Following a challenge by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in training Friday, Oguchi Onyewu shot up and put his hands around the Swede's neck. The two exchanged punches and slaps as 10 teammates attempted to separate them, according to several news sources in Italy.
Eventually coach Massimiliano Allegri issued stern words to both and suspended the training session early.
"The fight was animated, but the incident is over. The two players cleared up their disagreement," Milan vice president Adriano Galliani was quoted as saying on the club's website. "I'm happy when I see players pumped up, I'm happier seeing fiery training sessions than boring ones."
Seeing the 6'4, 210 pound Onyewu and the 6'5, taekwondo black-belt Ibrahimovic exchange blows surely qualifies as “fiery.”
Oguchi Onyewu, America's lone representative in Italy, hasn't enjoyed the best of years.
Since his move to powerhouse AC Milan, Onyewu has made just one competitive appearance, a substitute stint against FC Zurich in the Champions League last year. Following a knee injury in World Cup qualifying for the United States, Onyewu had knee surgery and has yet to make the bench for Milan since returning.
The looming central defender did feature for the U.S. in the World Cup, playing two matches before Bob Bradley realized his durability and movement wasn't up to scratch and plopped Gooch back on the bench.
The defender has hinted at some mental cracks during the grueling year-long recovery process. After a 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic in a friendly before the World Cup, Onyewu met questions about his fitness with a bullish challenge, "Did you see any rustiness?"
And after captaining the U.S. in a 0-0 draw with Colombia in October, he refused to even acknowledge the press.
Still, Onyewu may be gruff and intimidating, but he's not easily prone to violence. In June of 2009 he complained to a referee three times and threatened to walk off after receiving racial abuse from Anderlecht's Jelle van Damme. Instead of resorting to violence, the then Standard Liege defender sued van Damme for calling him a “dirty monkey.”
Ibrahimovic isn't the saintliest teammate either. Earlier this season, video of him acrobatically kicking Milan youngster Rodney Strasser in the back washed up on the Internet. The Swedish striker seemed to think it some sort of practical joke, but the youngster clearly wasn't amused, nor was there much inherent humor.
It's possible Ibra just rubs Onyewu the wrong way. Also likely is Gazzetta dello Sport's conjecture that the challenge riled Onyewu given his rehabilitating knee, though Gazzetta did judge the tackle “not that bad.”
Despite extending his contract a year (at no extra wages) this summer to repay Milan for the year he sat out, the incident will surely add credence to the rumors that the American will be loaned out this winter.
Perhaps the most interesting club linked, Napoli made moves for Americans Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore this summer, apparently keen to tap into the growing U.S. market.
With Alessandro Nesta and Thiago Silva unmovable at the heart of Milan's defense, and Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Daniele Bonera, and Mario Yepes ahead of the American in the pecking order, perhaps a move would revive a stagnating career.
A U.S. physio suggested to Goal.com that Onyewu won't regain 100% fitness until November or December, so a January loan move could come at the opportune time to help the the 28-year-old earn the playing time he needs to reestablish himself as first choice for the U.S. national team.