Champions League article : The greatest teams of all time: AC Milan 1988-90

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Champions League article : The greatest teams of all time: AC Milan 1988-90 Empty Champions League article : The greatest teams of all time: AC Milan 1988-90

Post by Dante Sat Jul 04, 2015 8:33 am

The greatest teams of all time: AC Milan 1988-90

Published: Saturday 4 July 2015, 9.00CET

The Greatest: "We defended by attacking and pressing," says Carlo Ancelotti as he recalls the AC Milan side that crushed allcomers in the late 1980s under Arrigo Sacchi.

Champions League article : The greatest teams of all time: AC Milan 1988-90 2023569_w2
Milan ahead of their 1990 European Cup final triumph analyses the teams that changed football; this time, the AC Milan side that won back-to-back European Champion Clubs' Cups at the turn of the 1990s.

The golden age
Without a trophy since winning a tenth Scudetto in 1979, Milan were in the doldrums until Silvio Berlusconi took over as president in 1986. The relatively-unknown Arrigo Sacchi joined as coach in summer 1987, along with Dutchmen Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit. Sacchi's squad won the Italian title in their first season, then the European Cup – and indeed the corresponding UEFA Super Cups and European/South American Cups – in the following two campaigns.

Though Fabio Capello and later Carlo Ancelotti would maintain Milan's position as a major force in European football, Sacchi's side was the most memorable of the age. "Our president had a dream," Sacchi recalled. "He wanted to build the best team in the world. When I arrived, I found a group of great professionals who were eager to win, but only by playing the most spectacular football."

The baton handover
Beating Real Madrid CF in the semi-final of the 1988/89 European Cup was a watershed moment for Milan, who had signed a third Dutch star, Frank Rijkaard, the previous summer. Madrid were considered effectively unbeatable at home, with Milan expected to sit back and accept punishment in the first leg at the Santiago Bernabéu. Sacchi, however, had other plans.

His side took the initiative and were unlucky to be held to a 1-1 draw. No matter. They won the return leg 5-0 in Milan, with Ancelotti scoring a brilliant opener. "Ancelotti's goal was emblematic of our approach," midfielder Roberto Donadoni said. "We were incredibly determined and hungry."

"Fantastique Milan AC!" read the headline in French sports paper L'Equipe the following day, with their 4-0 final victory against FC Steaua București in Barcelona – with two goals each from Gullit and Van Basten – almost an afterthought.

The game-changing philosophy
Committed to concepts like "collective intelligence", Sacchi demanded "11 active players in every moment of the game, both in defence and attack". Remarkably, he used to stage full matches in training without a ball, telling players where the imaginary ball was so they could respond – and position themselves – accordingly.

"The only way you can build a side is by getting players who can play a team game," Sacchi said. "You can't achieve anything on your own, and if you do, it doesn't last long. I often quote what Michelangelo said: 'The spirit guides the hand.'"

The tactical genius
"I never realised that to be a jockey you had to be a horse first," snapped Sacchi after critics questioned the unremarkable defender's ability to lead a top club like Milan. He had worked his way up the ranks as a coach, joining Milan after a successful spell at Parma FC, and was determined to change the traditional Italian style. "Most Italian teams focus on defence," he explained. "Every team played with a libero and man-markers. In attack, everything hinged on the individual skills and creativity of the No10."

Sacchi's sides played in a 4-4-2 system with zonal marking, the distance between the defence and midfield lines never greater than 25 to 30 metres. That high defensive line – and an efficient offside trap – maintained pressure on opponents not used to being hurried.

The star players

Franco Baresi: 'Kaiser Franz' was coach Nils Liedholm's libero when Milan won the 1978/79 Scudetto, and captained Milan through hard times before embracing zonal marking to lead Sacchi's defensive line, marshalling the equally daunting Mauro Tassotti, Alessandro Costacurta and Paolo Maldini.

Ruud Gullit: The epitome of Sacchi's total football style, Gullit could threaten in any position. "He is a great player by any standards," George Best said of him in 1990. "He's not afraid to do things with the ball. And he looks as if he's enjoying every second of it. By my reckoning that's what makes him an even better player than Maradona."

Marco van Basten: "He remains the best striker of all time in my opinion," Sacchi once said of the Dutchman. "No other forward has worked as hard for the team as Marco did at Milan. Above all, however, I remember him for his elegance, his grace and his incredible ability."

What they said
Roberto Donadoni: "Sacchi started a revolution in Italian football, at mental and tactical level. We had our style of playing and we were trying to impose it on all opponents, from amateurs in a mid-week training game to Real Madrid at the Bernabéu."

Carlo Ancelotti: "Arrigo completely changed Italian football – the philosophy, the training methods, the intensity, the tactics. Italian teams used to focus on defending – we defended by attacking and pressing."

Xavi Hernández, FC Barcelona midfielder in 2012: "We are incredibly proud when they compare us with Sacchi's Milan. That was a side which made history in football."

A simple read , rather small to even hope to include half the grandeur of Sacchi's Milan , yet a very nice article .

I thought to share in case anyone doesn't follow on FB , or the site in particular . Even if there's one sentence you didn't already know about , i'd say it was worth a read . Obviously during the summer we usually talk about transfers and the hot topics are usually occupied with the team's needs and news in general lines , however i'd like to point out certain things from this article which i find particularly interesting and i feel like , both us the fans and Milan the club themselves , must always dearly remember what made us great in the past and the many lessons we should never forget from our history . Both the good and the bad .

With that being said , what made us great in the past , doesn't equate to a necessary repeat in the present in order for Milan to regain it's place among the elite competitors of today , however i certainly feel certain values which added heavily in our identity and success , have been largely forgotten by the club nowdays and what's more , us fans have grown rather disilusioned with the demise of the club in recent years , with some largely losing hope , with others growing accustomed to the unworthy standards of uncompetitive nature the Milan management has show cased in recent years .

First of all , i would like to talk about this .

Sacchi wrote:When I arrived, I found a group of great professionals who were eager to win, but only by playing the most spectacular football.

A total far cry from the bunch of Milan's fodder league today and i am not even talking quality here , i would obviously never dare .  

Let's see , where to start.. let's start from the group of professionals . Muntari injuring himself in a 5x5 with friends? Constant ridiculing himself on twitter? Ronaldhino and Robinho partying in Milan , with Ronaldinho even flying to Greece to party out in weekends? Pato banging the Presidente's daughter and how it inevitably came to bite us in the ass ? Poli who can't play more than 60m during his mid 20s? Pazzini who can't even control the ball properly ? Mexes with his thuglife , Menez with his punk-diva-narcisistic attitude (wow) ? It's quite sad that i can literaly go on about this , for long .

Not saying today's Milan ain't professionals , but Milan used to sport some of the absolute paradigms of professionalism even among the elite , always leading by example , with even new players growing and improving themselves according to these high standards . Always professional , on and off the field , always trying to improve , to be better than the opposition , always to give 100% and be proud of themselves , in win or defeat it didn't matter , what was important is that themselves had self respect and above all , respect for Milan . We mostly lacked that kind of professional in recent times and still do , to a stunning degree when it comes to Milan in particular . It was not supposed to be like that today , not after Sacchi's Milan and the legacy they left behind .

I am not going to bother with quality , but at least the nerve ? Where's the nerve to be better than the opposition , where's the finese in our games , where's the mentality of the winner, where's the determination from most of Milan's players today to achieve these standards Milan is meant to present at all times ?? Being a Milan player used to be something huge , nowdays it has regressed to playing for a has been club . Most of our players do not think like that today and what's even sadder , most of our players couldn't play spectacular football even if their lives depended on it .
Too busy with being ok spending their days in a below average Milan .

I miss the days where football players would get the fk out themselves if they couldn't carry the shirt . Frankly , we talked a lot of shit about Muntari and honestly , he wasn't Milan quality and he deserved most of it anyway . However , said player once he realised he wasn't part of our plans , not only he asked to stop playing , but once the season was over , he agreed to terminate his contract , pack up and go. I respect him for that . And for all the passion and commitment he had for Milan , obviously without forgetting his other side . Still , if only our players had shown half the character Muntari has , we would at least watch some decent games and if not ; we would at least know they gave their very best and that was all they could , but quite obviously , we had to deal not only with mediocrity , but with players who clearly lacked the character to survive the responsibility and importance of this shirt .

What i want to point out , is that many of our players in recent years lacked that big character leading them . With a few words , they could live with mediocrity , many of them still can . Milan cannot continue to tolerate this kind of player anymore and i strongly hope we can slowly but steadily return to our elite standards , in time and with hard work . Milan simply owes it to our history to honour the traits and ideals some of our very own legendary players used to badge , such as high ambition , fearless mentality , absolute professionalism and deep respect for the beautiful game . Muntari had the first three to an impressive degree , but he clearly hates football rofl


I will mention something last but will be quick about it , because the post is already long enough as it is.

Sacchi wrote:"The only way you can build a side is by getting players who can play a team game," Sacchi said. "You can't achieve anything on your own, and if you do, it doesn't last long.

Compare this to recent times . I hope someone prints that and makes it a banner in San Siro , then make it trend in twitter , then give it to the players to recite every fkn day for the rest of their career at Milan . And then make it a prayer for the morning before trainings and say it at night before they sleep , to never forget about this even during their sleep . I am fkn fed up with Milan's BS in recent times . I even lost interest for the actual sport for a while , that's how much i couldn't stand watching this bunch of players trying to act as a team .

Certainly , it's not just their fault . One could even say it's not their fault at all , who brought them here is what matters. And that's Galliani , someone who even today and in recent years as well , has one of the most profitable clubs in the world , not without a 999 problems , but still . And what the fk does he do with it? Get Muntari , Essien , Torres , Birsa , Traore , e.t.c ... then renew half of them , for more money , whilst saying a big fk you to recomendations for young talents , wherever they came from , even free courtesy from past players .

Anyway , i don't want to make this a rant about Galliani . What's important here is that we lack that team chemistry for a while now and the management has to recreate that critical , essential , that paragon of the sport , which is to have players who can and thrive at playing the team game , and not their game . Like Sacchi said there , you can try to build on your own , but it won't last . See Balotelli , see Menez , see even Seedorf who tried to be one against everyone . His heart and mind was in the right place , yet the bunch of players could never all of a sudden become a team , let alone the circus who allowed this to happen in the first place .

One past it and washed up Kaka managed to put the glasses on every single one of them during the pathetic 13-14 season . He knew he wasn't the same player , we knew it , everybody knew it. But did that stop him to outdo himself and do sacrifice himself for the team , both during the season and once it was over? No . I use him as a paradigm to criticise and point out our faults , not mean to say Kaka 13-14 was the shit.. But this , senatore Kaka , effortlessly reminded us what we should always be after and that only these kind of players who are here to be part of a real team are worth the red and black shirt.

It will be hard , but i can't wait to see Milan being a real team again and hopefully we will rediscover our identity once again. For the moment , eagerly anticipating the developments on the mercato and even more eagerly i am anticipating more fodder exodus from our beloved club . Maybe even their absence is enough to remind us what Milan is all about and maybe we start enjoying our team again , which frankly , is what always bothered me personally and what will always bother me before titles and what not.
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Champions League article : The greatest teams of all time: AC Milan 1988-90 Empty Re: Champions League article : The greatest teams of all time: AC Milan 1988-90

Post by Kaladin Sat Jul 04, 2015 12:38 pm

Its an interesting read; thanks for sharing Dante

One qualm i have is that former players/coaches/etc tend to romanticize the past a lot. I'm not discrediting anything they say, but we're in a more aware, globalized world. News spread fast and far, it can also be easily attained. What i'm trying to get at, a lot of people see the past through rose tinted glasses. I haven't seen Sacchi's Milan live, but i imagine if i was, there'd be a more objective tone to what i see. Anyways, they are one of history's best sides, so can't say much.

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