AC Milan footballers survived yesterday’s Champions League quarter-final rematch with Napoli and advanced to the semi-finals of the millionaire competition for the first time in a long time. The last time the Rossoneri did it was in the 2006/07 season. Is AC returning to where it historically belongs?
The Rossoneri have had three successful games against Napoli. First, they won the domestic competition with a crushing 4-0 victory at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, then they won 1-0 at the San Siro in the opening Champions League quarter-final.
AC went into the rematch knowing that it would still be wide open as far as progression to the next stage was concerned. Napoli created the opening 20 minutes of pressure, but after that the Rossoneri also had several chances to score.
One of them, for example, was a penalty kick that was not converted by Olivier Giroud. However, in the final minutes of the first half, Rafael Leão went on a stunning solo run, serving the ball to the French striker as if on a golden platter in the final stages and he made no mistake.
In the second half, Stefano Pioli’s charges decided to play mainly from a secure defensive position, not letting Napoli do anything and eventually relying on the break. And it worked in the end, although after Leão’s foul the home side probably should have kicked a penalty.
However, one was not converted by Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, and the Partenopei threw away other chances in the match. Except for the one in stoppage time, when Victor Osimhen scored. In any case, Napoli were no match for AC in this double-header and are out of the Champions League.
Back in contention for the championship after many years
Taken together, the Rossoneri can already boast a great achievement, having reached the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since the 2006/07 season. The team at the time also featured Kaká, Andrei Shevchenko, Andrea Pirlo, Alessandro Nesta and Czech international Marek Jankulovski.
It should be added that AC won the competition in that edition. The Milanese went past Celtic in the eighth round, then knocked out Bayern, Manchester United and beat Liverpool 2-1 in the final. The team that made up a three-goal deficit in the famous final match of the 2004/05 season and eventually won.
In 2007, AC went on to win the Super Cup and the Club World Cup. However, the Rossoneri waited another three years for further success, winning their eighteenth Serie A title in 2010/11. After the next season, AC finished second and third in 2012/13.
The dark ages
On the European stage, however, the Rossoneri did not record any significant success. It was during this time that the dark ages began to arrive. Since winning the title and the Supercoppa Italiana in 2011, AC Milan had not won a trophy for the next eleven years, not counting winning the Italian Super Cup in 2016.
In the 2015/16 and 2017/18 seasons they reached the Coppa Italia final, but each time they left with their heads hanging low. Moreover, the club has faced changes of ownership and in some seasons they even fell into the average of the Italian league.
A slow return to glory?
New hope dawned for the Milanese side in 2020/21, when the Rossoneri finished second in Serie A. But a year later, they were celebrating the championship title and after eleven years, they had reached the top again. It should be added, after Elliott Management, the club was taken over by another investment company, RedBird Capital Partners.
But it seems that things are starting to work as they should in Milan. Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara in particular are doing a great job. And although AC are currently only fourth in Serie A after last year’s title, they are already recording great success in the Champions League as they return to the fight for the overall title after a long break.
So the question arises, is AC Milan back where they historically belong? The prerequisites are certainly there. The club’s management has set a clear goal of returning to the golden days the Rossoneri enjoyed, especially in the 1980s and 1990s.
It seems that AC has capable people at the club who care about football, which is always a very important factor. Last but not least, we must not forget that the players are also currently happy at the San Siro and do not want to leave. And this is of course essential for building the whole.
Sources: AC Milan, Serie A, UEFA Champions League
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