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AC Milan had won the European Cup in both 1989 and 1990 with the unforgettable ‘Dutch Axis’ of Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit, and Marco Van Basten.
Four years and the exits of Gullit and Rijkaard later, Milan would need to re-invent themselves.
Led by the genius of coach Fabio Capello, the 1994 side was, although not the most recognizable, quite possibly the most dominant in Milan’s picture book history.
That isn’t to say there weren’t speed bumps along the way.
Although AC would remain undefeated during this European Cup tournament, they would dodge a few bullets, winning the group stage despite drawing four of their six matches. To be fair, this was arguably the murder group of the tournament, pitting Milan against Cup contenders like Porto, Werder Bremen, and Belgium’s perennial champs from Anderlecht.
Once Milan survived the group of death, it would be fun and games.
In the semifinals, they would dominate AS Monaco, disposing easily of the French champs through virtue of a 3-0 shutout.
Then came Milan’s finest hour.
In the days leading up to the finals, Milan was a clear underdog to Manager Johann Cruyff’s Barcelona side that starred some of the finest world stars in their prime, among them Bulgaria’s Hristo Stoichkov, Brazil’s striker deluxe Romario, and Dutch world star Ronald Koeman as the glue in the defense.
Milan would play this game with a severe handicap. Van Basten and young star Lentini were on the shelf with injuries. Captain and sweeper extraordinaire Franco Baresi was suspended. Bona fide forces in the attack, Frenchman Jean Pierre Papin and Denmark’s Brian Laudrup, were forced to watch the game from the stands, since Manager Capello had already exceeded the number of non-nationals allotted to each team (three).
Milan did have the master on the sidelines, Fabio Capello. This would prove to be his, and Milan’s, finest hour.
The final score: Milan 4, Barcelona 0
Till this day, several pundits have claimed this was the greatest performance by a team in finals history, rightfully earning Milan a spot in history’s elite top 10.