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Spotlight On AC Milan, Seven Times Champions Of Europe

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This weeks Euroscore spotlight takes us to Italy for a look at AC Milan. Formed in December 1899, some nine years before rivals Internazionale, it makes them the oldest club in the city. So, at the risk of incurring the wrath of all you Nerazzuri out there, we start with AC Milan. Inter will follow shortly!

Founded by British expatriates Herbert Kiplin and Alfred Edwards, as Milan Cricket and Football Club, they have gone on to become one of the world’s most successful clubs. This is particularly the case in international competitions. Due to the influence of its British founders the new club retained the English spelling of the city they made their home. This was in preference to the correct Italian, Milano.

The club chose red and black as the official colours. By the time Inter were formed in 1908 Milan had already won three national league titles. FC Internazionale Milano came about following a disagreement at board level within the older Milan club. The dispute centred around the signing of foreign players. Once formed Inter chose blue and black stripes and became instant rivals.

Milan’s progress between the wars was relatively slow. In 1919 they changed their name to a more streamlined Milan Football Club. In 1938 Italy’s Fascist government imposed the Italianised title Associazione Calcio to the club’s title, therefore becoming AC Milan.

Success followed the war when they won the Scudetto, Italian League Championship, in 1951. It was their first such trophy for 44 years. The team prepared the way for this by beating Juventus away in Turin 7-1 the previous year. AC Milan were fast becoming a team to fear.

Further titles followed in 1955, 1957, and 1959. Two domestic cups were also added in 1951, and 1956. In 1961 they signed goal scoring sensation Jimmy Greaves from London club Chelsea. Despite scoring nine goals in 14 games, he failed to settle and was allowed to leave for Tottenham Hotspur.

In 1962 they won the championship again and this trophy more than any other signalled their development into respected opponents on the international stage. Included in the team were the majestic midfielder Gianni Rivera, who will be the subject of a Euroscore Past Legends feature very shortly.

Also in the side was forward Jose Altafini. It was with the help of his goals, often in crucial matches, that saw Milan win their first European Cup beating Benfica 2-1. It was the first time that the coveted trophy had been brought back to Italy. Meanwhile the rivalry with Inter grew especially as they were enjoying a period of success under legendary manager Helenio Herrera.

Milan had to wait until 1968 to land their next Scudetto. By now Gianni Rivera was a huge influence having bloomed into an outstandingly influential and cultured midfield player. That year they also won the European Cup Winners Cup by beating SV Hamburg. Further honours were added the next season when Milan won their second European Cup, beating Ajax Amsterdam 4-1.

The Intercontinental Cup was added when the Rossoneri beat Estudiantes of Argentina 4-2 ober two legs. In 1970s three more Italian Cups were won. These wins led to qualification for the European Cup Winners Cup which was won twice more. In 1979 Milan won their 10th Scudetto. As a result they were qualified to wear the coveted star above the badge on their club shirts. This was Rivera’s last season.

An allegation of illegal betting resulted in both Milan and SS Lazio being relegated to Serie B. A quick return was secured the following year as Milan showed their class in the lower division. However they were relegated again the following season when they suffered a downturn in form that saw them finish in the relegation positions.

In February 1986 Milan was bought by Silvio Berlusconi. He appointed Arrigo Sacchi as coach. Sacchi added three superb Dutch players who would go on to become hugely successful in re-establishing the club amongst not only the Italian elite but on the European stage as well. The trio of Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, and Frank Rijkaard were blended with Italian stars such as International Roberto Donadoni.

Sacchi added a further Scudetto in 1988, and Milan’s third European Cup the following year by emphatically beating Steaua Bucharest 4-0 in the final. The Intercontinental Cup was also brought back to Milan. The same feat was achieved the following year when Milan beat Benfica 1-0 to retain the European Cup. They again won the Intercontinental Cup.

By now AC Milan, with their star studded line-up, were one of the most effective teams in the world. Present day England manager Fabio Capello took over from the outgoing Sacchi who left to take charge of the Italian national team. They won the Scudetto for three consecutive years between 1992, and 1994.

In the 1991/92 they went the entire league season without losing a match, a remarkable achievement in one of the world’s toughest leagues. All in all Capello guided Milan to an incredible run of 58 matches without defeat. The defence of Franco Beresi, Paolo Maldini, and Alessandro Costacurta proved almost impossible to break down.

During this period they also reached three consecutive Champions League finals. In 1993 they lost to Marseille of France but won the trophy the following year beating Spanish giants Barcelona, 4-0. The next year they lost to Ajax of Amsterdam. In 1996 AC Milan added their fifteenth Scudetto.

In 1996 Capello left for Real Madrid signalling an end to this impressive run of achievements. In Arrigo Sacchi’s first season back they finished in a lowly 11th position. Capello returned the following season and set about reshaping the squad. The decline continued and during the season AC Milan were humiliated at home by Juventus losing the match 1-6. Despite his previous successes at the club, Capello was fired.

The appointment of new manager Alberto Zaccheroni resulted in a 16th Scudetto. The following season they couldn’t quite keep touch with the leaders, Juventus and Lazio, and finished third. Failure to qualify from the Champions League group stage the following season cost Zaccheroni his job. His replacement was Cesare Maldini, the father of long serving defender Paolo. He made his mark early into his Milan career by beating Internazionale 6-0.

Finishing 4th was deemed not good enough and Maldini senior was fired. His replacement Fatih Terim lasted little over five months in the increasingly hot seat. Next through the door was Carlo Ancelotti who gained the all important Champions League place at his first attempt.

The tournament saw Milan reaching the final by beating neighbours Internazionale in the semi-final. In the all Italian final they defeated Juventus on penalties. It was their 6th European Cup. They wrapped up the season by winning the Coppa Italia and the European Super Cup. That year Milan strengthened their squad even further by signing the brilliant young Brazilian Kaka.

The following season saw Milan set a points record winning another Scudetto. They stormed their way to the Champions League final in Istanbul and at half-time led Liverpool 3-0. Amazingly they allowed Liverpool to draw level and finally lost to them on penalties.

In 2006-2007 eventual champions Juventus proved too strong for Milan, who, despite winning 28 matches, finished in second place. However the Calciopoli 'match fixing' scandal resulted in Juventus being relegated and Milan starting the next season on minus eight points. At one point they too were facing relegation to Serie B. Despite starting with the points deduction they still managed a healthy 4th position and again reached the Champions League.

Reaching the final it was Liverpool that, once again, stood between Milan and their 7th European Cup. This time there was no mistake and Milan won 2-1 with both goals scored by Filippo Inzaghi. Next season however saw them eliminated in the first knock out round of the Champions League by Arsenal.

During the summer Milan invested heavily to bolster their ageing squad. In came Brazilian star Ronaldinho, and Gianluca Zambrotta both arriving from Barcelona. Mathieu Flamini joined from Arsenal, and Milan also re-signed Andriy Shevchenko from Chelsea. Ronaldinho’s first goal for Milan came in the 1-0 victory over Inter.

AC Milan share the superb Stadio Giuseppe Meazza with Internazionale. Known the world over as the San Siro it is one of the most renowned stadiums in the world. Meazza was a player who starred for both clubs back in the 1930s. Construction of the stadium began in 1925 in the San Siro district of Milan. The first match was between Milan and Inter with the latter recording a 6-3 victory.

However Inter Milan did not begin to share the stadium until 1947 but have done so ever since. In 1952, for a match between Italy and Brazil, there was a huge crowd of 125,000. Such was the stadiums size. When the World Cup was held in Italy in 1990 a major modernization project was undertaken. An extra tier was added to three of its sides, eleven huge concrete towers containing ramps were erected, and a roof added. The capacity is now fixed at just over 80,000. It can generate one of football's most intimidating atmospheres.

AC Milan’s record in Europe, their list of famous players both past and present, their faithful and devoted fan base spread across the world, and their success in domestic competitions have helped make them one of the most respected teams in Europe.

All the latest information from AC Milan can be found in various languages on their official club website.  

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About Jeff Perkins

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    If you’re going to do a feature on Rivera I hope you eventually get around to doing one on Paolo Maldini as well. One of the best defenders ever to play the game.

  • Jeff

    Dear Dr. , of course – most definately ! Maldini is an incredible example to any young player and one of the most consistent defenders in the history of the game. There is no specific order in this and nothing should be read into who comes first.
    Jeff

  • http://intersportswire.com alessandro

    Maldini is indeed all class but I would submit that Franco Baresi was the greatest (and last I believe) great sweeper (libero,)

    Rivera the regista. I know Italians were divided with him. He wasn’t the most physical player but was creative and influential as Jeff aptly points out.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I know, Jeff. I realize you’re just getting started with this column, and it’s great that we’ve finally got someone writing regularly for BC about proper football (!), and I look forward to reading whatever it is you’ve got lined up next.

    Alessandro – yes, Baresi, another great defender. If there’s one thing the Italians have always done well (often too well!) it’s defence.

    And yet… Italy also produced one of the greatest strikers in the history of the game – Paolo Rossi.

  • http://www.myspace.com/x15 Douglas Mays

    Dr, speaking of great defenders, do you remember some cat that played for the French team (when they had the World Cup) named Thuram (I think).

    I just remember him as the toughest one on one take away artist I have ever seen. there was no way anyone was going to get around him…

    defense, what you must climb over to get into de game…..

    DM

  • http://intersportswire.com alessandro

    Douglas,

    Thuram was a monster and a bedrock for Juventus. Wonderful player. Of course, Beckenbauer is often credited with inventing the “sweeper” and is one of the greatest footballer players ever: period.

    Doc, yes. It’s often overlooked, but Italy has indeed produced great strikers: Piola, Sandro and Giuseppe Meazza, Vieri, Mancini, Baggio, Totti, Toni, del Piero, Inzaghi, Boniperti, Boninsegna, Riva and on. They can play offensively when needed.

    Personally, teams that play either offense or defense to perfection is poetry. Whether it’s the 49ers or Packers/Steelers; Devils or Red Wings; Pistons or Lakers/Celtics, baseball teams that rely on pitching and the so-called fundamentals or just pure hitting – I love that split.

  • http://intersportswire.com alessandro

    By the way, we shouldn’t forget the Swedish contribution of the Gre-No-Li line made up of Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm in the 1950s. The trio preceded the great Dutch influence of Rijkaard, van Basten and Gullit. Nordahl in particular is the second highest scorer in Serie A history.