Welcome to the biggest derby in the world – the Derby Milano. The seed of this bitter rivalry was sown more than a century ago, and over the years, it has produced some of the most exciting and enthralling feats from world-class performers from both Milan and Internazionale. Whereas the players on the pitch make this a memorable affair, the fans on the ground and all over the world makes this an unforgettable event. From displaying huge banners to orchestrating anthems, the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza becomes the focal point of the sporting world twice a year.
AC Milan started off as Milan Cricket and Football Club in the year 1899. The football section was managed by none other than David Allison, who was a charter member of the club and also was the first goal-scorer for the club. Milan, as a club, has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception and currently is recognized as the most successful Italian club having as many as 7 UEFA Champions League titles and 17 Scudettos.
FC Internazionale Milano was formed as a result of a rift between the founding members in 1908. Unhappy with the domination of Italian players in AC Milan, Giorgio Muggiani led a group of Italians and Swiss members to the creation of Internazionale. Internazionale are currently the reigning champions of Serie A, having won all three major championships last year, including the Champions League under the guidance of the prodigal Jose Mourinho.
The rivalry dates back to the formation of Internazionale. The Milan derby is also called the Derby della Madonnina. Such a nomenclature is derived from the statue of Virgin Mary placed on top of the Duomo, which is usually called the Madonnina. Both of the clubs nowadays sign Italian as well as foreign players, even though that was the reason behind the original split.
Milan began as the more successful club by breaking the record of consecutive series of wins set by Genoa, when they won the Kings’ Medal in 1901. They also won 3 Scudettos before Internazionale won their first in 1910. Inter came into their own during the 1960’s with their triumph at the European level. The 1960’s also saw the clash of two Italian superstars – Sandro Mazzola of Inter and Gianni Rivera of Milan. Both Inter and Milan took each other by the horns during that period, with Mazzola and Rivera leading the respective sides in some of the most exciting derby matches ever played. The coaches during that period were also legends in their own right, with Nereo Rocco managing Milan and his counterpart being none other than the high priest of Catenaccio, Helenio Herrera.
This rivalry between Mazzola and Rivera even continued when they were playing for the national team – both of them rarely played together and it usually happened that one of them was substituted by the other at half-time. A school of thought often blames the 1970 World Cup final defeat to Pele-led Brazil to this.
The rivalry took on a national flavor when Holland met Germany in the 1990 World Cup. The match became a pseudo-derby and ironically it took place at the San Siro, home of both Milan and Internazionale. The back-to-back Champions League winning squad of Milan had the famous Dutch trio of Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit, whereas Andreas Brehme, Jürgen Klinsmann and Lothar Matthäus flaunted the Inter colors. The match ended in a moral victory for Inter as Germany went on to win 2-1, with two Inter players – Klinsmann and Brehme – being on the score sheet.
Milan went on to dominate the 80’s and 90’s, winning as many as 6 Scudettos and 3 Champions League medals, whereas Inter took a backseat. Inter came back strongly after 2006, winning the Scudetto on 5 consecutive occasions, thereby setting a league record for the most number of consecutive Scudettos won, beating the likes of the legendary “il Grande Torino”, regarded as the best club team to have ever played in this league.
The stage is Milan’s contribution to the football fraternity worldwide, the space-age cathedral of football – Nuovo Stadio Calcistico San Siro or San Siro, as it is more popularly known. The first ever match played here was the Milan derby, when Inter triumphed 6-3. San Siro’s first ever brush with national teams came during the 1934 FIFA World Cup when Italy played Austria on a rain-soaked pitch. Their eventual victory led them to Rome; where the Azzurri went on to win their first ever Jules Rimet trophy.
San Siro was renamed as Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in the year 1980, after the death of legendary striker Meazza, who played for both Internazionale and Milan. In over a century of rivalry, it was Meazza himself who came closest to bridging the chasm between the rivals. Even though the better part of his career was spent at Inter, Meazza also became a Rossonero for two seasons. It was also reported that he cried when he scored for Milan during such a derby.
The “flare” incident
The most infamous derby took place during the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinal in the year 2005. Milan were leading 1-0, thanks to a Shevchenko goal. What followed after that can only be remembered as a dark chapter in the glorious history of the greatest derby in the world. Referee Markus Merk first disallowed a Cambiasso goal, and moments later, booked him for dissent. Inter ultras became infuriated and started throwing bottles and other debris on the ground. What started off as bottles, soon turned into flares which were fuelled by the fire inside the hardcore supporters. As Milan keeper Dida cleared the goal area in order to take a goal-kick, another flare from the upper deck struck him on the right shoulder and he suffered bruising and first-degree burns.
Merk halted the match and fire fighters were called on to the pitch to remove the burning flares. The match was finally abandoned when more flares rained down on the pitch after the restart.
A bit of statistics
A quick glance at the numbers reveals an almost even scenario. In Serie A, Internazionale has triumphed 64 times in comparison to Milan’s 59 times. On the European front though, Milan has won 2 whereas Inter failed to register a single win. In total, the head to head count stands at 107-95 in favor of Milan, taking into consideration all of their derbies against Internazionale.
The most emphatic score line in the derby was the 8-1 victory of Milan in 1918. The highest goal-scorer in the derby has been Shevchenko with 14 strikes in total. The most appearances by a single player also goes to Milan in the form of legendary defender Paolo Maldini.