GdS: How Berlusconi and Sacchi’s Milan changed the fabric of football

By Oliver Fisher -

One of the biggest compliments that can be paid to the owner of a football club is that they put together a team that quite literally changed the fabric of football.

With five European Cups/Champions League trophies to his name among his 29 major honours, Berlusconi won a lot. Two presidents of Real Madrid have done better in Santiago Bernabeu – after whom their stadium is named – and Florentino Perez.

Berlusconi, in 31 years of ownership, has risen to their height, but winning is not the only thing that matters to him. What is even more important how his Milan won and how they shaped the history of football.

In the summer of 1987, the newly crowned Milan owner entrusted the head coach role to Arrigo Sacchi. The Scudetto had just been won by Diego Maradona’s Napoli, with the Argentine having been given a very free role to express his qualities.

Sacchi went the other way as he wanted to eliminate individualism and instead saw football as an ‘orchestra’. His message was simple: you win as a group and you do not play for personal steps forward.

It was a sort of nod to the Dutch sides between the 1960s and 1970s with key words returning like the offside trap, pressing, intensity and overlaps. It was a cultural counter-revolution which many did not understand, some journalists above all.

The critics asked Sacchi who will mark Maradona and the coach showed a perplexed face before responding: “The team.” It was the right answer.

Berlusconi backed Sacchi’s futurist visions, protected his coach from media jibes and instead brought him players to best carry out his idea of football, namely Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard – not surprisingly Dutch.

They were three different types of player. Van Basten was refractory to Sacchi’s discipline, Gullit was a force of nature that could not be caged and Rijkaard was the most functional to the overall ideas.

Milan had excellent Italian foundations to compliment the ‘Tre Tulipani’ too in Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and Roberto Donadoni. For three years, between 1989 and 1990, nobody understood anything,

Milan overwhelmed every opponent and generated a movement. All of a sudden, the emulations began as critics turned into supporters of Sacchi’s vision.

When he left Berlusconi did end up appointment calmer coaches like Fabio Capello who won a Champions League and Carlo Ancelotti who won two more, while Weah, Boban, Savicevic, Shevchenko, Pirlo, Seedorf, Kakà and Ronaldinho all arrived.

However, it si Sacchi’s Milan that would deliver him to the history books of football. Bernabeu’s Real and Guardiola’s Barça sit alongside Sacchi’s Milan. A chain of modern football that changed the fabric of the beautiful game.

Tags AC Milan Silvio Berlusconi

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