For the seventh edition of 'Rossoneri Nation Squads’ we come home to Italy for the Top XI of domestic players. Writing this article was a trip down memory lane that reminded me why I can never stop loving the club even in the darkest moments. The players in this squad made me love the game and love the red and black colours. As a defender, I slightly favoured the defensive legends at Milan and went with a 3-5-2 formation to accommodate an extra centre back because I could not pick between them. The squad takes the defensive approach that the club used to win back to back European and Domestic titles in the 80s and 90s as the standard tactic. Also, just so you don't miss to comprehend the level of legend represented in the squad below; not a single player in the line up has less than 300 appearances for the Rossoneri. The players on this squad won 2 Serie B, 6 Supercoppas, 5 European Super Cups, 1 Coppa Italia, the 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003 and 2007 Champions Leagues and the 1988, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004 and 2011 Scudetti.
GK: Sebastiano Rossi (1990-02) [330 Appearances]
Rossi to me is what Donnarumma could be. A generational goalkeeper who was insanely talented but was most importantly a leader in the squad. Rossi was fearless and outspoken, he was known for rushing off his line and throwing his body on the line to make saves. He holds the record for the longest streak with conceding in Serie A history. One of his most impressive feats was in the 1993/94 season when Milan won both the Serie A and the Champions League, the keeper managed a staggering 30 clean sheets across the season as Milan conceded just 14 goals in the 44 games he started.
CB: Franco Baresi (1977-97) [714 Appearances]
Baresi is a symbol of Milan, one of the through and through one club legends. Baresi broke into the squad from the Primavera and thereafter commanded Milan’s defences for over two decades. Baresi strength, tenacity and technical understanding made him an impenetrable wall in the defence and pushed him into the sweeper role where he acted as a one man defensive layer ahead of the goalkeeper. Baresi became Milan’s captain at just 22 after sticking with the club through their Serie B ordeal and would go on to lead the side to 5 more Scudetti and 3 Champions League titles.
CB: Alessandro Nesta (2002-12) [326 Appearances]
Nesta is another player who not just changed the fortunes of Milan but transformed football as a game. His form of defending influenced coming generations as his use of pace, anticipation and tough tackling made him one of the most elegant yet effective defenders in the game. Nesta always gave attackers the feeling of triumph right before making a pinpoint tackle making it hard for them to predict when they would lose the ball. His partnerships with Maldini, Costacurta, Kaladze and Silva won trophies and his presence at the back stymied even the greatest dribblers from Totti and Del Piero to Messi.
CB: Alessandro Costacurta (1985-07) [663 Appearances]
Costacurta was one of the most important defensive linchpins in the history of Milan and football. He is often overlooked for flashier names such as Maldini, Nesta and Baresi but his presence is what made these defences click. He brought the chemistry into the group and his adaptability allowed him to extend his career and comfortably slot in next to defenders across generations. Costacurta became the oldest goalscorer in Serie A at 41 years and 25 days in 2007. Costacurta should be remembered for his exemplary work rate and great timing, he was always humble and was at the helm of club’s defences for years.
RWB: Mauro Tassotti (1980-97) [576 Appearances]
Most people with think of Tassotti as Milan’s assistant manager under Carlo Ancelotti and others for over a decade but Tassotti was one of the most revered right backs in the world before that. Bear in mind, that Tassotti was so good he forced Maldini to be a left back despite being right footed. His ability to anticipate the opposition’s movements and to read the game made him one of the most intelligent defenders of his time. He was nicknamed ‘The Professor.’ Tassotti was a key fixture in the side that won 4 Serie A titles in 5 years between 1991 and 1996 by having one of the cleanest defences in Europe.
LWB: Paolo Maldini (1984-09) [901 Appearances]
Il Capitano. Nothing else seems fit to describe Maldini, he was and is the eternal leader for Milan. His grace and flow in defending is something otherworldly. Maldini’s understanding of the game and ability to foresee the opposition’s movements made him one of the toughest defenders to face in the world. His composure and techical ability provided his sides with a calmness at the back and his physical state was phenomenal allowing him to play at the top level well into his 30s. Maldini led his sides to three Champions League finals in quick succession as captain but won 5 European titles over his career.
CDM: Andrea Pirlo (2001-11) [401 Appearances]
Virtuoso. No player could quite compare to the beauty and elegance of Pirlo’s play. His touch and his passing where flawless. His vision was ingenious and he instilled a sense of confidence and calmness in the entire squad when he touched the ball. Pirlo was a genius of the game whose technical ability and superior tactical understanding made up for his lack of physicality and pace. His partnership with Gennaro Gattuso is perhaps one of the most unexpected yet perfect pairs in football that kept Milan at the summit and even carried Italy to a World Cup title. Pirlo’s ability to control the tempo of the game was something graceful and I’d love to cue up some Mozart while watching his highlights to see if they line up.
CM: Demetrio Albertini (1988-02) [406 Appearances]
Albertini was an important part of Milan’s midfield for over a decade in the 1980s and 1990s. His composure and technique allowed him to dominate the centre of the park as a central midfielder and central defensive midfielder. He was mostly famous for his incredible passing ability both over short and long distances as this allowed him to open up games. His role preceded Pirlo’s tenure at the club and influenced the way we perceived the role of the regista as not just a defensive one but as a deep lying playmaker. Albertini was instrumental in the club winning back to back European and Domestic titles.
CM: Roberto Donadoni (1986-1996, 1997-99) [390 Appearances]
Donadoni featured largely as a right sided midfielder for the Rossoneri but his flexibility allowed Sacchi and Capello to field him across the attack and often swap his position in game. Donadoni was known for his acceleration, dribbling and creativity. He was part of Milan’s dream team at the end of the 1980s and in the early 1990s where he was a key assist provider and where he would take majority of the set pieces. Donadoni is still remembered as a precursor for the box to box midfielder in his latter years where he contributed increasingly to the defence and would then burst forth to transition the play into attack. He won 6 Scudetti and 3 Champions League titles.
ST: Daniele Massaro (1986-95) [306 Appearances]
Massaro is often forgotten in the conversation of Milan’s top strikers perhaps due to his mishaps with the Italy national team. Massaro nonetheless was an extremely clinical striker who was always headstrong in pursuit of goals. He had an impressive work rate and his ability to shoot with both feet greatly benefited him in front of goal. Moreover he was strong in the air and could easily overpower defenders. He was particularly impressive in the 1994 Champions League final where he scored a brace in the 4-0 hammering of Barcelona for the title. Massaro funnily likes to refer to himself as a super-sub because of his propensity to score key goals off the bench.
ST: Filippo Inzaghi (2001-12) [300 Appearances]
Inzaghi represents three qualities that are tough to find anymore: determination, intelligence and resilience. Everyone knows that Inzaghi was not good technically but his positional sense, his reactions and his sheer desire to score made him a legend in front of goal. He is often remembered as a poacher but I see this as an oversimplification of his talent which was based much more on a keen understanding of the game as opposed to luck. Inzaghi’s 126 goals made him a hero for Milanisti but he cemented his greatness for me when he scored both goals in the emotional Champions League final in Athens against Liverpool in 2007.
Honourable Mentions: Gennaro Gattuso is my hero but I could not include him in the side to balance the amount of defenders thus Albertini got the nod to add creativity. But Gattuso is the absolute personification of the spirit of Milan. His grit, determination and strength are unparalleled by anyone in the history of the club. His love for the shirt is undoubted and he is a legend in his own right.
Team Strengths: Impenetrable defence, Clinical attack and Elegant midfield.
Team Weaknesses: None
Team Rating: 10/10 for their time at Milan. 10/10 for their career peaks.
Rate the Italian Top Milan XI.
This poll is closed