Images of captain's moment of madness will haunt him for rest of career – and beyond

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There are some images that are never lived down. For years Roy Keane tried to escape the photograph that showed him, shaven headed, veins bulging, mouth contorted as he screamed abuse at the referee, Andy D'Urso, who had awarded a penalty against Manchester United at Old Trafford, one that Middlesbrough, after everything had calmed down, managed to miss.

For Gennaro Gattuso, who has been as pivotal to the great Milan sides as Keane was to United, both in terms of the position in which he plays and his rage for perfection, it will the one of him squaring up to Joe Jordan, the equivalent of taking a stick to a hornets' nest, in the wake of Tottenham's 1-0 victory at San Siro.

It took until Keane published his autobiography for him to apologise to D'Urso but although Gattuso's regrets were issued instantly, the damage is likely to be greater.

For those that recall him slapping Zlatan Ibrahimovic during a Champions League fixture with Ajax eight years ago, it was a neat kind of irony that Gattuso should have been roused to fury by the disallowing of the Swede's spectacular overhead kick that would have given Milan the fig leaf of an equaliser.

Why he should have chosen to take it out on the Tottenham bench at San Siro is a question only he can answer but, like Keane, he is a man who takes defeat badly and who has a self-appointed role as a righter of perceived wrongs, pursuing Christian Poulsen, who was then holding Schalke's midfield together, after the final whistle in the belief he had been overly rough on Kaka during Milan's 3-2 win.

To San Siro he is Il Ringhio, "The Growler", who drove Italy to victory in the World Cup final in Berlin and Milan to revenge in the 2007 European Cup final against a Liverpool side who two years before had snatched away their three-goal lead in Istanbul.

Gattuso had been emotionally wrecked by that encounter to the extent that he claimed to have thought about giving the game up. However, given the way he had fought his way to the summit – travelling to Glasgow as a 19-year-old to play for Rangers because he thought Perugia were not giving him sufficient opportunity – that may just be the kind of boast that earned him Steven Gerrard's enmity.

The Liverpool captain singled out Gattuso as one of the Milan players who were openly celebrating at half-time in the Ataturk Stadium; "smirking" was the adjective he used. And although Gattuso had enjoyed the better of Keane when Milan eliminated Manchester United on the way to Istanbul, Gerrard used his autobiography to dismiss Il Ringhio as all growl and no bite.

"People rate him for some reason," Gerrard said. "For me, he is all mouth, as scary as a kitten. I certainly wouldn't mind playing him every week. He doesn't hurt you; I have never seen him play a killer ball or nick a goal. Gattuso just plays for the fans – theatrical and emotional."

And that was Gattuso on Tuesday night in the Milanese rain, reinforcing every sentence in Gerrard's book – ineffectual on the pitch, theatrical and emotional when it had ceased to matter.

Jaws versus the growler

Joe Jordan

Gennaro Gattuso

6ft 1in Height 5ft 9in

59 Age 33

13st (cruiserweight) Weight (light-heavyweight) 12st

456 (106 goals) Club caps (18 goals) 505

52 (11 goals, Scotland) International caps (1 goal, Italy) 7

Morton, Leeds United, Clubs Perugia, Rangers,

Man United, Milan, Hellas Veronas, Salernitana, Milan

Southampton, Bristol City

Jaws – no front teeth Nickname Il Ringhio – the growler/snarler

Dislocated jaw of Spurs keeper Notable incidents Slapped current team-mate Milija Aleksic in 1980 Ibrahimovic back in 2003

The only Scotsman to have scored Fact Has made more appearances for

in three separate World Cups Scottish clubs than Jordan