Legendary AC Milan manager Arrigo Sacchi has recalled some of his best memories in the Champions League and the dominance his side had in his spell in charge.
Sacchi is regarded as one of the most influential coaches in football history. He won the Serie A title in his debut season with Milan in 1987–88 and then won back-to-back European Cups in 1989 and 1990. From 1991 to 1996, he was head coach of the Italy national team.
His Milan side from 1987 to 1991 are often talked about as one of the best club sides to ever play the game, and it was all down to someone who was never a professional football player and for many years worked as a shoe salesman.
Sacchi gave an exclusive interview to Milan TV and spoke of the past and the present in view of tomorrow night’s match against Liverpool, with his comments relayed by MilanNews and translated below.
“Milan were the best team of the Italians and Milan helped Italian football a lot. It is no coincidence that from 1989 to 1999, we won 16 European trophies,” he began
“In the lineup, this club ranks first with its visions, its expertise, its history and its style. ‘Win, convince and entertain’. That Milan was a positive leader for everyone. We taught everyone that it was better to attack than to be attacked. We taught everyone that it was better to have dominion over the game than to leave it to others.
“Milan taught that you had to work. Inclusion, the beauty of the game, fun and innovation were elements that had to be sought. For me, a victory without merit was not a victory. We once won 4-0 against Roma and I wrote a page and a half of errors. Tassotti tells me: ‘I knew we had to win 8-0’.
“When I arrived at Milan I tried to convince them. Ancelotti in his book wrote that I was so convinced that in the end I convinced them all. We had to play against Napoli, against Maradona, a phenomenon. I told him well if we have the ball, Maradona will not have it.
“If when they have the ball we go to attack the carrier so his pass will not be so precise. And when does Maradona have the ball? We will be compact in order to double and triple. We filled the stadiums all over the place because fans were having fun. We went to Naples to win and we won the league, people cheered. When does this ever happen in Italian stadiums?
“But there are always difficult times. The president of the Red Star and the mayor of Belgrade stopped the bus we were on and said: ‘We come to greet the future champions of Europe’. We had dominated in Madrid and managed to draw, not win. For 15 days I reminded my players that we had to have a great match and the 5-0 was fantastic, we overtook them.
“We went to the match against Steaua. We had played on Saturday against Cesena, who were fighting for salvation. We didn’t have a great match and it ended 0-0. After the games I almost always returned to Fusignano.
“I get home and my wife tells me to call the president she had called 4/5 times. Luckily there were no cell phones then, I call him and he told me that the team had moved badly. I told him that the human mind could only think intensely about one thing at a time. Our heads were already in Barcelona.
“I had read that we were playing against the masters of football and technique and that we had to wait for them. But we had been doing different things for two years. I remember in training Gullit stood up and said we would attack them from the first second as long as we had energy. And so it was.
“That team had achieved a winning mentality. Against Benfica we arrived tired in the second half and brought out our very best. The two central defenders followed the man and did not know how to break away.
“With two passes we went in on goal with Van Basten who came in and sent Rijkaard deep. I had recommended with Ancelotti that he didn’t go deep because he was slow in a 50-metre sprint. They were all reliable players. They say that there is a concomitance between the greatness of the dream and the greatness of the work you achieve. We have gone further.
“One day a player told me we were working too much. And I told him that by doing little I had never seen results. Then I also told him that we had to have fun for a transitive property. For how we managed to distract the fans who looked at us from their problems. It was an intelligent group that I made work a lot, going beyond dreams.”