AC Milan History: Top 10 Greatest Players of the Rossoneri

Justin HoppeCorrespondent IIAugust 11, 2011

AC Milan History: Top 10 Greatest Players of the Rossoneri

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    AC Milan remains one of the most decorated and well-known sports organizations on the face of the planet.

    Since the club's founding in 1899 by Herbert Kilpin and Alfred Edwards, the side has gone on to win 18 Serie A titles, six Suppercoppa Italiana, five Coppa Italia, three Intercontinental Cups, one FIFA Club World Cup, seven Champions Leagues (aka European Cup), five UEFA Super Cups and two Cup Winners’ Cups.

    With such a magnificent history, it goes without saying that stratospheric talent has always graced the Rossoneri in abundance, but with more talent comes harder decisions.

    Not every player can be included, but through the consideration of personal achievement, global renown, talent and fanfare, here are my top 10 greatest players to ever wear the red and black.

Honorable Mention: Ronaldinho

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    While his time at Milan failed to meet expectations and thus was ultimately cut short as the former Samba Star was eventually sent packing for his native Brazil this past winter, there is no denying what Ronaldinho was capable of at his absolute best. Possessing unbelievable talent and otherworldly skill on the ball, it is maddening to see what his lack of due diligence to training has seen him become. Still, his performances under Leonardo during 2009-2010 (17 goals, 17 assists) and moments of genius with Flumengo leave one to believe that what made him great is not entirely gone, but simply a question of whether the “light” will ever comeback on again.

    Individual Honors:

    • FIFA Confederations Cup Golden Ball: 1999
    • FIFA Confederations Cup Golden Shoe: 1999
    • Rio Grande do Sul State Championship Top Scorer: 1999
    • FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 2002
    • FIFA 100
    • Don Balón Award: 2003-04, 2005-06
    • EFE Trophy: 2004
    • FIFA World Player of the Year: 2004, 2005
    • UEFA Club Best Forward: 2004-05
    • European Footballer of the Year: 2005
    • FIFPro World Player of the Year: 2005, 2006
    • UEFA Club Footballer of the Year: 2005-06
    • UEFA Team of the Year: 2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06
    • FIFPro World XI: 2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07
    • Golden Foot: 2009

10. George Weah

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    “King George,” as he is so affectionately known, is heralded as the greatest African footballer of the 20th century. Collecting a horde of trophies for both club and individual success over the course of his illustrious 14-year career, the only regret Milan fans may have for the Liberian is that he had not come to the San Siro much sooner.

     

    AC Milan Honors:

    • Serie A: 1995-1996, 1998-99

    Individual Honors:

    • Onze d'Or: 1995
    • Ballon d'Or: 1995
    • FIFA World Player of the Year: 1995
    • African Footballer of the Year: 1989, 1994, 1995
    • UEFA Champions League top scorers: 1994-95
    • FIFA Fair Play Award: 1996
    • African Player of the Century: 1996
    • FIFA 100

9. Andrea Pirlo

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    Elegant, effortless and unique all do well to describe the deep-lying playmaker. Not gifted with incredible or even good measurables in any sense, “l'architetto” (the architect) more than made up for his physical deficiencies in sheer technical supremacy over the opposition.

    However, it's unclear his impact may appear through the reading of statistics alone. Those with an eye for the game can truly appreciate the beauty of his subtle array of talents.

    It is a shame that such a legend departed in large part due to an unfortunate string of injuries, he will surely be missed.

    AC Milan Honors:

    • Serie A: 2004, 2011
    • Coppa Italia: 2003
    • Supercoppa Italiana: 2004
    • UEFA Champions League: 2003, 2007
    • UEFA Super Cup: 2003, 2007
    • FIFA Club World Cup: 2007

    Individual Honors:

    • UEFA European Under-21 Championship Golden Player: 2000
    • UEFA European Under-21 Championship Top Scorer: 2000
    • 2006 FIFA World Cup Team of the Tournament
    • FIFA World Cup Bronze Ball Award: 2006
    • 2006 FIFA World Cup Final Man of the Match
    • FIFPro World XI: 2006

8. Alessandro Nesta

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    The former Lazio captain is regarded as one of the greatest defenders of all time. Having not only played important roles in the many successes of the Rossoneri over his continuing tenure, he will assuredly be responsible for the solidarity of the backline beyond his playing days, as well as having undoubtedly imparted much wisdom upon rising star Thiago Silva.

    AC Milan Achievements:

    • Serie A (two) : 2004, 2011
    • Coppa Italia (one) : 2003
    • Supercoppa Italiana (two) : 2004, 2011
    • UEFA Champions League (two) : 2003, 2007
    • UEFA Super Cup (two) : 2003, 2007
    • FIFA Club World Cup (one) : 2007

    Individual Honors:

    • Serie A Young Footballer of the Year: 1998
    • Serie A Defender of the Year: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
    • UEFA Club Football Awards Best Defender: 2003
    • UEFA Team of the Year: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007
    • UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament: 2000
    • FIFPro World XI: 2005, 2007
    • FIFA 100

7. Ruud Gullit

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    Supremely versatile and talented, Gullit represented one component of an impressive trio consisting of compatriots Frank Rijkaard and Marco van Basten.

    The Dutch was not only strong, fast and agile, but boasted fine ball control, precision passing, a powerful shot and a real aerial threat.

    • Serie A: 1988, 1992, 1993
    • Supercoppa Italiana: 1988, 1992, 1994
    • European Cup: 1989, 1990
    • UEFA Super Cup: 1989, 1990
    • Intercontinental Cup: 1989, 1990

    Individual Honors:

    • Netherlands Player of the Year: 1981
    • Dutch Footballer of the Year: 1984 1986
    • Netherlands Cup Top Scorer: 1984
    • Dutch Golden Shoe Winner: 1986
    • Netherlands League Top Scorer: 1986
    • Dutch Sportsman of the Year: 1987
    • Ballon d'Or: 1987
    • IFFHS Best World Player of the Year: 1988 (bronze), 1989 (bronze)
    • UEFA European Championship Dream Team: 1988, 1992
    • 1988 European Championship Silver ball
    • UEFA Player of the Year: 1989 (second)
    • Silver Ball English League Player of the Year: 1996
    • Chelsea Player of the Year: 1996
    • FIFA 100

6. Andriy Shevchenko

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    Following his transfer to Milan for a then-record fee of €25 million in 1999, Sheva quickly solidified himself as a fan favorite as he went on to win the Serie A scoring title in his inaugural season, tallying 24 strikes in 32 appearances.

    As heartbreaking as it was to see him depart for Chelsea in the summer of 2006, it was even more heartbreaking to see him to struggle heavily upon his return to the San Siro on loan in 2008.

    The aforementioned struggle aside, he remains entrenched in the hearts of the Milan faithful as the second all-time leading scorer in club history with 173 finishes to his name.

    AC Milan Achievements:

    • Serie A: 2003–04
    • Coppa Italia: 2003
    • Supercoppa Italiana: 2004
    • UEFA Champions League: 2003
    • UEFA Super Cup: 2003

    Individual Honors:

    • Ukrainian Footballer of the Year: 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005
    • Commonwealth of Independent States Cup Top Scorer: 1997
    • Ukrainian Premier League Top Scorer: 1999
    • ESM Team of the Year: 1999-00, 2003-04, 2004-2005
    • UEFA Champions League Top Scorer: 1998-99, 2005-06
    • UEFA Champions League Best Forward: 1999
    • UEFA Team of the Year: 2004, 2005
    • Serie A Foreign Footballer of the Year: 2000
    • Serie A Top Scorer: 1999-00, 2003-04
    • Best Player of Eastern Europe - Focus Vest magazine Trophy: 2001
    • Baltic and Commonwealth of Independent States Footballer of the Year: 2004, 2005
    • Ballon d'Or: 2004
    • 2004 FIFA World Player of the Year Third
    • Golden Foot award : 2005
    • FIFPro World XI: 2005
    • Ukraine all-time Top Scorer
    • Derby della Madonnina all-time top scorer
    • FIFA 100

5. Marco Van Basten

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    Van Basten is a tragic figure, as had not injury forced him to retire at just 29 years of age, he would have undoubtedly gone on to further solidify himself as one of the best to have ever set foot on the pitch.

    Representing the head of Milan's attack and the quinnessential member of the Dutch Trio van Basten was undoubtedly the most important player on the pitch beside Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini, which is by no means a knock on the Dutchman.

    But in spite of all the club success and individual honors he amassed over the course of his shortened career, all will perpetually be left to wonder what could have been.

    AC Milan Honors:

    • European Cup:1989, 1990
    • Intercontinental Cup:1989, 1990
    • European Supercup:1989, 1990
    • Serie A:1987-88, 1991-92, 1992-93
    • Supercoppa Italiana:1988, 1992, 1993

    Individual Honors:

    • FIFA World Player of the Year: 1992
    • World Soccer Player of the Year: 1988, 1992
    • UEFA Best Player of the Year: 1989, 1990, 1992
    • IFFHS Best Player of the Year: 1988, 1989, 1990
    • Onze d'Or: 1988, 1989
    • Onze d'Argent: 1987, 1992
    • Bravo Award: 1987
    • UEFA European Championship 1988
    • European Footballer of the Year: 1988, 1989, 1992
    • Dutch Footballer of the Year: 1984-85
    • FIFA 100
    • European Golden Boot: 1985-86
    • European Silver Boot: 1983-84
    • European Cup Top Scorer: 1989
    • European Cup Silver Top Scorer: 1993
    • Dutch League Top Scorer: 1983-84, 1984-85, 1985-86, 1986-87
    • Serie A Top Scorer: 1989-90, 1991-92
    • Serie A Silver Top Scorer: 1988-89
    • World Golden Boot: 1985-86

4. Kaka

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    Not often does incredible athletic ability find itself paired with a genuinely caring heart but that is exactly the case with Kaka. Being that the Brazilian was appointed the youngest ever ambassador of the UN World Food Programme in 2004 and his continuing contribution of a tenth of his annual income to his church year after year, it can be said that Kaka is as much of a superstar off the pitch as he is on it, albeit for very different reasons.

    Unfortunately, injury has taken a toll on the player in recent years preventing him from showing the world what he is truly capable of, and it seems many have forgotten what class he possesses as a result.

    For the sake of sheer enjoyment amongst millions of football fans and Kaka's own legacy, I hope that he may finally return to full health so that he may once again challenge Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the title of word's best.

    • Serie A: 2003-04
    • Supercoppa Italiana: 2004
    • UEFA Champions League: 2006-07
    • UEFA Super Cup: 2003, 2007
    • FIFA Club World Cup: 2007
    • Trofeo Luigi Berlusconi: 2005, 2007(January), 2007(August), 2008
    • TIM Trophy: 2006, 2008

    Individual Honors:

    • Revista Placar Bola de Ouro: 2002
    • Campeonato Brasileiro Bola de Prata (best player by position): 2002
    • CONCACAF Gold Cup Best XI: 2003
    • Serie A Foreign Footballer of the Year: 2004, 2006, 2007
    • Serie A Footballer of the Year: 2004, 2007
    • UEFA Champions League Bronze Top scorer: 2005-06
    • UEFA Champions League Best Midfielder: 2005
    • UEFA Team of the Year: 2006, 2007,2009
    • FIFPro World XI: 2006, 2007, 2008
    • Pallone d'Argento: 2006-07
    • UEFA Champions League Top Scorer: 2006-07
    • UEFA Champions League Best Forward: 2006-07
    • UEFA Club Footballer of the Year: 2006-07
    • FIFPro World Player of the Year: 2007
    • Ballon d'Or: 2007
    • FIFA Club World Cup Golden Ball: 2007
    • Toyota Award: 2007
    • FIFA World Player of the Year: 2007
    • Onze d'Or: 2007
    • World Soccer Player of the Year: 2007
    • IFFHS World‘s Best Playmaker: 2007
    • IAAF Latin Sportsman of the Year: 2007
    • Time 100: 2008, 2009
    • Maracanã Hall Of Fame: 2008
    • Samba d'Or: 2008
    • FIFA Team of the Year: 2008
    • FIFA Confederations Cup Golden Ball: 2009
    • FIFA Confederations Cup Best XI: 2009
    • Marca Leyenda: 2009
    • FIFA World Cup Top Assister : 2010
    • Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad Man-of-the-Match

3. Gunnar Nordahl

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    Quite possibly one the greatest scorers in the history of the game, it is a complete wonder why the Swede is not more renown.

    Over the course of an eight-year stint with the Milanese side, Nordahl went on to bag 210 goals in just 257 appearances, boasting a ridiculous strike rate of .817 goals per game.

    A statistic that would be nothing short of phenomenal itself but Nordahl's career totals actually better that mark, as his 422 goals in 504 appearances land him at an even more unbelievable strike rate of .837 goals per game.

    AC Milan Honors:

    • Italian Serie A: 1950-1951, 1953-1954
    • Italian Cup (four)
    • Coppa Latina (two)

    Individual Honors:

    • Italian Serie A Top Scorer: 1950, 1951, 1953, 1954, 1955
    • One-time Olympic Gold Medal
    • One-time Olympic Games Top Scorer

2. Franco Baresi

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    Foremost representing what has become an ongoing tragedy or joke between both Milan clubs at Inter's expense, Baresi is the greatest example of Nerazzuri's mistakes coming back to haunt them in glorious fashion, the others being Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf.

    The younger sibling of then Inter assistant manager Giuseppe Baresi, Franco actually failed to make the cut with their youth side which led to his successful try out for the Rossoneri.

    A couple decades, 719 games and 33 goals later, the younger Baresi would not only be considered one of the greatest defenders in Milan's history (for who he spent his entire career playing for) but revered by many as the greatest defender ever period.

    AC Milan Achievements:

    • UEFA Champions league: 1989, 1990, 1994.
    • Intercontinental Cup: 1989, 1990.
    • European Supercup: 1989, 1990,1994.Italian
    • Serie A:1978-1979, 1987-1988, 1991-1992, 1992-1993, 1993-1994, 1995-1996.
    • Serie B: 1981, 1983
    • Italian Super Cup: 1988, 1992, 1993, 1994.
    • Mitropa Cup: 1982

    Individual Honors:

    • European Silver Ball Footballer of the Year France Football1989
    • Top Scorer Italian Cup : 1990
    • Italian League The best player of the year: 1990
    • Silver in Best world player of the year IFFHS : 1989
    • AC Milan player of the Century (1999)
    • FIFA 100
    • Named Italian Player of the 20th Century by FIGC

1. Paolo Maldini

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    Il Capitano...as if there was ever any doubt.

    After making his first appearance at the tender age of 16 as an injury replacement on that fateful day on the 20th of January in 1985, Maldini would embark on what would be a two and a half decade career of the highest level.

    A remarkable champion and leader amongst leaders, Maldini is simply the greatest the world has ever seen.

    AC Milan Honors:

    • Serie A: 1987-88, 1991-92, 1992-93, 1993-94, 1995-96, 1998-99, 2003-04
    • Coppa Italia: 2002-03
    • Supercoppa Italiana:1988, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2004
    • European Cup/Champions League: 1988-89, 1989-90, 1993-94, 2002-03, 2006-07
    • UEFA Super Cup: 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007
    • Intercontinental Cup:1989, 1990
    • FIFA Club World Cup: 2007
    • Under-21 European Footballer of the Year: 1989
    • FIFA World Cup Team of the Tournament:: 1994
    • UEFA European Championship Team of the Tournament: 1988, 1996, 2000
    • FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 1990, 1994
    • UEFA Champions League Final Man of the Match: 2003
    • 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year: Silver Award
    • Ballon d'Or Bronze Award: 1994, 2003
    • Serie A Defender of the Year: 2004
    • FIFA 100
    • UEFA Team of the Year: 2003, 2005
    • ESM Team of the Year: 1994-95, 1995-96, 1999-2000, 2002-03
    • FIFPro World XI: 2005
    • UEFA Champions League Best Defender: 2007
    • Italy captain: 1994-2002
    • UEFA Champions League Achievement Award: 2009
    • AC Milan all-time highest number of appearances: 902
    • UEFA Champions League Record of most appearances: 168
    • Serie A highest number of appearances: 647