Date: 21st December 2007 at 1:46pm
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A.C. Milan is a name revered in world football. Some of my earliest football memoris revolve around Channel 4’s football Italia and watching the Milan side of van Basten, Gullit, Rijkaard and Baresi (as well as the evergreen Maldini). They are, of course, currently the holders of the Champions’ League title and, despite languishing in Serie A mid table obscurity, bost footballing powerhouses Kaka (recently announced European Footballer of the Year), Seedorf, Gattuso, Cafu and goal machine Filipo Inzaghi. Their current status in in keeping with their glorious history.

A.C were formed in 1899 by two British expats, hence the reason they bare the Anglicised ‘Milan’ as opposed to ‘Milano.’ A.C. have 18 recognised interbational titles, making them the most decorated club on earth. They boast seven European Cups, four Intercontinental/ World Club titles (the most recent of which arrived on Sunday in a 1-0 victory over Boca Juniors), seventeen Scudettos, Five European Super Cups (including a 1995 victory over Arsenal), two Cup Winners’ Cup titles, five Coppa Italias and five Italian Super Cups. (Spurs fans will be at pains to point out that they have never won the Peace Cup). They share the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza with rivals Internazionale in the Lombardy district of Milano. A city famous for its littany of designer shops and its politically active student population. (In Milano, it is illegal for police to enter University grounds, making them a fertive breeding ground for anti-establishment activity). Milan is a club whose history is likewise littered with establishment struggles, despite being Presided over by ex Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. In 1980, they were implicated in the Tottonero scandal whereby players indulged in a betting syndicate with referees to fix the outcome of matches. Just last year, they were deducted 15 points and kicked out of the Champions’ League for their part in another referee bribing scandal. They were quickly reinstated and, perhaps predictably, went on to win the trophy. Their point deduction was lowered to eight on appeal.

A.C are instantly associated with the colours red and black, which they have worn throughout their history. It apparently represents the fiery spirit of the team (red) and their opponents fear (black). This has earned them the nickname ‘the Rossoneri.’ However, Milan’s away colours of all white hold special resonance, much like Arsenal’s famed yellow and navy attire, Milan have won a great many tournaments in their all white strips. Six of their nine European Final successes have occured in all white.

Milan also follow the lead of American football in the fad of retiring shirt numbers. Upon his retirement in 1997, Franco Baresi’s number 6 shirt was retired in recognition of his twenty years service and Paolo Maldini- who retires in the summer- will only see his number 3 shirt worn by one of his sons should they ever don the famous black and red jersey. Like most Italian clubs, A.C. Milan are a constantly evolving entity, having had a total of 63 managers in their one hundred and eight year history. These include Giovanni Trapatoni (two spells), Cesare Maldini, Arrigo Sacchi (two spells) and current England squeeze Fabio Capello (three spells). They have also had no less than thirty two honorary presidents. Milan’s record appearance holder is, unsurprisingly, Paolo Maldini, who has now surpassed 850 games for the club and is still going strong. Record goalscorer is Swede Gunnar Nordahl who managed to notch an astounding 221 goals in 268 games. Milan share a notable record with Arsenal, as in the 1991-92 season they managed to complete an entire league season without losing a single game. Though their total unbeaten run stretched a smidgen longer at 58 games (they didn’t have a Fat, diving Shrek to contend with see. UEFA’s coefficient rankings currently see them ranked no.1 club side in the world, despite their domestic obscurity.

Milan’s fans are typically associated with the working class districts of the city and are historically the favoured side of trade unionists, whilst rivlas Inter are considered more middle class and typically affluent Milanese. Despite the working class conotations of the club, and the left wing portrayal of their infamous ‘ultras’, A.C. are currently the fifth highest grossing club in World Football, and the richest in Italy. The current Milan side, though chocked full of world class stars, are ageing. With mainstays Dida, Cafu, Maldini, Seedorf, Emerson, Inzaghi and Ronaldo all in their thirties. Much of Milan’s mobility is owed to the lightning legs of Brazilian wonderkid Kaka, who has usurped Ronaldinho as the darling of Brazil. His pace running with the ball and comfort with both feet make him a modren day Maradona, the sort of player that any club in world football would willingly make room for (the thought of Fabregas and Kaka providing ammunition for van Persie is enough to make you salivate). But the snarling Gattuso is Milan’s battery, the resident hardman, while the technical subtlety of Andrea Pirlo lubricates the wheels of the engine room. Clarence Seedorf is also an important cog, having won the Champions’ League with three different clubs, his experience is crucial. While Pippo Inzaghi is the most curious of strikers, the kind of player that will tocuh the ball three times in a match and likely come away with the match ball. The question is, can Arsenal’s young legs and irresitible tempo overcome wily Milan’s experience and knowhow. This truly is a mouth watering match up. I for one, cannot wait.LD.