James Lawton: Gattuso's butt could never dim Jordan's love affair with Milan

Jordan adores Italy, its food, its wine, its culture and his closest friends include the great Franco Baresi
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Gennaro Gattuso, he of the overbearing personality, must reflect for quite some time on a great mercy. It is that his version of the "Glasgow kiss" provoked mere contempt in Joe Jordan at San Siro this week.

Had Gattuso's behaviour after Tottenham's brilliant Champions League win over Milan been seen as more than empty bluster, a Uefa disciplinary inquiry into the affair scheduled for Monday would surely be among the least of his problems.

This is a lot to imply about the physical resolve of a 59-year-old, even a superbly conditioned one, but only if you don't know Joe Jordan – or where he comes from.

We're not talking about his origins in the Lanarkshire mining village where as a schoolboy he wondered at the sight of Jimmy Delaney, a great star of Celtic and Manchester United, sharing the same bus-stop, Jordan on his way to school, Delaney to a factory shift with his sandwiches and tea flask in a knapsack and his days of glory in the past.

No, if Jordan was born in a locality that spawned football lore, and the late Sir Matt Busby, he quickly elected himself as a life-long inhabitant of football.

The resolve took Tottenham's first-team coach to Leeds United and Manchester United and three challenging but unforgettable years in the Italian game, two with Milan (right) and one with Verona.

It took him to three World Cups and the Scottish record achievement of scoring in each of them.

Not so long ago he looked back on his success as a front-line player and also a long and sometimes turbulent career as a manager and coach. He admitted to a certain dilemma.

He didn't quite know the most appropriate place to bury his football heart.

He found it a taxing choice: Elland Road, at the height of Leeds United's power, Old Trafford, San Siro or Hampden Park, where he always returned to re-present himself to his own people in the course of winning 52 caps. About one thing there is no doubt and it is something that casts immediate doubt about the claims of Gattuso's agent that Jordan said his client was a "fucking Italian bastard". Jordan adores Italy, its food, its wine, its culture and his closest friends include the great Franco Baresi, an astonishingly precocious young contender at Milan back in 1981-83, and Tony Damascelli, a leading Italian football writer who admired the Scotsman's spirit when he battled through injury and won the affection of a San Siro crowd who christened him Lo Squalo – The Shark.

They admired not just the famous toothless warrior glare but also a fighting character. Milan were in deep transition when he arrived and Jordan suffered a nagging injury. But he survived the clear-out that came with relegation – and scored 11 goals in the Serie B title win that took Milan back to the top flight.

Yesterday Damascelli was, among others, disappointed when Jordon declined to give his side of the Gattuso incident.

But Jordan was eloquent enough in his embrace of omerta. He said, "I'm sorry, but I just don't want to make a single contribution to this whole business not disappearing as quickly as possible from everyone's memory. For me, it is already closed."

After his second season in Milan he was told that the club was re-casting for the future, which meant at 31 he could return to the English game or accept an offer from several interested Italian clubs. He chose Verona, Shakespeare's City of Gentlemen and recalls, "It was one of the greatest years of my life and in the end I was sad to leave Italy. The experience enriched me – and my family."

A failed Glaswegian kiss, from wherever it came, was never likely to dilute critically some of the best wine of a football man's life.