AC Milan welcome Sampdoria to the San Siro on Saturday evening. And, while some would argue that the Italian Serie A is a shadow of its former glory, you’d be a fool to deny the prestige of this particular fixture.
But still, it’s nice to reminisce sometimes… So, let’s take a look back to a glorious era of Italian football!
The year is 1990. Sacchi’s European Champions AC Milan are just about to face fierce rivals Sampdoria in a European Super Cup Final. A rivalry has brewed between the two sides since the the appointment of Vujadin Boskov (the original ‘special one’) in the mid-80s.
While AC Milan boast some of the top names in world football, Sampdoria have the momentum in the league race. The first-leg of the final finishes in a tight 1-1 draw. November 29, 1990 thus marks one of the biggest grudge matches in Italian football history. Two sides at the peak of their powers. Italian football at its pinnacle…
AC Milan 2 (Gullit, Rijkaard) Sampdoria 0
But, what ever happened to the victorious AC Milan of that day? Where are they now?
Goalkeeper: Andrea Pazzagli
Then: Perhaps one of the more unsung heroes of the AC Milan side, Pazzagli provided a safe pair of hands as his side reigned victorious in the 1989-1990 Champions League. In 48 games for the Rossoneri, Pazzagli conceded just 31 goals.
Now: Pazzagli tragically died in 2011 following heart complications. He had long finished his professional career and had forged a successful position as Italy’s goalkeeping coach. Before his death, Pazzagli began to pursue a career in the music business. He released two albums that focused on his experiences as a professional footballer.
Right-Back: Mauro Tassotti
Then: The vice-captain of, what many would consider to be, one of the greatest defences in European football history. During the 1987-88 league campaign, Tassotti helped Milan to only concede 14 goals in Serie A. Known primarily for his adaptability and stamina, Tassotti would thrive under Sacchi’s tutorship. Although he began his career as a cautious, tough-tackling full-back, Sacchi’s revolutionary high-pressing game allowed Tassotti to embrace his attacking side. His ability to maraud forward led to teammates giving him the rather flattering nickname “Djalma Santos” (RB of the infamous World Cup winning Brazil side, 1962).
Now: After retiring in 1997, Tassotti stayed within the Milan family by becoming a coach under former team-mate, Carlo Ancelotti. In 2001, he became Ancelotti’s assistant and, in January 2014, he became the Milan caretaker coach for a short period following the sacking of Massimiliano Allegri.
Centre-Back: Alessandro Costacurta
Then: The young Italian footballer had only recently broken into the side on a regular basis when Milan faced Sampdoria in the Super Cup. Known for a versatility and tactical awareness, Costacurta formed a formidable partnership with Baresi at the heart of the Milan defence. He, like the other members of the Milan backline, wasn’t afraid to carry the ball when in possession.
Now: After retiring from professional football in 2007, Costacurta took the hot seat at Serie B side Mantova. However, he was unable to get the side promoted and resigned in February 2009. He has since dabbled in media work. He will be long remembered for his illustrious trophy haul – seven Serie A’s, five European cups and four European Super Cups – and for being the oldest scorer in Serie A history at the age of 41.
Centre-Back: Franco Baresi (Captain)
Then: Milan’s captain had just been named in the FIFA 1990 World Cup All-Star team as the Super Cup approached. Known as the “Little One” by the Milan faithful, Baresi was considered the best defender in the world in 1990. He had been named Serie A Footballer of the Year for the previous season and had finished runner up in the Ballon d’Or.
Now: Baresi retired from professional football in 1997 after 532 games for his club, and 82 appearances for his country, Italy. He is considered one of the greatest defenders of all time, and was ranked 19th in World Soccer’s list of the 100 best players of the 20th century. Since retiring, Baresi has had spells as director of football at Fulham FC, and has coached several Milan youth sides.
Left-Back: Paolo Maldini
Then: Widely regarded as the future of Milan, Maldini had just been awarded the Bravo award, as the best under-23 player in world football. Like Costacurta, Maldini’s versatility meant he could play anywhere across the backline. Although he was naturally right-footed, Sacchi preferred to play Maldini on the left-hand side. Despite only being 21, Maldini already had an impressive 17 caps for his national side, Italy.
Now: After a record 902 appearances for Milan, Maldini retired from the game in 2009. In 2012, he was inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame. It is thought Maldini would like to get into coaching at some point in the future, even though he turned down a role at Chelsea with former team-mate, Carlo Ancelotti. His son, Christian, is said to be a promising prospect in the Milan youth set up.
Right Midfield: Carlo Ancelotti
Then: After a successful career with Roma – a period in which he captained the side to a Scudetto victory – Ancelotti moved to Milan in 1987. A player known for his combative style more than anything else, he provided the experience and guile on the Milan right-hand side.
Now: Regarded as one of the best managers in world football, Ancelotti is one of the only players to have won the Champions League as both a player and a manager. He was most recently boss of Real Madrid. He’s also had spells managing the likes of Milan, Chelsea and PSG to varied success. Recent press reports suggest that Real Madrid are interested in bringing Ancelotti back as manager – following a dismal spell under Rafa Benitez.
Central Midfield: Angelo Carbone
Then: Probably one of the lesser well known players in the Milan side, Carbone had recently signed from fellow Serie A side, Bari, in the summer of 1990. Bought by Sacchi for his good reading of the game and “large lungs”, he looked to have a long career ahead of him at Milan.
Now: Despite winning the Super Cup, AC Milan manager Sacchi was sacked at the end of the season and with that, Carbone’s career stalled somewhat. He had a much travelled profession – 14 moves in total – and finally retired from the game in 2005. In recent times, he has been working for Milan in various capacities.
Central Midfield: Frank Rijkaard
Then: After starring for years as a centre-half at Ajax in the 1980s, Rijkaard’s move to Milan in 1987 would see him transformed into a destructive midfield force. He scored the only goal in Milan’s victory over Benfica in the European Cup final, and was regarded by many as a the best defensive midfielder in the world. However, his reputation was in tatters after spitting at West Germany’s Rudi Voller during a heated affair in the 1990 World Cup.
Now: After a spell back at Ajax, Rijkaard retired in 1995 and took on several managing opportunities. Perhaps best known for his Champions League winning role at Barcelona, he is remembered by Brazilian great, Ronaldinho, as his favourite coach. Since leaving Barcelona, Rijkaard has struggled to maintain his reputation as one of the world’s best managers. He most recently took charge of the Saudi Arabia national side between 2011-2013, but with little success.
Left Midfield: Roberto Donadoni
Then: Donadoni had been a mainstay in the Milan side since his transfer from rivals, Sampdoria, in 1986. He famously became one of the first players to almost die on the pitch after a heavy fall in the 1989 tie against Red Star. It’s said that the opposition’s physiotherapist had to break Donadoni’s jaw to make a passage for the oxygen!
Now: After retiring in 2000, Donadoni quickly stepped into the managerial sphere. Between 2006-2008, the former AC Milan player managed his national side, Italy. However, he was largely unsuccessful in the role and saw his contract terminated after Euro 2008. Between 2012 and 2015, Donadoni managed struggling Serie A side, Parma. He left the club after claims that he, and the players, had not been paid since July 2014. In October 2015, he took over at newly-promoted Bologna.
Attacking Midfield: Ruud Gullit
Then: Before Roberto Baggio’s move in the summer of 1990, Ruud Gullit was the most expensive footballer in history. His £6 million move from PSV in 1987 sent shockwaves around the world. But who could blame Milan for plunging in their coiffeurs so deeply? Gullit had just won World Player of the Year in 1987, and would do so again in 1989. Known for his “total footballing” ability and goalscoring prowess, Gullit would play just in behind the front man to devastating effect. He was a new breed of footballer…domineering but, at the same time, somewhat graceful.
Now: Like many before him, Gullit moved straight into management after hanging up his boots in 1998. An infamous bust-up with Alan Shearer is probably what most English fans will remember him for. He has most recently signed a contract with the BBC to be part of their Match of the Day team for the foreseeable future.
Striker: Marco van Basten
(N.B. Daniele Massaro actually started the game due to an injury to star man, Van Basten. However, it felt wrong to leave such a player out!)
Then: Another contender for the best player on the planet, Van Basten had won the Ballon d’Or in both 1988 and 1989. What’s more, for his previous side Ajax, he had scored a remarkable 128 goals in just 132 games. In the 1989-90 season, he became the top scorer in the Italian Serie A as he notched in an impressive 19 goals.
Now: Unfortunately for Van Basten, a quite wonderful career was cut sort by injury in 1995. Former manager, Fabio Capello, said of the man: “Marco was the greatest striker I ever coached. His early retirement was a mortal misfortune for him, for football, and for Milan.” However, since then, he has dabbled in management, taking charge of Holland, Ajax and Heerenveen and AZ Alkmaar. He recently re-joined the Holland set up as assistant to Danny Blind.