Franco Baresi’s former Milan teammates have paid tribute to the legendary defender, on his 60th birthday.
Born in Travagliato on May 8 1960, Baresi joined the Rossoneri academy at a young age. He was picked up at the age of 12 but rejected by city rivals Inter.
He would go on to make his debut in 1978, working hard to establish himself in the starting XI the following season.
Baresi won the World Cup in 1982 but stayed at Milan, despite their relegation to Serie B, to help them win promotion for the second time during his first five years at the club.
He was rewarded and formed one of the greatest defences of all time, with Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and Mauro Tassotti, picking up five Scudetti and three European Cups.
It started with Arrigo Sacchi but continued with Fabio Capello, as he helped the Diavolo to an unbeaten run of 58 games, including the invincible season of 1991-92.
“Franco was a visual example for everyone, a serious man who gave everything he had to offer and with the qualities he already obtained,” Sacchi told Sky Sport Italia. “Great players are those who play with and for the team.
“I think he played a derby with a broken hand once.”
Baresi retired at the age of 37, following the 1996-97 season, and the club retired his No 6 shirt. Two years later, he was voted Milan’s player of the century.
Former CEO Adriano Galliani recalled how nobody ever dared to knock on President Silvio Berlusconi’s door to try and lure the champion away from Milan.
“After Berlusconi and I arrived, no one ever asked us about Baresi,” he told Sky Sport Italia. “No team ever asked us for one of our champions at that time, they knew we would never sell them.
“Franco had the Rossoneri shirt on his skin. He could have gone away twice when Milan went to Serie B, but he didn’t, let alone after Berlusconi’s arrival.”
Baresi, for his part, feels he was the lucky one to have Berlusconi as President at San Siro.
“I had the good fortune and privilege of having him as President for 30 years,” he told MilanNews.it. “He was looking to the future, and, for me, that was fundamental.
“He brought his winning mentality to the football team.”
Here are some of the messages to Baresi on his big day from his former companions:
Carlo Ancelotti: “Dear Franco, it is with pleasure that I wish you all the best wishes for your birthday. We are at 60 but it means that we have had many good memories and I have had many beautiful ones with you. A hug and best wishes.”
George Weah: “It’s a great opportunity to stay thank you for everything you did for me when I was at Milan. Captain, my big brother, you are a person with a big heart. Happy birthday. You are ageing well, as you are still young. Happy birthday my captain.”
Roberto Baggio: “It’s a very important day for you, you have reached a great milestone. I hope you your family are well. I wish you all the best and send you a hug. I hope everything will go how you wish. Ciao Capitano.”
Jean-Pierre Papin: “Dear Captain, I wanted to wish you happy birthday. For me it was a privilege to be able to play with you and with many other great champions in this great team.”
Massimo Ambrosini: “Happy birthday, Captain. I must confess that the most difficult thing when I arrived at Milan was to address you informally. Happy birthday, thank you for everything. I love you.”
Frank Rijkaard: “Hi Franco, legendary Captain. I wish you a happy birthday, I hope it will be a wonderful day for you. A big hug. Ciao Maestro.”
Marco Simone: “Captain, happy birthday. In this double digit there’s the number six, a number that you have managed to lift like no one else in the history of football. I often think of everything you have taught me as a footballer and as a man. Ciao Capitano.”
Demetrio Albertini: “Every time I look at this photo, I relive the infinite emotion of the captains embrace. It gives me goosebumps. His eyes spoke more than his words. Happy birthday Franco 6.”