How Milan’s two forgotten triumphs helped start a Rossoneri resurgence

By SempreMilan -

If one was to do a quick check of the trophies won by Milan, whether that would be on search sites or even on the official club website, all the major titles would be found.

This would include the year, the great matches of the tournament, the key players and all other relevant statistics from Serie A, the Coppa Italia, European Cup, Club World Cup and a plethora of other competitions.

However, missing would be a couple of accolades that the club won that are too often forgotten from the club’s history; those would be the two triumphs in the Coppa Latina.

The English translation is the Latin Cup, which was a tournament that took place during the 50’s. It was a sorta “go-between” of the Mitropa Cup (which was the first continental competition) and the European Cup that began in 1955.

It was contested between the Latin countries of Italy, Spain, Portugal and France and was held every year between 1949-1957, except for 1954 due to the clash with the World Cup.

The format was a strict knock-out of a semi-final and a final, and like the European Cup it was fought out between the league champions of the countries participating.

The Rossoneri’s first foray into the competition came in 1951, and they capped it off with a debut success.

The club had gone 44 years without winning a Scudetto, but following the signings of the famed Swedish trio Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm – dubbed ‘Gre-No-Li’ by the media – the club had a revival under their Hungarian manager Lajos Czeizler.

They won the Serie A crown by just one point over city rivals Inter and launched an assault on their Latin rivals in that summer.

Milan’s opponents in the semi-final were Spanish champions Atletico Madrid in a match held at San Siro with just over 10,000 fans present.

Those that did attend were treated to a fantastic display from their team however, as they dominated from start to finish to win 4-1. 

While the Swedes revolutionised the club, it was winger Mario Renosto who was the star of the show that night. The man from Venice scored a brace and set up Nordahl for another as the Milanese mauled the Madridistas. His pace, dribbling ability and technique wowed the crowd and his performance became the stuff of legend.

However, when the final rolled around, he was not involved, as he was in Buenos Aires playing for a Torino select 11 against River Plate – a strange turn of events that to this day has never been fully understood.

Il Diavolo’s opponents in the final would be French champions Lille, who had beaten Portuguese champions Sporting 6-4 in their own semi-final encounter.

Despite the absence of their star from the previous match, Milan romped home to victory, beating Les Doges 5-0. On the day of the final, the Lombardy city experienced heavy downpours, but it did not affect the play of the home team one bit.

From the onset, the pressure from the Rossoneri was incessant, relentless and constant and they created chances galore in a thoroughly dominant performance.

Inevitably, the club’s star striker of that era – Nordahl – played a major role as he scored a hat-trick, while the other goal-scorers were Renzo Burini and Carlo Annovazzi. 

So after they ended their more than four decade long wait to be champions of Italy, Milan doubled their joy by winning their first ever continental crown.

The club’s next couple of participation’s in the tournament in 1953 and 1955 saw them finish runners up to Stade de Reims in the former and knocked out by Real Madrid in the semi-final in the latter.

However, they would conquer their Latin neighbours for a second time in 1956.

By this time, five years later, the club had gone through some changes, starting with the manager. Czieler left in 1952 and they were now led by the Uruguayan Ettrore Puricelli, while Gren also departed in 1952.

However Liedholm and Nordahl were still there, with the former now being the captain, alongside Uruguay’s World Cup hero from 1954 Juan Alberto Schiaffino and a certain Cesare Maldini – father of Paolo – at the back.

Milan would face Portuguese champions Benfica in their last four clash and ran out 4-2 victors with Schiaffino putting in one of his best performances in his Rossoneri career.

The inside forward ran the show, scoring, assisting and just generally controlling the tempo of the play. 

In the grand finale, they would meet Athletic Bilbao who had gotten past Nice to reach the showpiece event. This match would not take place at the San Siro though, but at the Arena Civica – which was a multi-purpose stadium – which had played host to the Azzurri’s first official match back in 1910 versus France.

Image: Fotboll Sweden

Just as in their previous win five years earlier, the Rossoneri started on the front foot from the offset.

They opened the scoring on the 21st minute mark through Osvaldo Bagnoli and held that lead until half-time. The Basque club however, came out after the interval and soon equalised with a Jose Artetxe strike. 

Milan started reasserting themselves soon after the shock of that concession of an equaliser, but it seemed another goal would not be forthcoming.

That was until less than 10 minutes to go when Giorgio Dal Monte and Schiaffino struck twice within the space of eight minutes to send the Rossoneri faith full into raptures as Nils Liedholm gleefully accepted the trophy.

Milan would also compete in the Latin Cup the following campaign and would finish third.

In total the Rossoneri would participate in the Latin Cup five times, winning it twice, finishing runners up once and placed third the other two times. They were only Italian club to win the trophy.

While the Champions League, the Scudetto and even the Coppa Italia maybe more prestigious, Milan’s double triumph in the Latin Cup in the 50’s deserves much more recognition.

It set the tone for the club’s latter dominance of European football that would follow years later.

This article was written by Vijay Rahaman, who you can follow on Twitter here.


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