“I never realized that in order to become a jockey you have to been a horse first”
The person whom had quoted this immortal word is Arrigo Sacchi the Italian that have created one of the greatest club team in 90’s that conquered in Europe and the World in a just a space of 4 years. Today we will look at the AC Milan side that under his management in 90’s that have been an inspiration to many of the current manager and players.
Miraculously the creator of this great side does not been a professional player and only been a part time player and had worked as a shoe salesman to support his life. Arrigo Sacchi first venture in the football management started with an Italian local club called Baraca Lugo before joining AC Cesena whom in the Serie B equivalent to the Division 1 of the current English Premier League as the youth team coach. After AC Cesena he had joined Serie C1 side Rimmi and almost led to them a title again as youth coach before moving to Fiorentina for the same position.
Arrigo Sacchi breakthrough come when he had managed Parma and knocked out the AC Milan team by beating 1-0 in Parma and Milan in the Coppa Italia. This game had led to the AC Milan owner at that time Silvio Berlusconi to hire him as the manager of AC Milan whom had never won any title for 9 years and was relegated to Serie B during this time. Many of the media had questioned his credibility as they even said that Silvio Berlusconi was better as he had played in the amateur level and Arrigo Sacchi had replied with his famous quote as mentioned in the beginning.
Arrigo Sacchi had make the media and those whom criticized him ate the humble pie as his AC Milan team with the Dutch trio of Ruud Gullit, Marco Van Basten , and Frank Rijkaard added with the defensive line up of the Italian Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Marco Tassotti and Alesssandro Costacurta with the midfield of Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Donadoni had won the Serie A after beating Maradona’s Napoli in 1988 in the deciding away game. They also had won the Coppa Italia at that time.
With his won they had qualified to the UEFA European Club Cup Championship (current UEFA Champion League) in 1988-1989 season. At the time the UEFA games was all knockout stages in the beginning and they are no group stages and only the domestic champion and defending champion is qualified to play. AC Milan performance was not that great until they meet Real Madrid in the semi-final first leg where they had drawn with them 1-1 in Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid. In the second leg AC Milan had performed majestically to gave Real Madrid their greatest defeat in the competition as AC Milan had defeated them 5-0 in the second leg and in the final they had defeated the Romanian Champion Steuea Bucharest 4-0 to win their first European Cup since 1969.
With the win they also qualified to play for Intercontinental Cup and won that title by beating Atletico Nacional from Colombia in the final game. The domestic title had eluded them in the following season but they had successfully defended their UEFA title by beating Benfica 1-0 in the final and also successfully defended their Intercontinental Cup by beating Club Olimpia from Paraguay to become the first European team to successfully to defend their Intercontinental Cup after InterMilan in 60’s and also the last European team to successfully won the Intercontinental twice in a row. Also with the 2 consecutive European Title AC Milan had become the last team to do this as until today no other European club team had been able to emulate this. Arrigo Sacchi had left the AC Milan team in 1990-1991 without any trophy but his team legacy lives on due to several reason.
The first Arrigo Sacchi had proved to the footballing world that in order to be successful manager you do not need to be a professional football player. Arrigo Sacchi had shown that anyone whom have a big ambition, dare to dream big and know how to apply can achieves success and this had given inspiration to many of the non-professional football player to become a manager the prime example is Jose Mourinho whom had success as great manager even though he is not professional players.
Arrigo Sacchi also bring the total football style to the Italian football. He believes in his method that a player must be able to play in several position and not a specialist in one position. His AC Milan player able to attack well and defend well with players like Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Frank Rijkaard , Carlo Ancelotti, Ruud Gullit , Marco van Basten , and Roberto Donadoni can player in several position in the attack and also able to multitasking in their defensive duties and attacking style.
Arrigo Sacchi introduced an innovative training style that called as the shadow training on which the player will move around without any ball and need to imagine where the ball is. This had led AC Milan play with instinctive nature as shown in the final against Benfica where Marco Van Basten come deep to allow Frank Rijkaard to score the winning goal a move that had been trained by them more than 30 times with this method. A Real Madrid scout whom want to scout AC Milan to access their weakness for the crunch meeting in the second leg had been dumbfounded by this training method during his scouting.
He also shown to the football world that high pressuring game can be played with the traditional 4-4-2 formation. Where many of the current team will play high pressure with the flexible 4-3-3 formation Arrigo Sacchi plays his high pressuring game, outrageous offside trap with the rigid 4-4-2. The key to this the manager will ensure that each player not be more than 25 metres from the other player when defending and attacking to ensure great transformation of defence to attack and ensure the structure of the team is not destabilized.
Finally, the greatest achievement that Arrigo Sacchi had made is breaking the Italian mentality of catennacio style or the ultra-defensive style that is associated with the Italian football. Arrigo Sacchi whom had influenced by the great Real Madrid team in 50’s , the samba play of Brazil in 60’s and also the Holland Total Football team had said that the team must attack and not defend like the normal Italian . His philosophy that his team must be like to boxer to give the opponent punch after punch and knock them out completely. His final win in 1989 European Cup was clear indication of the change in the Italian style where his team had attacked the Romanian team until the final whistle and won 4-0 .
Arrigo Sacchi AC Milan although is short lived but his team had given a great inspiration to the manager like Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Rafa Benitez, Jose Mourinho, Frank Rijkaard, and many more on the pressing style of play. Many team had also inspired to emulate AC Milan success of defending the European title but failed. And some of the team like Juventus and Manchester United had fallen in the final hurdle. Until now no team had successfully defended the European Cup and for now AC Milan is the last to do it so and the legacy of Arrigo Sacchi AC Milan will live on.