Heavily derised for their defensive leanings, Fabio Capello’s AC Milan went into their 1994 European Cup Final matchup with Barcelona simply billed as ‘the other side’ to their swaggering illustrious opponents.
Whilst Barca almost suffered an anuerism on the last day of the La Liga season a few days prior, courtesy of second placed Deportivo missing a last minute penalty to hand the title the way of the Catalans, their managers confidence pre-match was palpable.
Having already claimed a European Cup two years previous, the Dutch legend needed little convincing that his side had progressed dramatically from their previous outing, this even extended to being quite vocal of his side’s superiority over their Italian opposition in the run-up.
In fairness, few gave the Rossoneri a chance against such superstars as Romario, Stoichkov and Koeman. Added to that, Milan’s go-to centre half pairing of Berasi and Costacurta were to miss the final through suspension, not too mention the fact that the hold trinity of Gullit, Rijkaard and Marco Van Basten had either moved on or, in the latters case, been sidelined in the hope that a career ending injury wasn’t indeed career ending.
Armed with a side of fledgling recruits (including a young Maldini), Milan proceeded to outwork their more flamboyant and technically superior opponents with a few footballing geniuses of their own. Namely a luxury player by the name of Dejan Savicevic.
Fabio Capella had his reservations about his playmaker, not least due to his shear disregard at chasing after a ball that wasn’t already at his feet. Undeniably however, the Italians had a truly gifted attacking force in their armoury, they just had to hope Marcel Desailly was prepared to run like a madman behind him.
The Catalans were pegged back from the off. Before the first half’s end, Milan were two-nil to the good.
Shielding their unexpected advantage, Milan’s main attacking threat sealed the win in the most thrilling of ways. Seeing legendary Spanish keeper Andoni Zubizarreta way off his line, Savicevic proceeded to send an unstoppable chip over his head and into the net.
By the time Marcel Desailly made it four, Barca’s spell as one of the greatest teams of our time was at an end, that is until a certain Milan legend Frank Rijkaard came along of course.
As a bonus, here’s the man tearing things up against Manchester United during a 1991 Super Cup encounter at Old Trafford.