Football: Porrini has Parma top of his hit list

Phil Gordon reveals why the Rangers defender is on a mission
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The Independent Online
THE PRINCIPLE of revenge is not unique to Italy, but it carries more menace there than almost anywhere else. That is why Parma should be running scared of Sergio Porrini.

The Rangers defender goes back to his homeland this week, determined to kill off the Serie A club's hopes of surviving in the Champions' League, but also to settle a personal score when he walks out at the Ennio Tardini Stadium on Wednesday night.

It was on that same turf last December that Porrini fell for the oldest trick in the book, one which Italians have made into an art form: anticipating a tackle and going down as if shot by a sniper. The irony for the former Juventus defender was that he was the victim and the con man was an Argentinian.

Juan Sebastian Veron's act was so convincing that Porrini was shown a yellow card in last season's Uefa Cup tie, a punishment which had more serious consequences minutes later when a rash tackle earned another booking and saw him sent off while Rangers watched the lights go out on their European dream. Their 10 men surrendered a 1-0 lead and subsequently lost 3-1 on the night, 4-2 on aggregate, to the eventual winners of the competition. Nine months down the line, Rangers and Porrini believe payback time has come.

Not that the perpetrator will be in Parma, as the hosts seek to overturn a two-goal deficit from the first leg of their qualifying tie in Glasgow. The midfielder was sold to Lazio during the summer, but that has not diluted Porrini's desire for the scalp of one of Europe's elite teams. "It was the worst moment of last season," the Milan-born full-back said frankly. "That red card will never leave me. The decision still annoys me because I don't think the referee was qualified to control a game like that and I didn't deserve to go. The second yellow card was fair enough but the first one was never a booking - I never pushed Veron.

"That was why I was delighted when we drew them this season. I was not happy when Parma went on to win the Uefa Cup because they did not respect us. Everyone at Rangers is eager to beat them now and I want to get revenge for all the things that went wrong that day."

Porrini and his Rangers team-mates have already taken a step towards that aim with their enthralling defeat of the Italians 10 days ago at Ibrox, but the man who won a Champions' League medal with Juventus in 1996, and was a runner-up a year later, is too long in the tooth to take much for granted in European competition.

"Parma are a different team now," he said. "They sold Veron, Enrico Chiesa and Abel Balbo. They have bought some good replacements, but we think we are also a lot stronger than we were last season."

Porrini's belief was formed as he watched the beginning of the campaign from the stand thanks to his Uefa suspension, which forced Dick Advocaat to use his summer recruit Dariusz Adamczuk at right-back. The Polish international was a midfielder at Dundee, but such is every player's hunger just to get a game at Rangers right now that they would all perform the dishwasher's job, never mind the sweeper's. "We now have two players for every position," the Italian reflected. "Obviously, there will be times when you are out of the team but there are 55-60 games; it's a long season and you have to have a big squad."

Porrini, 30, is better placed than most to recognise the quantum leap Rangers have made since Advocaat took over 15 months ago: before his pounds 3m transfer to Ibrox in June 1997, he was part of the Juventus side who humiliated the Scots in the Champions' League group stages in 1996.

"Juventus won 4-1 in both Turin and Glasgow," he recalled, "but we won the European Cup that year, we were good. I don't think many people in Italy respected Rangers then but, like me, they did not really know the size and quality of the club. They respect Rangers now."

Parma may find out on Wednesday that the big cheeses are now from Glasgow.