|Rossoneri - A History of Milan|
|Written by Jeremy Rueter|
|Wednesday, 21 November 2007 17:21|
Milan got its start as the Milan Cricket and Foot-Ball Club, founded on December 16, 1899 by Alfred Edwards, the British vice-consul and a prominent member of Milanese high society. He was joined by an English partner Herbert Kilpin, an early coach and captain of the squad and the provider of the club’s famous jersey of red and black vertical stripes. Only two years later they won their first national championship, to be followed by two more within the ensuing decade. A victorious tradition had begun.
In 1908 a section of the membership left the club over the issue of foreign membership and resolved to form a new club with the highly symbolic name of Internazionale. The matches between the two clubs have evolved into one of the world’s great derbies, the Derby della Madonnina, so named because of the small statue of the Madonna that overlooks the city from the top of the famous Duomo cathedral.
The club changed its name to Milan Football Club in 1919, cricket having long since disappeared from the club’s activities. Two more name changes would follow in the ensuing years. The Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini pushed through an Italianization of society, not the least being the names of famous institutions like Milan. From 1938 until the end of World War II, the club was known as Associazione Calcio Milano. The final and current name, with a leg on both sides of the linguistic fence, is Associazione Calcio Milan.
The name seems to have been something of a good luck charm as they won their first Italian championship in 44 years in 1951. The decade would bring three more titles on the back of the first great Milan side, that of Gre-No-Li, the name given to the trio of Swedish stars Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm.
The ensuing two decades resulted in only two league titles but their consequences were equally profound. Both titles (1962 and 1968) led to triumphant European Cup campaigns the following season - in 1963 a 2-1 victory over Benfica at Wembley Stadium and six years later at Madrid’s Estadio Bernabéu, a 4-1 victory over a still-maturing Ajax squad.
The tenth league title was finally won in 1979, giving the club the permanent honor of wearing a golden star on their jersey (an honor they currently share with only Juventus and Inter). But the honeymoon was short-lived as they were convicted of involvement in a match-fixing scandal and relegated for the first time to Serie B. Immediate promotion was followed by another relegation in the 1982 season and this time it was due solely to results on the field. Promotion though was quickly achieved and Milan have remained at the top of the Italian pyramid ever since.
Another important milestone in the club’s history came in February of 1986 when it was purchased by Italian media magnate (and future prime minister) Silvio Berlusconi. His infusion of cash into the club enabled players of the highest order to be brought on board. The Dutch trio of Ruud Gullit, Marco Van Basten and Frank Rijkaard were united with an Italian spine of Franco Baresi, the teenage Paolo Maldini and Carlo Ancelotti. This group won the Italian title of 1988, the European Cups of 1989 and 1990 and the Intercontinental Cups of the same year. They were led by coach Arrigo Sacchi, who introduced a zonal defense and the attack-minded “pressing” system to the Italian game.
A coaching change, a new nickname (The Invincibles) and a few new impressive ingredients (Boban, Savicevic, Papin to name a few) and the cycle of greatness would be renewed. Milan won three consecutive titles from 1992-94, The 1994 Champions League (famously waltzing past Johann Cruyff’s Barcelona 4-0), completed the 1992 season unbeaten and at one point strung together a 58-match unbeaten streak. Times have never been tougher for supporters of Inter and Juventus.
Inevitably a spell as glorious as this one would come to an end, though the club has continued to add sparkle to its trophy cabinet - three more Italian titles, a Coppa Italia in 2003 (the first in 26 years) and the 2003 Champions League, a campaign in which they defeated Inter in the semifinals and Juventus in the final at Old Trafford. The club again reached the Champions League final in 2005, disastrously giving up a 3-0 lead to Liverpool and eventually losing on penalties. Despite this heartbreak, it can only be a matter of time before the current squad, led by the magical Brazilian genius of Kaka, again lift the trophy symbolic of the champions of Europe.