A little tweaking and KC and the Sunshine’s 1975 hit single gels in perfectly with the Berlusconi era at A. C. Milan. The Italian giants have enjoyed their best run ever since the Italian premier took over its reigns just a little over twenty five years ago at a time when the club was in total disarray. Having seen fixing scandals and relegation to Serie B with the start of the 80’s the brand AC Milan had taken a serious hit.

At a time when everyone was skeptical of them, an Italian entrepreneur decided to take the plunge in resurrecting the club and the as the say – the rest is history.

It all started with the appointment of Arrigo Sacchi at the head coach of the team, who with the help of the Berlusconi’s money at his disposal acquired the Dutch trio of Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard. It was in Milan that from exceptional players these three went on to become the legends of the game.

With this 2 part series article we pay tribute to some of the greatest Dutch players who have donned the red and black stripes under the Berlusconi era and have taken Milan to the pinnacle of Italian as well as European football.

Marco Van Basten (Rossoneri: 1987-93; Appearances- 147; Goals- 90)

Arguably one of the greatest forwards in the history of the game, his presence in the box always used to strike terror in the minds of any defensive unit. One can say that with ease that the Italain premier had an eye to spot talent from a very early age as he had signed the Dutchman in 1987 after watching a 30 second video clip of him playing for Ajax.

Marco became an integral part of the Rossoneri family from the very first year although due to his ankle injury (which would haunt him for the rest of his career) he featured in only eleven matches in his first season. He was blessed with an excellent vision along with superb tactical know how of the game which helped him not only score but to create goals for his teammates as well. Goalkeepers dreaded finding the ball at his feet because they knew that nine times out of ten he would be on target with that incredible knack of scoring goals from outrageous positions.

He started the 1988 European Championships as a substitute but by the end of it he was hailed by many as the greatest active footballers in the world after Netherlands went on to win their first and their only European championship in which MVB top scored with 5 goals.

He would go on to replicate his international form with Milan in 1988-89. With a brace in the finals against Steaua Bucureşti of Romania he helped Il Diavolo in lifting their 3rd UEFA champions league title (then known as the European Cup) after a long gap of twenty years. That year he finished in the elite European football championship as the leading goal scorer as was named the European and the UEFA player of the year.

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MVB: A legend indeed

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Having tasted European glory with Milan he never looked back and went on to defend the European title the following year against Benfica after a controversial domestic season in which many Rossoneri feel they truly deserved the Scudetto. That year the Rossoneri striker would go on to finish the season as the Serie A top scorer for the very first time, but certainly not the last time, and lift the prestigious European footballer of the year for a second time running.

The next season saw a major change in the management of the club after Van Basten fell out with Sacchi which resulted in the coach being replaced by a former Rossoneri Fabio Capello at the helm of the club.

Under Capello, Milan went on an unprecedented 58 game romp without a loss and saw the Dutchman and the club both rise back to the top of Italian football after winning their 12th Serie A title and the Dutchman winning his second Capocannoniere .

The 1992-93 season saw Milan bag their 13th league title with an exceptional display by Marco in the beginning of the season which saw him become only the third player in history to win be crowned European player of the year, joining Platini and Cruyff.  In 1992 he was also named the FIFA player of year – the biggest individual honor for any footballer.

The much dreaded ankle injury came to haunt him again and at the age of 29 he finally hung up his boots, bringing a tearful end to a glorious career. At the end of his club career, even the usually stoic and stern-faced Capello had tears in his eyes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVzSQuItOhM 

A teary Capello!

The reason why he is adored by the Red half of Milan till date and commands respect from even their bitter rivals is not only due to his skills but also for his immaculate conduct on the field, throughout his career.

His list of personal and team laurels with Milan include-:

FIFA World Player of the Year-1992

UEFA Best Player of the Year- 1989, 1990, 1992

European Player of the Year- 1988, 1989, 1992

Serie A top scorer- 1989-90, 1991-92

UEFA Champions League- 1989, 1990

Serie A-1987-88, 1991-92, 1992-93

Ruud Gullit (Rossoneri: 1987-93; 1994-95 Appearances- 179; Goals- 59)

Having played only for his home soil clubs till 1986 he made his first international move to Milan with a then record transfer fee of £6 million in the summer of 1987. He belonged to the school of “Total football” which made his style of play not just effective but attractive to watch as well.

Individual glory was almost inevitable for all the Dutchmen at A.C Milan, as he was named as the FIFA player of the year and Dutch Sportsman of the year for 1987. Essentially a midfielder, he nevertheless got to play up front a number of times due to the recurring ankle injury to Marco Van Basten.

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Ruud Gullit - A colorful character on and off the pitch.

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His free flowing brand of football made him a huge hit on the Italian football circuit which was and still is renowned for a more defensive style of play. He was the chief architect in destroying Real Madrid in the second leg of the 1989 European Cup semi final at San Siro. Although he was taken off after he had sustained an injury, he did manage to register his name on the famous 5-0 match score sheet, having scored Milan’s third goal at the stroke of half time. He came back in the final and scored a brace along side compatriot Van Basten and Milan ended up as the champions of Europe. After an injury hit 1989-90 which saw him on the sidelines for a major chunk of the season he returned for the European final against Benifa, and lifted his second European Cup.

After the controversy at Marseille, Milan was expelled from European competition for the 1991-92 season and the Scudetto became their ultimate goal. Gullit became a quintessential part of Milan in their charge towards the Scudetto in the early nineties, but his role in the European tournament took a backseat with Milan and he was left out of the 1993 Champions league final l. He later left the Milanese club for Sampdoria but not before he had left some fond memories behind for the Rossoneri faithful.

He was a colorful character both on and off the field and the mullet hairstyle which he wore with aplomb through most of his career remains a rage.

 

His list of personal and team laurels with Milan include-:

FIFA World Player of the Year-1987

European Player of the Year- 1987

UEFA Champions League- 1989, 1990

Serie A-1987-88, 1991-92, 1992-93

In part two of this series we will look at the careers of Frank Rijkaard and Clarence Seedorf.