AC Milan: Greatest Rossoneri XI of All Time

Jack Alexandros Rathborn@@jackrathbornContributor IIINovember 17, 2011

AC Milan: Greatest Rossoneri XI of All Time

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    AC Milan can claim to have the most illustrious history of any football club in history.

    Therefore, thinking up their greatest ever lineup is one tricky task.

    When you combine over 100 years of winning from the Rossoneri's inception in 1899, taking just two years to claim their first scudetto in 1901, there are hundreds of great champions to sift through.

    Milan have won 49 major honours in their history and are the most successful club in history—along with Boca Juniors—in terms of international honours won, with 14 honours including four world titles as well as seven European cups.

    With such success comes some of the most celebrated players in the beautiful game's history, among those Ballon d'Or triumphs from Gianni Rivera, Ruud Gullit, Marco Van Basten, George Weah, Andriy Shevchenko and Kaká.

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts on who should be included on this team that might not be included or those that are not as deserving as others.

    I have opted for a 3-4-1-2, simply because by using just three, utter outstanding defenders, there is more room to incorporate the genius of some of Milan's most prestigious names.

    Enjoy.

Goalkeeper: Lorenzo Buffon

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    Lorenzo Buffon was Milan's goalkeeper throughout the '50s—arguably the Rossoneri's greatest period—winning four scudetti.

    Buffon, cousin of the father of Italy's other great goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon, made 277 league appearances for the Rossoneri, capped 15 times by Italy in his career.

Goalkeeper: Honourable Mentions Rossi and Cudicini

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    Two other candidates for the number one jersey in this prestigious team are Sebastiano Rossi (pictured) and Fabio Cudicini.

    Rossi was the Milan goalkeeper throughout the '90s most notable for the Rossoneri's dominance in the first half of this decade.

    Rossi made 240 appearances for Milan, winning five scudetti and a Champions League medal.

    Cudicini, father of Carlo Cudicini, played for Milan between 1967-1972, without playing for the Azzurri due to the prominence of Buffon and one Dino Zoff.

    Nicknamed Ragno Nero, black spider, Cudicini was a big part of Milan's 1969 European Cup-winning side.

Defence: Alessandro Nesta

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    Alessandro Nesta is included on the right side of a back three due to his elegance and calmness on the ball as well as superb anticipation. These skills make him one of Europe's greatest defenders over the past two decades.

    Nesta joined the Rossoneri for approximately £28m in 2002 from boyhood club Lazio, a price that has been worth every penny.

    Given his 312 appearances and counting, Nesta has helped the club achieve ten honours in his time with the club and remains an integral part of the team to this day.

    Included in those are two scudetti (2004 & 2011) and two Champions Leagues (2003 & 2007).

Defence: Franco Baresi

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    Franco Baresi, whose famous No. 6 shirt has been retired by Milan, will be the lynchpin to this all time great XI's defence, sitting slightly deeper in the back three, a position he was able to play so well throughout his career.

    Baresi played 719 times for the Rossoneri and claimed 21 honours over 20 years for the club.

    As a youngster, Baresi was rejected by Inter Milan, where his brother Giuseppe Baresi played and it proved to be quite the error.

    In 1999, Baresi was voted as AC Milan's player of the century.

Defence: Paolo Maldini

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    Paolo Maldini is surely Milan's greatest ever player, so his inclusion on this list is a no-brainer.

    Maldini played impeccably throughout an astounding 25-year career with the Rossoneri between 1984-2009.

    Occupying the left back spot for the majority of his time, Maldini was as adept at centre back, which means playing on the left side of a back three should suit him no problem.

    Capped 126 times for the Azzurri, Maldini is an icon for Italian football.

    Maldini won 26 trophies in his glittering career with Milan, something that will surely never be matched again, including seven scudetti and five European Cups/Champions Leagues.

    His No. 3 shirt is retired as a sign of respect, which Maldini accepted on the basis that if son Christian Maldini, already on the books of the club, ever represents the club he can inherit his father's number.

Defence: Honourable Mentions, Costacurta, Tassotti, Desailly, Trappatoni...

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    Alessandro Costacurta (1986-2007); 663 appearances, three goals.

    Mauro Tassotti (1980-97); 583 appearances, 10 goals.

    Marcel Desailly (1993-98); 213 appearances, nine goals.

    Karl-Heinz Schnellinger (1965-74); 222 appearances.

    Giovanni Trappatoni (1958-71): 274 appearances, three goals.

    Angelo Anquiletti (1966-77): 418 appearances, two goals.

    Cesare Maldini (1952-66): 412 appearances, three goals.

Holding Midfield: Andrea Pirlo

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    Andrea Pirlo is a lovely footballer; his silky passing skills and subtle movements to take him away from opponents have helped him redefine the role of the holding midfielder in the modern era.

    A career with the Rossoneri spanned 10 years between 2001-2011, where Pirlo played 377 times, scoring 44 goals.

    Pirlo was redefined in his deep role thanks to the genius of Carlo Ancelotti and this move allowed Pirlo to be the integral player to the Rossoneri and Azzurri attack for a decade.

    Normally the orchestrator of each attack with his sublime distribution, Pirlo was also renowned as one of the greatest free-kick takers ever.

    Two scudetti, two Champions Leagues, one Coppa Italia as well as the World Cup with Italy in 2006 have cemented Pirlo's legacy before he has even retired.

    Currently with Juventus, he is still instrumental.

Attacking Midfield: Nils Liedholm

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    Nils Liedholm, Il Barone, was a third of the famous Gre-No-Li that was so successful for Milan, which also included Gunnar Gren and Gunnar Nordahl.

    Liedholm played 394 times for the Rossoneri, scoring 89 times between 1949-1961.

    Liedholm would be in my greatest Rossoneri XI due to his wonderful passing ability that would complement Andrea Pirlo so well and contribute to a succession of chances for the team.

    Liedholm is famed for his his diligence in keeping possession, where legend has it that during the first two years of his Milan career the Swede did not misplace a pass and that the San Siro crowd gave a standing ovation to Liedholm when he finally put a pass astray.

    There is certainly a place in Milan's greatest XI for somebody of Liedholm's ilk, who is identified as the biggest contributor to countryman Nordahl's prolific goal scoring exploits.

    Liedholm won four scudetti in the '50s but was unable to claim the Champions League, finishing runner-up in 1958 to Real Madrid.

Right Midfield: Roberto Donadoni

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    Roberto Donadoni was a wing wizard, capable of playing on either side or through the middle.

    Moments of genius were often witnessed when Donadoni was on his game with scintillating pace and the ability to pick out a teammate more often than not.

    His trademark dribble and cross was repeated in the Champions League final of 1994 against Barcelona when Donadoni set up Daniele Massaro's second goal as he ghosted past Albert Ferrer before pulling the ball back for his teammate to sweep home and ultimately give Milan breathing space in a game they would win 4-0.

    Donadoni played 261 times for Milan, scoring 18 times in an era that saw Milan collect five scudetti, three Champions Leagues and other honours.

Left Midfield: Gianni Rivera

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    Gianni Rivera will take up the left midfield role for my greatest ever Rossoneri XI, but in the loosest sense of the word.

    Rivera was a player of exceptional quality who possessed a wonderful touch and plenty of guile and creativity.

    In a side with as many great players, Rivera would be able to conjure up some magic as he did so often for Milan over almost two decades between 1960-1979, collecting 658 appearances and scoring 164 goals.

    A distinguished career is represented by his trophy cabinet which includes three scudetti, four Coppa Italia, two UEFA Cup Winners' Cup (a much respected and highly competitive trophy in Rivera's time) and two European Cups.

    Rivera reached the final of the 1970 World Cup with Italy but unfortunately the cautious tactics of Ferruccio Valcareggi meant Sandro Mazzola started ahead of the more attacking Rivera.

    That Brazil side, heralded by some as the greatest team of all time, won 4-1 and may have done so even with the inclusion of Rivera, but we will never know.

    Rivera won the Ballon d'Or in 1969 and was hailed by Pelé as one of the greatest players to ever live.

Midfield Honourable Mentions: Lodetti, Albertini, Seedorf, Rijkaard, Kaká...

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    Giovanni Lodetti (1961-70): 216 appearances, 16 goals.

    Demetrio Albertini (1988-2002): 406 appearances, 28 goals.

    Clarence Seedorf (2002-present): 493 appearances, 60 goals.

    Gennaro Gattuso (1999-present): 461 appearances, 11 goals.

    Alberigo Evani (1980-93): 296 appearances, 14 goals.

    Frank Rijkaard (1988-93): 142 appearances, 16 goals.

    Kaká (2003-09): 269 appearances, 95 goals.

    Zvonimir Boban (1992-2001): 251 appearances, 30 goals.

    Dejan Savićević (1992-98): 97 appearances, 20 goals. 

    Massimo Ambrosini (1995-present): 433 appearances, 35 goals.

Attack: Ruud Gullit

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    Ruud Gullit was a phenomenon for the Rossoneri; with his dynamism in the side he was able to destroy opponents with his pace and power.

    Gullit was integral to Milan's success in the early '90s as he formed part of a marvelous Dutch trio with Frank Rijkaard and Marco Van Basten.

    Gullit won the Ballon d'Or in 1987 and won 12 major honours with Milan between 1987-1993, including three scudetti and two European Cups.

    Perhaps his defining moment in a Milan shirt came in the 1989 European Cup final against Steaua Bucuresti in a 4-0 victory for the Rossoneri with Gullit scoring twice.

    Gullit played 179 times for Milan and scored 59 times.

Attack: Marco Van Basten

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    Marco Van Basten is considered to be one of the greatest strikers to ever play the game.

    The Dutchman made a huge impact in a career that was stunted by an ankle injury as he retired in 1995 at the age of 29.

    Van Basten made a lasting impression despite losing the opportunity to prolong his impressive achievements as he scored 124 goals in 201 games for the Rossoneri between 1987-95 (although he played his last game for Milan in the 1992-93 season).

    Van Basten won the European Cup twice (1989, 1990) and three scudetti (1988, 1992, 1993) as well as winning the prestigious Ballon d'Or on three occasions (1988, 1989, 1992); only Johan Cruyff and Michel Platini have won this award three times.

    Van Basten's goalscoring exploits earned him Capocannoniere title twice (1990, 1992).

    Van Basten scored twice in the European Cup final in 1989 against Steaua Bucuresti and was renowned for his exceptional technique which was on display against Goteborg in 1992, in which he scored a sublime bicycle kick, his trademark.

Attack: Gunnar Nordahl

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    Gunnar Nordahl, as mentioned earlier, was part of the wonderful Swedish trio known as Gre-No-Li that were taken to the hearts of all Rossoneri fans.

    Nordahl wrote himself in to Milan history by becoming a prolific goalscorer for the side that won four Coppa Italia and two scudetti. He became the leading goalscorer in the club's history.

    Nordahl has 221 goals in 268 games for the Rossoneri, 46 more than his closest rival, Andriy Shevchenko.

    Nordahl was not only the leading scorer at Milan but predominantly in all of Italy, as he collected the Capocannoniere title on five occasions in his eight years with the club, before moving to Roma to finish his career from 1956-1958.

    Nordahl was affectionately known as cannoniere (the gunner) due to his lethal finishing.

    The Swede was a huge man with incredible strength and a predator who operated inside the penalty area.

    The majority of his goals came from headers, or if the ball dropped at his feet, whether it would be on the volley or not, Nordahl would thump it goal bound with tremendous power and invariably hit the back of the net.

Attack Honourable Mentions: Altafini, Shevchenko, Inzaghi, Weah, Ibrahimovic

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    José Altafini (1958-1965): 246 appearances, 161 goals.

    Andriy Shevchenko (1999-2006, 2009-09): 322 appearances, 175 goals.

    Filippo Inzaghi (2001-present): 291 appearances, 125 goals.

    George Weah (1995-2000): 126 appearances, 53 goals.

    Pierino Prati (1967-73): 143 appearances, 72 goals.

    Daniele Massaro (1986-95): 209 appearances 51 goals.

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic (2010-present): 50 appearances, 30 goals.

    Aldo Boffi (1936-45): 194 appearances, 136 goals.

    Giuseppe Santagostino (1921-32): 233 appearances, 103 goals.

    Louis Van Hege (1910-15): 88 appearances, 97 goals.

AC Milan: Greatest Rossoneri XI of All Time

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    Let me know your thoughts on who you would have in or those I have included in my XI that you disagree with.

    It goes without saying that Milan are a wonderful institution and to be able to fit just 11 players in to a lineup is a tough task and because football is all about opinions, it will be impossible to please everybody.

    With several honourable mentions hopefully I have not missed out too many of your favourite Rossoneri stars.

    Follow me on Twitter  @jackalexandros and    @FRcalcioJack 

    Ciao


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