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Where Did It All Go Wrong For Milan's Two Great Clubs?

Where Did It All Go Wrong For Milan's Two Great Clubs?
By Darren Holland
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Supporters of both Inter and AC Milan will meander up the San Siro's iconic concrete towers in an anticipation for the Derby della Maddonina this weekend. Undoubtedly the atmosphere will be electric as the respective ultra groups unfurl their monstrous sized tifo displays. Whistles from the 80,000 strong will sound. Flares will fill the night sky. And for 90 minutes, those in attendance will use the match as a form of escapism.

But the following week realisation will kick in that these two famous Milan clubs once competed against each other for silverware, not bragging rights.

Gone are the days of AC Milan winning two (nearly three) Champions League trophies in five seasons. Carlo Ancelotti had arguably the greatest team of the noughties at his disposal. Maldini, Pirlo, Shevchenko, Costa; they were a joy to behold.

For Inter supporters, the image of Javier Zanetti hoisting the much coveted trophy aloft inside the Bernabéu will seem like a distant memory. That win over Bayern Munich ended a 45 year wait for their third European Cup, topping off a treble winning season.

For the most part, the Milanese clubs have been drowning in their own mediocrity ever since.

The Glory Years (2003-2011)

It's the 13th of May 2003, Inter and Milan players emerge from the tunnel onto the hallowed San Siro pitch. It's the second leg of the Champions League.  There's everything to play for. Everyone inside the stadium knows it as it becomes a cauldron of emotion - tension, anticipation, nervousness.  It is everything you expect in such a fixture.

The two sides could not be separated until the dying moments of the first half as Andriy Shevchenko lifts it over Franceso Toldo in the Inter goal. An eighteen year old, Obafemi Martins emerged from the bench to draw the scores level in the 84th minute but it would be too little too late for Héctor Cúper's men.

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Yet it is worth taking a journey back in time to look at how each side lined out. Sheer brilliance on display.

Subsequently, Milan went on to secure the Champions League against rivals Juventus - once again Shevchenko was the hero. As the Rossoneri players collected their winners medals, there was just one man left to walk up the steps of Old Trafford - Paolo Maldini. A mere youngster when he first got his hands on the trophy in 1989, it was fitting for him to lift it as Il Capitano over a decade later.

In 2005, the sides met in the Champions League once again, this time the quarter finals. However, it was not on the pitch where Inter lost the fixture, it was in the stands. As Esteban Cambiasso's goal was disallowed, the Curva Nord erupted. With twenty minutes to play, the game was abandoned as flares rained down from the stand - hitting goalkeeper Dida in the process.

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Milan were rewarded a 3-0 win for the incident and progressed to the semi-finals once again. But we all know how Istanbul went for Ancelotti's side. Milan would have their vengeance two years later as Inzaghi secured their seventh European Cup.

The following season (2005/06) marked the beginning of Inter's spell of dominance as they won four successive Serie A titles. Roberto Mancini made the most of their opponents errors as the Calciopoli scandal rocked Italian football to its core. Title challengers Juventus were relegated and Milan punished with a point deduction. Inter's domestic success in the respective years meant the Scudetto did not leave the city of Milan from 2003 until 2011.

The Downfall (2012 - Present)

Anyone who is remotely familiar with the Serie A landscape often ponders the question 'Where did it all go wrong?'.

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In a number of ways for either club. Following Inter's European success, José Mourinho considered his job done at the club and accepted an offer from Real Madrid. In what would mark their final year as the kingpins of Italy, as Milan and Inter would finish the season first and second respectively.

While two giants began to wane, others emerged - namely Juventus and Paris Saint Germain. The old lady dusted themselves off after seasons in the mire and secured their first title in a decade (2011/12). Years have passed and they do not look like loosening their grip on the game.

As for the Parisian outfit - now loaded with money - they approached AC Milan for key players, Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, to which Berlusconi snapped up their millions. Yet as expected, if a club sells their best players, they tend to regress. The news was met with disdain from the Rossoneri supporters as they staged a mock funeral and demanded refunds for season tickets. It followed the departure of Inzaghi, Nesta, Gattuso and Seedorf.

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Massimo Moratti and Silvio Berlusconi who were once the saviours of their respective clubs, were now a part of the problem. In the end, money talks and both men have lost control as Asian investors have bought majority shares. Whether or not it will pay dividends remains to be seen.

While it is rather obvious that attendance figures and success usually go hand-in-hand. Both clubs fanbases have faded away along with their title credentials.  To put it into perspective, Milan averaged 61,000 fans in the 2002/03 season while a mere 34,000 showed up in 2015.

There is no quick fix in Milan with millions squandered, disenchanted supporters and a squad of players - with the exception of one or two - who wouldn't be allowed polish the boots of Zanetti or Maldini, let alone play alongside them.

For the sake of Italian football, these two giants need to restore a sense of pride in the city which once was the focal point of the European game.

 

 

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