AC Milan Profile

Major Honours Serie A (19), Coppa Italia (5), Champions League (7), UEFA Cup Winners' Cup (2), FIFA Club World Cup (1)
Year Founded 1899

"You can never be a truly great player until you have played for Milan." Planet Sport profiles one of the world’s most successful soccer clubs.

Associazione Calcio Milan, known commonly as AC Milan, is one of the most successful clubs in the history of Italian and European soccer.

The Rossoneri (The Red and Blacks) were founded in 1899 and they play in the San Siro stadium, which they share with fierce local rivals Inter Milan.

They have won the Serie A 19 times, the last title coming in the 2021/22 season. They are now level with great local rivals Inter Milan as the second most successful club in the Italian top flight. Some way behind Juventus with 36 league titles.

Foundation and early history

English expats Alfred Edwards and Herbert Kilpin founded Milan Foot-Ball and Cricket Club, which would later become AC Milan, in 1899. The club claims that it was founded on December 16, but it has been argued that it was, in fact, on December 13. The club's charter has been lost, so it is unclear precisely which day it was founded on.

Milan were immediately successful and won its first titles in 1901, 1906 and 1907. In 1908, an internal disagreement over foreign players led to a split which resulted in the formation of Inter Milan. Inter was founded as a club with ambitions to sign international players as well as Italians.

Out of respect for its English roots, AC Milan kept the English spelling of Milan in its name. However, the fascist government forced the club to use the name Italian Milano when they were the ruling party in Italy.

Golden 1950s

Following Inter Milan's split from AC Milan, the latter did not win a league title in over four decades. That changed in the 1950s as the Rossoneri won the Scudetto in 1951, 1955, 1957 and 1959.

Swedish attacking trio Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm were all key in AC Milan's success in the 1950s.

AC Milan and European Cup

In 1962, AC Milan won the Scudetto again and also claimed the European Cup for the first time the following year, beating Benfica in the final. In 1969, Milan won the European Cup again, this time beating Ajax 4-1 in the final.

Cesare Maldini, captain of AC Milan celebrates winning the European Cup in 1963

Milan fell into decline after the 1980 Totonero match-fixing scandal in Italian football, which saw them relegated to Serie B. They won promotion on the first attempt, but were then relegated again. Once again, they won Serie B at the first time of asking.

In the late 1980s, following Silvio Berlusconi's takeover of the club, AC Milan once again became a force to be reckoned with in Europe.

Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello years

Following the 1986 acquisition of AC Milan by Berlusconi, he hired Arrigo Sacchi as manager and signed star Dutch internationals Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard.

Italians Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta and Roberto Donadoni were also key players in the Sacchi era. Maldini went on to play for Milan until 2009.

Under Sacchi, Milan won the top flight title in 1987/88 for the first time in nine years. They won the European Cup the following year by beating Steaua Bucharest 4-0 in the final. In 1990, they defended their European prize by beating Benfica 1-0 in a repeat of the 1962 final.

Fabio Capello, a former Milan player, took over from Sacchi in 1992 and guided them to three league titles in a row. His Milan team would even go 58 games in a row unbeaten in Serie A.

Capello's Milan lost 1-0 to Marseille in the 1993 Champions League final - a major upset - but they recovered by winning the 1994 final 4-0 against Barcelona.

After Capello left in 1996 for Real Madrid, they were not quite as successful again for some time, although they managed to win the 1998/99 Serie A title. Capello did return to Milan for a brief second stint in 1997/98, but failed to recapture the magic of his first spell in charge.

Carlo Ancelotti era

Carlo Ancelotti pictured as manager of AC Milan in 2007

Carlo Ancelotti, another former Milan player, took over as manager in 2001 after a spell at Juventus which saw him just fall short of Serie A success.

Ancelotti took Milan back to the top of Europe, starting with the 2003 UEFA Champions League, which ironically saw the Rossoneri beat Juventus on penalties in the final after a 0-0 draw.

Milan went on to win Serie A the following season, with Ukraine's Andriy Shevchenko finishing as top scorer.

In 2005, Milan infamously lost the UEFA Champions League final to Liverpool on penalties after squandering a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3 in regulation time. However, the Rossoneri gained revenge in 2007 as they met Liverpool again in the final and beat them 2-1 with Filippo Inzaghi scoring twice.

It was not the only masterstroke of Ancelotti's time in charge of AC Milan. He also helped Andrea Pirlo reach his peak by utilising him as a deep-lying playmaker.

Under Ancelotti's guidance, Kaka won the 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year award.

AC Milan's decline and recovery

Since Ancelotti departed AC Milan for Chelsea in 2009, the Rossoneri have struggled to replicate their success under him.

They did manage to win the 2010/11 Serie A title under Max Allegri, but after key players Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic departed for Paris Saint-Germain, they were never quite able to rebuild.

Milan's financial management and recruitment policy in the post-Ancelotti years at times left a lot to be desired. The club missed out on European competitions due to violating Financial Fair Play. Milan's decline was also accelerated by the dominance of Antonio Conte's Juventus.

Despite years of failing to mount a strong title challenge, 10th place in the 2014/15 campaign their lowest ebb, the club's fortunes were about to change.

Former Inter manager Stefano Poli was brought in as a short-term manager in October 2019, but was rewarded with a new two-year deal after the guiding the club, which now included the recently returned Zlatan Ibrahimovic, to a high-scoring sixth-placed finish.

During his first full season in charge in 2020/21 he secured a second placed finish, the club's first win over Inter since 2016, their longest unbeaten run (24 matches) since 1993 and a new all-time record for away wins in a Serie A season (16). They also reached the last 16 of the Europa League before losing to Manchester United.

In 2021/22, Polli went one better by delivering AC Milan's 19th Scudetto, the club's first title since 2011.

Derby della Madonnina and other rivals

AC Milan have had a rivalry with Inter Milan since the two clubs split in 1908. Working class supporters tended to gravitate towards AC Milan and more wealthy folk towards Inter, but time has blurred those lines somewhat.

The derby between the two sides is called the Derby della Madonnina after the statue of the Virgin Mary which sits on top of the Milan Cathedral. Since 1929 in Serie A, Inter have won 67 matches against Milan, compared to the Rossoneri's 53.

Inter Milan and AC Milan players line up before a Derby della Madonnina in 2019

High profile stars who have played for both teams include Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Leonardo Bonucci, Mario Balotelli, Andrea Pirlo, Ronaldo and Giuseppe Meazza.

Inter also has a fierce rivalry with Juventus, Roma and Napoli.

The fanbase

AC Milan are widely supported across the world and also have strong support within Milan. The Fossa dei Leoni, Milan's ultras firm, was Italy's first and was established in 1968. However, it was dissolved in 2005.

AC Milan's finances

AC Milan's team value is $583million as per Forbes' May 2019 calculation. Elliott Management Corporation are AC Milan's majority owner. The hedge fund took control of AC Milan in 2018 after a turbulent spell under the ownership of Li Yonghong, who bought the club from Silvio Berlusconi with the help of Elliott.

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