LEGENDARY Italian defender Franco Baresi can’t wait to take to the field at St James’s Park - one of the few iconic stadiums he never played at during his playing career.
Baresi will be part of the AC Milan Glorie team that takes on a Newcastle United XI in Steve Harper’s 20 Year Charity Match on September 11.
The game will see him come up against Alan Shearer, who is set to lead the line for Harper’s side.
Baresi was at St James’s Park for last weekend’s 1-0 win over Fulham, and the 53-year-old former Italy international is relishing the occasion.
“I have been looking forward to playing here because I haven’t played here before,” Baresi told SportMail.
“You can feel the passion of the fans. We hope we can get St James’s fully booked when we play, because we want to experience the great atmosphere.
“In Italy, we love English football - the stadiums and the atmosphere. It will be an honour to play here for the first time.”
Baresi sensed the history of Newcastle during his visit to Tyneside.
“I know that it is a historic club, just like AC Milan,” he said.
“It is actually older than AC Milan. I can remember a lot of important players that have played for the club.
“It is famous for having people and fans that are really close to the club, although this enthusiasm and passion probably hasn’t been paid back in terms of the club’s achievements.”
Baresi is also looking forward to his forthcoming on-pitch encounter with United’s all-time record scorer Shearer.
“I have never played against him before, and that was one of the things that really appealed about this game,” added Baresi.
“I used to follow Shearer, and obviously know all about his career. He was a very good striker and player, and it will be an honour to play against him. He is a little bit younger though, so it will be a test.
“It is a great opportunity to meet up with some other former players and have some fun.
“We are really happy about the project of Milan Glorie because it’s a chance to meet up and have a chat together. It’s always fun because you always go back into the past with your memories.
“First of all, it’s fun. But we also do it with a good project, with charity, and everybody is really happy about that.
“The likes of (Paolo) Maldini and (Alessandro ) Costacurta are playing and that’s brilliant.
“We are happy to be together, but are also honoured to play against other champions. Newcastle are also putting on the field some very good players, like (Faustino) Asprilla and (David) Ginola.”
Goalkeeper Harper, now at Hull City, left Newcastle in the summer after two decades of service.
And the game is raising money for the Great North Children’s Hospital, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Newcastle United Foundation.
n Tickets for the Steve Harper 20 Years Charity Match are on sale from www.nufc.co.uk at £10 for adults and £5 for children and concessions.