Thursday, July 5, 2012
A brief history of AC Milan
European Cup/Champions League: 1962-63, 1968-69, 1988-89, 1989-90
1993-94, 2002-03, 2006-07
European Cup Winners' Cup:: 1967-68, 1972-73
UEFA Super Cup: 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007
Serie A: 18
Coppa Italia: 5
Super Coppa: 5
AC Milan are the worldly wise travellers of Italian football. They have won more international competitions than domestic championships, and no team in the world has more than their 18 global trophies.
Even Milan's roots are foreign. They were founded in 1899 by Alfred Edwards and Herbert Kilpin, two English expatriates, and the spelling of the club as Milan rather than Milano is a nod to the club's history.
Two years after their formation, Milan were champions of Italy. They won further titles in 1906 and 1907, but a dispute over the signing of foreign players in 1908 led to the founding of their great rivals, Internazionale.
Milan had to wait over 40 years for their next title, which came in 1951. Their side included the famous triumvirate of Swedes: Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm, whose surnames prompted the cute sobriquet 'Gre-No-Li'. Nordahl's 221 goals are still a club record.
After three more championships in the Fifties, Milan set their sights wider. In 1963 they became the first Italian side to win the Euroepan Cup, beating the holders Benfica 2-1 in the final thanks to two goals from the great Jose Altafini. They added a first Cup Winners Cup in 1968 and then, a year later, won both the European Cup and the Intercontinental Cup. The former came when they thrashed Ajax 4-1 in the final; Pierino Prati's hat-trick is still the most recent in a European Cup final.
For all their success, Milan were about to enter a seriously fallow period. Although they won the Cup Winners' Cup again in 1973, and a handful of Coppa Italias, they claimed only one scudetto between 1968 and 1988. That came in 1978-79, but was followed by two relegations in quick succession. Milan were demoted in 1980 for their part in the Totonero match-fixing scandal; although they were promoted straight away as champions, they then went down on merit in 1982, when they won just seven of their 30 games.
Another instant promotion followed, but Milan were going nowhere fast until they were bought by Silvio Berlusconi in February 1986. He appointed the visionary young coach Arrigo Sacchi and invested in a trio of Dutchmen: Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Marco van Basten.
Sacchi also inherited a remarkable defensive unit: Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta and Mauro Tassotti are four of only five men to play over 500 games for the club. Maldini eventually retired at the age of 40 after a staggering 902 appearances.
The combination of Italian defence and Dutch flair produced spectacular results. Milan won the scudetto in 1988, and then picked up back-to-back European and Intercontinental Cups in 1989 and 1990. Their first European Cup came with a memorable 4-0 rout of Steaua Bucharest, the second with a more prosaic 1-0 defeat of Benfica. No side has retained the trophy since.
Sacchi was succeeded in 1991 by Fabio Capello, who lost none of his first 58 league games. Milan stayed unbeaten throughout the 1991-92 Serie A season, the first of three consecutive championships. They also won another European Cup in 1994, smashing Barcelona 4-0 in the final. Capello added another Serie A in 1996, but with him went Milan's golden age - although they did manage another title in 1999.
Under Carlo Ancelotti they won the league and Champions League double in 2003 and picked up Europe's top prize again in 2007, when they also became the first European side to win the Club World Cup - yet again charting new territory. That was their 18th global title, a new world record. Although it was equalled by Boca Juniors a year later, Milan's place as one of the game's true giants was undeniable.
A period of domestic failure followed, as Inter claimed five successive titles, but the curse was broken by the unlikely source of Massimiliano Allegri, who brought the scudetto back home in his first season in 2011. He could not repeat the success the following year as Juventus marked their glorious return, but Milan were still back in contention and finished second.