Monday August 29 2016
Grazie, Berlusconi

After 30 years of glory and hurt, Milan fans must thank Silvio Berlusconi, writes Susy Campanale.

When a relationship comes to an end, it’s easy to remember only the last moments when it was all falling apart and even let that cloud your memories of the good times. Silvio Berlusconi and Milan are calling it quits, so it’s the right time to focus on the happy decades together.

Many fans will view the sale to Chinese investors – assuming it goes ahead, because we’ve been here before a number of times – as liberation from a failed project. It’s a little harsh to blame CEO Adriano Galliani, the Jeeves to Berlusconi’s Wooster, for the recent spate of terrible signings when he was given such a meagre budget to work with and a parade of never-ending Coaches. It’s frankly a miracle in some seasons he managed to put together almost an entire team made up of loans and free agents.

The real problem in recent years was that Berlusconi turned his focus to politics and no longer invested the huge sums he used to. AC Milan was no longer his prized possession, but a costly plaything that occasionally gave him embarrassing results, forcing him to distance himself from the club even further. Even worse, he tried to replicate the past and times have simply changed.

Yet it would be not just cruel, but downright ungrateful for supporters not to recognise how Berlusconi changed Milan and all of Italian football. The once glorious club was on the verge of bankruptcy and in absolute disgrace following a betting scandal and a return from Serie B when Berlusconi bought it on February 20, 1986. The media magnate immediately wiped out their debts and, after a fifth-place finish, changed history by appointing Arrigo Sacchi.

It’s arguable that many of Berlusconi’s errors over the last decade have been him trying to replicate that moment of magic. Sacchi was an unknown Coach from the lower leagues who shot to fame when his Parma knocked Milan out of the Coppa Italia at San Siro in 1986-87. Inexperienced but inspired, the President tried to see Sacchi in choices like Cristian Brocchi. Maurizio Sarri is the tactician who most resembles Arrigo, but Berlusconi considered that diamond a little too rough.

Sacchi’s Milan of the late 1980s and early 1990s was comfortably the best team in the world at that time and still remains one of the greatest in the sport. The last side to retain the European Cup in 1989 and 1990, they also won two European Super Cups, two Intercontinental Cups and the Italian Super Cup. Inspired by Dutch Total Football, it’s no coincidence the Rossoneri used all three of their foreign player slots for Netherlands internationals Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit.

The Sacchi era ended in a rather ugly show of hubris when Galliani called the team off the pitch during a European Cup quarter-final with Olympique Marseille due to floodlight failure and refused to come back on when the issue was fixed. Milan were banned from continental competition for a year and Sacchi left to take the Italy job.

His replacement, Fabio Capello, was promoted from the Primavera youth team and dominated Serie A with four Scudetti in five years and a 4-0 Champions League Final victory over Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona. Former player promoted straight to the main job, sound familiar? Berlusconi hoped lightning would strike twice with Pippo Inzaghi, Brocchi and even Clarence Seedorf, but only one of those Coaches managed to last an entire season.

Berlusconi rarely had luck with foreign tacticians, having problems with Oscar Washington Tabarez, Fatih Terim and to a degree Leonardo. Few recall that Carlo Ancelotti was considered a ‘loser’ when drafted in to replace Terim after a sacking in November 2001, having been the bridesmaid at Parma and Juventus. Carletto was a former midfielder in Sacchi’s Milan who learned over the years that a tactical philosophy had to be moulded to the players rather than the other way round. Getting rid of Gianfranco Zola and rejecting Roberto Baggio will do that to a Coach.

Ancelotti was the best at dealing with the bad side of Berlusconi’s approach to the Presidency. Silvio has never disguised the fact he’s a frustrated Coach and would happily sit on the bench and in the meantime dictates the line-ups to his employees. Ancelotti’s genius was in agreeing with all of the suggestions, then turning around and doing what he wanted anyway. The results were excellent, otherwise it would’ve been a short-lived experience.

Milan won Scudetti after Ancelotti, but it never quite felt the same. Berlusconi got more intransigent in his old age, more insistent he had the keys to success and less ready to deal with anyone saying no. Max Allegri was forever on the edge of being fired for publicly disagreeing with his President and it’s been downhill since then.

Berlusconi has always tried to replicate the moments and decisions that made Milan a legendary club, but lost sight of how football had moved forward. By selling to Chinese investors, he is finally accepting the need to step aside and let those wonderful memories remain untouched.

Thank you for everything, Silvio, and goodbye.

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Have your say...
Paolo I give respect to where its due.I`m a Juventino fan and I for one have always had admiration and respect for the AC MILAN SHIRT,Being said that,To Answer to Viktor`s comment I completely know and understand its a new Era and world out there in Soccer nowadays with foreign owners plus if Berlusconi was a minority owner on a shoestring budget its understandable BBBUUUTTT!HE`S A MULTI BILLIONAIRE THATS THE DIFFERENCE.NO PUN ON THIS COMMENT for me their was alternate routes like partnerships.
on the 2nd September, 2016 at 8:23pm
Football is a business, Berlusconi will definitely gain from the sale but he created a great period for the club while tending to business.

Most football fans will remember the overall period not the last few dying years. He helped to propel Milan into a team that you would say in the same breath as Barcelona, Real, Ajax, Juve, Inter, Liverpool, Man U, Bayern etc - These are teams that will go down in history due to domestic and European success.

Thanks for some great derbies/ Inter fan
on the 30th August, 2016 at 6:28pm

Some of us remembers he's racist comments about balotelli while some of us remember destroying Barca 94 in Cl final, bringing, Basten, papin, Gullit, Rijarkd Schewa to Milan, A long with weah, desailly, kaka, bierhoff, I mean I can go on for a loooong time but you keep focus on post 2006 era, thats what ungrateful fans do.
on the 30th August, 2016 at 5:23pm

You think berlo would just keep putting in money and money in to our "soccer" club.. It's a new world out there. Fotball (or soccer if you prefer) looks very differently then some of us would think.

I have no problem what so ever to be financially covered by Chinese, Arabs, hell even aliens. I'm proud of what Berlo built and none can deny the fact that he gave ACM IMMENSE success, but everything has it's time and hes time is out.
on the 30th August, 2016 at 5:17pm
come on berlusconi put over a billion euros into milan who at the best of times were breaking even generally making a 70 million euro loss. there is no way in hell berlusconi financially came out ahead. btw shame on you guys if you can only remember the last 9 years and ignore the great teams and memories before this time. Berlusconi created one the best teams in world football ever that should be forgotten.
on the 30th August, 2016 at 10:23am
Although he did a lot for the club he also stands to gain a windfall of cash when he sells. And I'm pretty sure he made money in between the years well. He just won't disclose the sums as he's corrupt and a liar. And that's goes for fester as well that POS.
Althougther good riddance.....Last 9 years were hell.
As for the new owners nobody,don't worry, nobody's gonna spend 700+mili just to watch us flounder. You better believe they'll have us winning again. Their ulterior motives is to win.
on the 30th August, 2016 at 4:39am
How is it that Sylvio Berlusconi a multi billionaire could NOT FIX THIS CLUB is beyond, I`m at a loss for words...who would`ve thought a group from china would`ve and are now owners of once the `greatest` damn soccer club....IT IS WHAT IT IS I GUESS.
on the 30th August, 2016 at 4:27am
It's hard to look past how awful Berlusconi has been as a president since about 2006. It was always within Berlusconi's power to fix the squad by using smart purchasing techniques (the way Sassuolo, the only intelligent Italian team, has!). But instead he started a vicious cycle of terrible purchases and coach sackings. Now Milan is stuck with owners that probably have alterior motives and most likely will not restore the Italian identity of the club.
on the 29th August, 2016 at 7:48pm
Sorry but it's hard to ignore the senile mistakes of an ego-maniac. In the end, he did the club like he did to the country. Completely &#^$ us!
His tone-deaf racist remarks about Balotelli, his years of lying to the fans about the state of the club, his backdoor shady deals with his sidekick Galliani.
Not buying it. Good riddance.
on the 29th August, 2016 at 4:04pm
"Milan won Scudetti after Ancelotti"
^ Wrong, A ScudettO (in 2011). That's it.
on the 29th August, 2016 at 1:34pm
He deserves great recognition for buying great players. They are a cool club. However, what he done in 1986 would not be allowed under corrupt Michel's FFP. Also, total football, really, I am always surprised when the term is used by people who obviously do not know what Total football is. Could Costacurta comfortably play as a centre forward? or Baresi play comfortably on the wing it is not Total Football. They played a great pressing game though.
on the 29th August, 2016 at 1:29pm
Grazie Silvio.
on the 29th August, 2016 at 1:01pm
It is his intransigent nature which perturbed me as a fan he seems unable to let go maybe it is just his ego. It is worth remembering the golden years and teams which were the result of berlusconi ownership. As a milan fan i am grateful for his contribution to milan and thank him for the great memories.
on the 29th August, 2016 at 10:40am
An edifying piece. I myself was unaware of how recent mistakes, which looked so painfully like bad decisions to everyone else, have their precedence in the previous and now legendary appointments in the past. Berlusconi becoming increasingly intransigent in his old age is certainly well said, but it is true that the Rossoneri faithful should remain grateful for the years of glory before it.
on the 29th August, 2016 at 9:57am

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