AC Milan celebrates its 120th birthday

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A gala evening to celebrate 120 years of AC Milan was held on Sunday. The event celebrated the 120 years of its history with a a special night at the Hotel Principe di Savoia, where the Club was founded in 1899.

Along with the team, the Rossoneri’s directors, Club employees and many Diavolo legends, the grandchildren of our founding father Herbert Kilpin were in attendance.

A.C. Milan was founded as Milan Foot-Ball and Cricket Club in 1899 by English expatriates Alfred Edwards and Herbert Kilpin. Although the club itself claims 16 December of that year as its foundation date, historical evidence show that the club was actually founded on 13 December.

“A win against Sassuolo certainly would have made this night of celebration all the more sweeter,” said Chief Football Officer Zvonimir Boban from the stage.

However, there was still a desire to pay homage to the Club’s “incredible history consisting of passion, sacrifice, loyalty and heart.” Paolo Maldini also spoke on stage alongside AC Milan President Paolo Scaroni, CEO Ivan Gazidis and Giorgia Palmas, a familiar face from Milan TV and the presenter for the evening.

The club has spent its entire history, with the exception of the 1980–81 and 1982–83 seasons, in the top flight of Italian football, known as Serie A since 1929–30.

Within the first eight years of existence, Milan won three league titles: the aforementioned one in 1901 plus two triumphs in 1906 and 1907. Following these trophies however, the cabinet would not be filled for all of 44 years as despite having good teams, the team just could not overcame the hurdle of actually winning at the end. That all changed in 1951 as Milan clinched Scudetto number four. In a a tight tussle with arch-rivals Juve and Inter, they managed to finish atop the Serie A standings by one point above their city rivals. It was a team blessed with enormous talent with the Swedish trio of Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm – famously known as the ‘Gre-No-Li’ line – leading the way. Not only was the title won, but the play on the field was of a very high quality, as Milan finished as top scorers with 107 goals in the 38 game campaign, to go along with the an impressive +68 goal difference. The club was well and truly back.

During said period of the 50’s Milan managed to take their team to the continent and explode as well. The Latin Cup was added to the trophy haul in 1951 and 1956, as other players such as Juan Alberto Schiaffino, Renzo Burini, Lorenzo Buffon et al. took the club to new heights of glory. The real significance of their wins in this period was that there were the only Italian team to win this particular competition and also the only one to even reach the final.

Arguably the best signing in the club’s history occurred in 1960 when the ‘Golden Boy’ Giovanni ‘Gianni’ Rivera was signed from Alessandria at the age of just 16. The playmaker would go on to achieve absolutely iconic status in the red & black half of the city. He won two European Cups, two Cup Winners Cups, three Scudetti among a number of other honours. In a history breaking moment, he won the Ballon D’Or in 1969, thus becoming the first Milan player as well as the first Italian player to win the honour.

Besides his play on the field, he fiercely defended the club when needed, as he did in the early 70’s. Following the slew of controversial seasons, where the club missed out on the Scudetto a few times, he openly criticised Italian referees, claiming they were biased towards rivals Juventus.

He was subsequently handed a lengthy ban for his outspoken words. His staunch love for Milan, his leadership, his style and the way he guided along the field left an indefinable mark on the club.

Milan is still the club with the second most European Cups with seven.

The first of those was achieved in 1963 at the hallowed grounds of Wembley Stadium. Following the Scudetto victory the previous year under the guidance of the legendary Nereo Rocco, they set their stall firmly on winning the biggest prize in European club football. They strolled towards the final where they faced two-time defending champions Benfica. As was the case when they won their first title, here again they were the underdogs, but just like 61 years previously they overcame such obstacles to triumph. A come-from-behind 2-1 win was gained with star striker Brazilian Jose Altafini netting a brace. The sight of captain Cesare Maldini lifting ‘the cup with the big ears’ was and forever will be an iconic moment in the club’s history.

The first half of the 80’s were not a great period at all for the Rossoneri, as they twice got relegated and failed to compete with their rivals for the big prizes. That all changed in 1986 as media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi bought the club that was close to being declared bankrupt, and made it the best in the world. He had already been very successful in a number of areas of his life previously, and he transmitted that philosophy and attitude to all who were at the club. He invested in players, most notably the Dutch trio of Ruud Gullit, Marco van BAsten and Frank Rijkaard and took a chance by convincing Arrigo Sacchi to become head coach. Milan went right to the top in the late 80’s. It was not just a temporary success though, as under the tutelage of the likes of Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti, with players such as Dejan Savicevic, George Weah, Andrey Shevchenko and many, many others, the club enjoyed 29 trophies in his 31 years in charge.

Five European Cups, seven Scudetti and many other titles were achieved, along with an entertaining style of play that left fans and even rivals in awe.

A.C. Milan’s 18 FIFA and UEFA trophies is the fourth highest out of any club (joint with Boca Juniors), and the most out of any Italian club. Milan has won a joint record three Intercontinental Cups and one FIFA Club World Cup, seven European Cup/Champions League titles (Italian record), the UEFA Super Cup a joint record five times and the Cup Winners’ Cup twice.  With 18 league titles, Milan is also the joint-second most successful club in Serie A, along with local rivals Internazionale and behind Juventus. They have also won the Coppa Italia five times, and the Supercoppa Italiana seven.

Following the sale of the club to Yonghong Li in 2016, there was a renewed sense that Milan could return to their former glories, as the Chinese consortium invested vast sums of money on exciting new players.

However, while the results were decent, there were always serious questions as to the source of funds Yonghong was investing. In July of 2018, when he defaulted on a loan payment, the hedge fund Elliot Management – who had provided him with the money for the purchase – were forced to assume ownership of the club.

It meant failure to meet Financial Fair Play responsibilities, agreeing to forego the Europa League and having the UEFA watchdogs on them. The team itself has seen several managerial changes and while under the current boss Stefano Pioli things have improved, there is much to do in the coming years.

So as we are on the verge of celebrating 120 years of our beloved AC Milan, let’s appreciate our past, build on the present and believe that the club will indeed get back among the upper echelons of the game.

Via Ac Milan / Wikipedia/ Sempre Milan

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