MONTREAL – Ten years ago, Marco Di Vaio was in Manchester, England, getting ready for one of the biggest games he wouldn’t play.
It was on the Juventus bench, alongside current Bianconeri manager Antonio Conte, that Di Vaio started the 2003 UEFA Champions League final at Old Trafford. Whereas Conte replaced Mauro Camoranesi at halftime, Di Vaio’s involvement in the game was limited to picking up his runners-up medal after Andriy Shevchenko converted the final penalty kick of the shootout for AC Milan.
Though he said so with a smile, Di Vaio’s memories of the event are understandably tainted by the cruel loss. But a decade has relieved the pain, and he could share insight that, fortuitously, applies to this weekend's final between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.
“I remember it being a tough game because we were playing against another Italian team, against Milan,” Di Vaio told reporters on Thursday. “There’s more pressure because you know everyone on the other team, every single player. It’s more difficult.”
The Italian forward did play in three of the four quarterfinal and semifinal fixtures that year, however. Di Vaio’s assessment of the opposition indicates that the two German sides will adopt an enterprising approach – though there are, as evidenced by his own European Cup final, no guarantees.
“We got there in a good way, since we beat Barcelona and Real Madrid,” Di Vaio said. “We got there with confidence. But we didn’t play well in that game – both teams didn’t, actually – and we lost on penalty kicks.”
And Milan picked up their sixth European Cup. This year, Di Vaio's money is on Bayern making it five. However, he's not entirely ruling out Dortmund.
"Dortmund have great players, young players who might not overthink the game,” Di Vaio said. “Maybe those players will simply go out there on the pitch and do their best for their team.”