AC Milan: Best XI of all time

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Football News

You need only look at AC Milan's line up from 1987-1991 to tell what a special team you were looking at. With stellar names throughout the squad from Paolo Maldini to Ruud Gullit and Franco Baresi to Marco van Basten, the Rossoneri side during this period was arguably the greatest club side of all time.

Here's a look at possibly the best AC Milan team of all time.

Goalkeeper: Sebastiano Rossi

Perhaps the hardest position to fill in order to complete the AC Milan best XI of all time. But of all the keepers in recent history for the Rossoneri, Sebastiano Rossi is arguably the most successful if not most spectacular since the early nineties.

Rossi was rarely a figure for the national team given the strength of the Milan defence which was the best in the world for a number of years. Rossi was part of the Milan side that won five Serie A titles and also the Champions League in 1994. Add to this, the goalkeeper made over 300 appearances in his twelve years with the Rossoneri.

Right-back: Alessandro Costacurta

With seven Serie A and five Champions League triumphs to his name, it's impossible not to find a place for Costacurta in AC Milan's greatest all time starting XI. He joined Milan from the club's youth academy in 1986 and by 1988, he was a staple of the greatest defence in the world at the time and in Serie A history.

In this team, Costacurta is the third highest appearance maker behind fellow defenders Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi. Having played more than 650 matches for Milan, the defender remains one of the club's greatest defenders having played almost twenty years for his hometown club.

Centre-back: Alessandro Nesta

A proven world class defender when he joined Milan from Lazio in 2002, Nesta's career went from strength to strength upon arriving at the San Siro. He joined the club for a fee of around €30 million as Lazio were in financial difficulty and were forced to sell their players. Not that Milan minded that is, Nesta played in 48 matches in his first season which culminated in winning the Champions League at Old Trafford against domestic rivals Juventus on penalties in the 2003 final.

The following season and Nesta had added another a second Serie A winners medal to his collection with Milan finishing eleven points clear of Roma at the top of the table. This was the second time Nesta had been in a team that won the Scudetto, the first was during his tenure with Lazio in 2000.

The defender was part of the Italian team that won the World Cup in 2006 before once again lifting the Champions League for the second time with Milan the following year. He also won the Scudetto once again with the Rossoneri in 2011 before leaving to join Canadian side, Montreal Impact. In his ten years with Milan, Nesta made over 320 appearances and formed arguably the greatest centre back partnership in the world with compatriot, Paolo Maldini.

Centre-back: Franco Baresi

Along with Paolo Maldini, Baresi is arguably the greatest legend to play for AC Milan. He is regarded by many as one of the best defenders of all time and played primarily in the sweeper or ''libero'' role for the majority of his 20 year career. He made his debut for the Rossoneri in 1977 and by the following year he was one of the first names on the team sheet every single week.

Baresi endured the most intense ups and downs with Milan from financial struggle to the glory of winning and retaining the European Cup. He won the European Cup/Champions League three times in 1998, 1989 and 1994 as well as winning six Serie A titles and also the World Cup with Italy in 1982.

The defender played his whole career with the red and black of Milan, playing in more than 700 matches before retiring in 1997. His number six shirt was retired by the club, only further exemplifying the influence, dedication and brilliance he offered the Milan side for two decades.

Left-back: Paolo Maldini

Arguably the greatest legend to ever lace the boots at the San Siro for AC Milan. Astonishingly during the early part of his career, Maldini initially wanted to join Milan's rivals Inter unsurprisingly to his father's dismay, Cesare. However in 1978, Maldini joined the Rossoneri youth team and in 1985 made his debut for the club. 

Despite making just one appearance in his first season, Maldini would become a regular the following Serie A campaign and would remain in the starting XI for the rest of his nearly twenty five year long career. He won his first league title with Milan in 1988 and had already reached legendary status at the age of 20. Together with Baresi, Costacurta and Mauro Tassotti, Milan boasted the strongest defence in the world in the late eighties and early nineties.

Upon Baresi's retirement, Maldini went on to form a formidable partnership with Alessandro Nesta by moving in the heart of the defence. The Milan number three was named the World Soccer Player of the Year in 1994 as well as being placed in the UEFA team of the year in 2003 and again in 2005. Maldini won the European Cup/Champions League with Milan five titles as well as winning the league title on seven occasions. In a career that spanned almost two and a half decades, the Milan great made over 900 appearances, a club record which may never be bettered.

So brilliant was Maldini during his time at Milan, when he finally retired in 2009, his famous number three jersey was retired by the Italian giant's. However Maldini has stated that either of his sons can wear their father's number should they turn professional. Huge boots to fill don't you think?

Defensive-midfield: Frank Rijkaard

The Dutch midfielder joined Milan at the peak of the club's powers in 1988. He was part of the side that won and retained the European Cup in 1989 and 1990, that latter in which he scored the winner in the final against Portuguese side, Benfica.

Rijkaard joined Dutch teammates Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten as Milan took the world by storm, establishing itself as the top club in world football at the time. When Rijkaard joined the Rossoneri, he was a central defender only for manager Arrigo Sacchi to turn the Dutchman into a world class midfielder. It proved dividends for the club and the player as Rijkaard was nominated for the Ballon d'Or Bronze Award two years running, finishing behind Gullit with silver and Van Basten with gold respectively. 

During his five years with Milan, Rijkaard played in 200 matches, winning the European Cup and the Serie A twice. He went onto win the Champions League once again with Ajax in 1995 and also won the giant trophy again, this time as the manager of Barcelona in 2006.

Centre-midfield: Andrea Pirlo

After three years on the books of rivals Inter Milan, Pirlo crossed the San Siro for the Rossoneri in 2001. It was at AC Milan where the midfielder staked his claim of being a world class player with his ability as a defensive playmaker and as a specialist from dead ball situations. 

Pirlo was an integral part of the Milan midfield for a decade, making 400 appearances for the club and helping the side win two Serie A titles in 2004 and 2011 and two Champions League triumphs in 2003 and 2007.

The one mistake the Rossoneri made was to let Pirlo go to join rivals Juventus where for the last two seasons he has added two Serie A winners medals to his list of achievements and despite coming towards the end of career, Pirlo remains peerless as a footballing genius.

Right wing: Gianni Rivera

When somebody mentions AC Milan, a number of big names spring to mind. The likes of Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini are synonymous with the club that has seven European titles. However another name is a man who spent almost two decades with the club, Gianni Rivera.

Rivera spent nearly his entire career with the Rossoneri joining the club in 1960 for a world record fee at the time. He won his first Scudetto title with Milan two years later at the age of eighteen as well as helping the club win the European Cup in 1963, the first time Milan had won the title since the club was formed.

In 1969, Rivera was named European Footballer of the Year having helped the Italian giants' to their second European triumph. During his 19 year career with Milan, Rivera made over 650 appearances and scored more than 150 goals which helped the club win three league titles, four Coppa Italia's and two European Cups. He remains a key figure in how the club became a continental giant for years to come.

Left wing: Kaka

The key reason that Milan enjoyed European success for the seventh time was down to one man: Kaka. Ten goals in the Champions League during the 2006/07 campaign saw the Serie A side storm to the title. With huge wins over Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Liverpool in the final en route to the trophy. Due to his fantastic displays that season, Kaka won the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards in 2007 and to date is the last Brazilian player to do so.

Kaka was virtually unheard of prior to his move from Sao Paulo to Milan. However within a month of his move, he had made a break into the starting line up and helped his side with the Serie A title in only his second season in Italian football. Kaka was named the Serie A footballer of the year in 2004 and again in his Ballon d'Or winning year of 2007.

In 2009, Kaka joined Spanish giants' Real Madrid for a fee of €65 million from Milan. Despite winning La Liga in 2012 with Los Blancos, Kaka made just 120 appearances in four seasons with the Spanish side compared to the 270 he made for Milan in six. However just over a week ago, Kaka rejoined his beloved AC Milan and will once again wear the number 22 jersey.

Centre-forward: Ruud Gullit

When Gullit joined Milan from PSV Eindhoven in 1987, he was coming off the back of winning two Eredivisie title in as many years. His hunger to win more and more trophies didn't fade upon his arrival at the San Siro. In the same year he moved to the Italian giants', Gullit received the Ballon d'Or as well as winning the Scudetto in his first season with the club.

Along with international teammates Frank Rijkaard and Marco Van Basten, Gullit would help lead Milan to a reign of dominance in Europe. He scored two goals in the 1988 European Cup final to help Milan defeat Steaua Bucharest 4-0 before playing an integral part in the club retaining the European crown the following year.

He also helped Milan win the Serie A title two years in a row in 1992 and again in '93. During his two stints with the Rossoneri, Gullit made more than 240 appearances and scored 55 goals but more importantly he was one of the key reasons Milan dominated Europe for a number of seasons.

Striker: Marco Van Basten

At his apex, Marco Van Basten was arguably the best player in world. Having joined the San Siro in 1987 and scored eight goals in his first season in Italy upon signing from Ajax. Subsequently, Van Basten won the Serie A title in his first campaign in Italian football, however that was just a little glimpse of what was to come from the elegant, flamboyant Dutchman.

Off the back of winning the European Championship in 1988 with the Netherlands, Van Basten would have the best season of his career with Milan. Not only registering 32 goals in 47 appearances but also leading the Serie A side's attack to the European Cup in 1989, with two goals in the final against Steaua Bucharest along with a double from fellow Dutch teammate Ruud Gullit to give the Rossoneri a 4-0 win.

It was a similar scenario the following year when Milan defeated Benfica 1-0 in the final. Van Basten created the goal for another club and international teammate, Frank Rijkaard. And thus to date, Milan are the last team to retain the European Cup.

Van Basten won the Serie A three times with Milan and was received the Ballon d'Or award three times in 1988, 1989 and 1992. A reoccurring ankle injury forced the Dutch star to retire from the game prematurely at the age of 31 in 1995 after spending two seasons on the sidelines. Despite this, Van Basten enjoyed a trophy laden career with Ajax, Milan and the Netherlands national team. He also scored 124 goals in six full seasons with the Serie A side and former AC Milan and England manager, Fabio Capello described Van Basten as ''the greatest striker he ever coached.''

Subs: Dida, Marcel Desailly, Clarence Seedorf, Roberto Donadoni, Andriy Shevchenko.

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Marcel Desailly
UEFA Champions League
AC Milan
Ruud Gullit
Andrei Shevchenko

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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