the unwanted tag of ‘August champions’ among rival fans, scoffing at the expectations built up in the summer transfer market and often failing when silverware is at stake. May.
Among Inter supporters, there is an underlying feeling that they are running an unfair race – between them, Milan and Juventus have won 11 of the last 13 titles.
However, in 2006 the two were involved in Calciopoli scandal. Juventus were relegated to Serie B for their part and stripped of both titles. Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina docked points.
In 2005, rumors were already swirling in the stands. Criminal investigations have begun in Naples and Turin over alleged bribery and corruption in football.
When the game returned against Inter, the frustrations of their fans – at the scoreline and their inability to close the gap with Milan and Juventus teams that always seemed to be one step ahead – spilled from the stands. and onto the pitch.
Stam and Shevchenko gave Milan a two-goal advantage in the first leg.
But heading into their ‘home’ leg at the San Siro, Inter fans are still upbeat and hopeful of a comeback.
Milan legend Alessandro Costacurta, who came on as a substitute in the first leg, spoke of the ‘Derby della Madonnina’ meetings as the “worst” days of his career.
He couldn’t sleep. “It’s a riot of emotions,” he said. “It’s the tension.” Teammate Maldini described an “electricity” throughout the city.
Shevchenko also said he had trouble sleeping and recalled seeing more of the club’s colors displayed around town as games approached.
“There is great tension, great anticipation but above all love, and always with civil attitudes,” the former Ukraine forward told Gazzetta dello Sport recently.
Shevchenko, Milan’s number seven, opened the scoring half an hour into a fiery second leg when he beat Francesco Toldo with a left-footed effort from outside the box. That the striker avoided punishment after appearing to headbutt Materazzi early on added to Inter’s anger, with fans also believing they should have been punished.
But the real flashpoint came with less than 20 minutes left.
Inter midfielder Cambiasso’s bald head met Veron’s corner to make it 3-1 on aggregate, only for the goal to be disallowed because striker Julio Cruz was adjudged to have fouled Dida. There seems to be very little contact.
The flares thrown by the ultras at the Curva Nord began to rain down on the San Siro turf like flaming arrows.
One hit Dida on the shoulder, knocking him off his head, while trying to clear pyrotechnics and bottles from his penalty area.
The players gathered in the middle of the pitch as Maldini, Cambiasso and Inter captain Javier Zanetti clashed with referee Markus Merk, before Zanetti and Veron helped firefighters douse the blaze by trying to clear the area. debris from the goalmouth.
Eventually, with things still flowing from the stands, both teams were ordered off the pitch, trying to hide as they escaped through a tunnel in the same corner of the ground as the ultras.
“After the first few flares lit up, the pitch was completely in the fog, so you couldn’t see. Even if you wanted to take a picture of someone injured, you couldn’t,” explained Rellandini, although he did. catch his masterpiece in the midst of chaos.
“They stopped the game at almost half an hour, which was amazing at the time. You start to think something bad has happened because they really dropped everything – they went crazy.”
When the players returned, Dida – treated for first degree burns on his shoulder – was replaced by Christian Abbiati, but after 30 seconds, with the barrage continuing, Merk was forced to leave the fixture.
“The referee took the right decision,” Maldini said. “I was shocked that he tried to restart the game but it was good because a lot of supporters paid to watch.”
Ancelotti, like Inter manager Roberto Mancini, condemned the incident, calling it a “shameful episode”.
“What happened is not only damaging to Inter but to the whole city,” Ancelotti said. “The reaction of the Inter fans was completely unexpected. I was really surprised because I have never seen anything like that in all the Milan derbies I have been involved in.”
Milan police chief Paolo Scarpi blamed it on “two to three hundred hooligans … the usual hotheads from the Inter section”, while Berlusconi, Italian prime minister at the time as well as the tag -in Milan, suggested that “drastic measures” were needed to stop the rise. of violence in stadiums.
UEFA, European football’s governing body, handed Inter a £132,000 fine and ordered them to play four games in Europe behind closed doors.
“This is the biggest fine in the history of UEFA. There are some people who think it is mild and some people who think it is harsh,” a UEFA spokesman told the BBC.
Milan beat PSV Eindhoven on away goals in the semi-finals – Dida kept a Champions League record of seven consecutive clean sheets in their 2-0 first leg win, before the PSV won the return 3-1.
Milan would have clinched a seventh European title but for a miracle of Istanbul where Liverpool scored three times in six minutes in the final before winning on penalties.
Milan would get revenge two years later, beating Liverpool in the final in Athens, although at a domestic level their points drop and Juventus’ relegation opened the door for a period of Inter dominance in Serie A. A.
Inter were awarded the title in 2006 then won four in a row, culminating in a Treble under Jose Mourinho in 2009-10.
No Milan team has reached the final since, but that will change this year after a semi-final derby that also revived Rellandini’s image.