On this day 30 years ago, an entrepreneur named Silvio Berlusconi became the owner of Associazione Calcio Milan. Little did people know, it would be the beginning of the most successful era in the club’s history.
Born in Milan in 1936, Berlusconi was brought up as a supporter of the Rossoneri, with a father who was an employee at a bank and a stay-at-home mother to look after he and his two younger siblings.
Silvio was always destined for big things, having attended secondary school at a Salesian college before moving on to do law at a university in Milan, which he graduated with honours. He even managed to avoid doing the usual one-year national service in the Italian armed forced.
Having always had an interest in music since becoming a bass player at university, Berlusconi occasionally performed on cruise ships with the now Mediaset Chairman Fedele Confalonieri. He would go on to write AC Milan’s anthem with pop singer Tony Renis.
Prior to becoming owner of Milan, the former Prime Minister founded the media group Finnivest, which in five years earned him the tidy sum of 113 billion Italian lire (€58.3 million).
On February 16th 1986, Milan played their last game before Silvio Berlusconi took over the club. It was a 1-1 draw away at Como, and two years later Milan would return to the same stadium to win their 11th Scudetto and the first under Berlusconi.
That was the first of 28 trophies, a haul that catapulted Milan to be (arguably permanently) one of the elite clubs in the world. Success on both the domestic and international stage set the tone for a wonderful era of dominance that could not have happened with Silvio’s dedication to the club.
It is important to note that when he acquired the club 30 years ago, it was on the verge of bankruptcy. As an entrepreneur, Berlusconi invested a lot of money into the club, hiring Arrigo Sacchi and bringing in the Dutch trio of Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard.
As previously mentioned, the club won its first Scudetto under Berlusconi in 1988, the first league success in nine years, before capturing the coveted European Cup the following season with a 4-0 win over Romanian side Steaua Bucharest.
That was the first European Cup in 20 years, and the following season Milan would become the last team to retain their cup as they beat Benfica in the 1990 final.
Fabio Capello replaced Sacchi in 1991, and the success was once again instant. The club won three straight league titles between 1992 and 1994, including a spell of 58 matches without defeat. The rossoneri also appeared in the 1993 Champions League final, losing 1-0 to Marseille.
Perhaps the most famous moment in the Berlusconi era came in 1994, when a heavily favoured Barcelona side took on Capello’s Milan in the Champions League final. What ensued was one of the most one-sided finals in history as il Diavolo destroyed the Catalans, winning by an eventual 4-0 scoreline to capture a twelfth international trophy in club history.
After Capello won a Scudetto in his final season, and the club won another in their centenary season under Alberto Zaccheroni, the next era of success came under Carlo Ancelotti.
Following his hiring in 2001, Milan reached the 2003 Champions League final, beating hated rivals Juventus on penalties at Old Trafford. They won the Scudetto the following season before reaching the CL final once again, losing to Liverpool, who they would meet two years later in Athens where Milan would get revenge and capture European Cup number seven.
In December the same year, Milan would capture their first FIFA Club World Cup, but Ancelotti would leave in 2009 to become manager of Chelsea after 420 matches in charge for the rossoneri.
Despite a Scudetto (the 18th) in 2010-11, Milan are still searching for the return to dominance of the early/mid Berlusconi years.
Putting that to one side for a second, it is impossible not to be in awe at what the club has achieved under the guidance and ownership of Silvio.
A divisive and controversial character at the best of times, nobody can question his devotion for Milan. Admittedly, the last few seasons haven’t being great, but without his investment of time and money into the club, it wouldn’t be what it is today.
After all, we as a club have seen some of the best players to ever grace the game, with some of the best moments you could ever wish for as a football fan.
So for that, Silvio, I thank you eternally.