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30Nov/090

You were miles offside – Emile Heskey

As it goes this ad, which played during the 2002 World Cup, isn't that bad.

Francesco Totti finds himself playing footie, alone, in his back garden – rounding imaginary opponents before slotting the ball into what appears to be a child's goal.

Now, depending on where in Europe you lived at the time Totti in his live commentary references Christian Vieri or Michael Ballack on his way to scoring. This becomes important later. What will also become apparent is who Il Capitano tackles in the UK version.

His imaginary game of footie over, Totti leaps into his Fiat Stilo – an appalling car light years away from Fiat's current small-car range – and zooms off down the road.

Stopping at some lights, Totti notices a message on the Stilo's multimedia screen. Why, it's Vieri (or Ballack) taunting Totti by revealing that he was offside all along in his fictitious soccer match.

All of which is quite smart and fairly well-executed, if you ignore the obvious absurdities inherent in it.

What tipped this over the edge was the UK version. Who had Fiat signed up for this amusing battle of Europe? David Beckham perhaps? Or Michael Owen? Moving down the food chain a little, but still a big name, perhaps it was Big David Seaman?

Nope. Not even close. Not even Paul Scholes. The man lined up by Fiat to represent Engand in this ad – against Totti, Vieri and Ballack – was Emile Heskey.

Now, the much-maligned Heskey has his strengths in my book. His unselfish style, physical attributes and hold-up play to name three.

But did Totti even know who Emile Heskey was? Is it that likely that the two would swap matey footballing banter via text message? Is that why Heskey felt the need to sign off with a cheery 'Emile Heskey' – an unlikely way to end a text to a mate I'd have thought.

There are more questions than answers, as anyone who watched A Question of Sport in the early 1990s will know.

Perhaps the biggest question of all is whether, even years later, Totti has ever heard of Emile Heskey.

Vieri version

Ballack version

• Sadly history does not record the Heskey version. I couldn't find it anywhere