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Stories of the faithful: Mauro Tassotti, as another successful and legendary AC Milan full-back. Why was he overlooked by the national team?

Mauro Tassotti is considered not only a legend of AC Milan, but also one of the best defenders in the club’s history, like Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta or Paolo Maldini. Although he grew up playing football at Lazio, it was in a red and black jersey that he wrote his greatest football story.



Mauro Tassotti is considered not only a legend of AC Milan, but also one of the best defenders in the club’s history, like Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta or Paolo Maldini. Although he grew up playing football at Lazio, it was in a red and black jersey that he wrote his greatest football story.

Tassotti was a Lazio Rome offspring and it was at this club that he also began his football career. He joined the A-team in the 1978/79 season, making his Serie A debut on 5 November 1978. During his two seasons at Lazio, he collected 41 league starts.

However, he lasted two years in his hometown before moving to Milan in the summer of 1980. The reason, of course, was a transfer to AC Milan. And it was at the San Siro that he wrote the football story of his life.

Beginnings at AC Milan, the dark history of the club

The Italian club does not remember the 1980s in a good way. The club was relegated twice to the second league and Tassotti probably hoped for a completely different engagement at first.

The first time was in 1980, when AC were relegated after being involved in a match-fixing scandal. The following year, AC were promoted to Italy’s top competition, but finished the 1981/82 season in penultimate place and were relegated to Serie B once again.

It should be noted Tassotti made it into the AC starting line-up almost immediately, having played 33 games in his first season. Although the Rossoneri failed to dominate Serie A in the 1980s, they did at least reach the Coppa Italia final in the 1984/85 season. By the end of the 1980s, however, something unprecedented in the club’s history was slowly growing in Milan.

The Immortals, The Invincibles

After a period of darkness, AC came out on top again in the 1987/88 season when they won the championship again. At that time, the Italian giant club began to emerge as the rulers of European football. Not for nothing were AC nicknamed “The Immortals” and then “The Invincibles” in those days.

By the end of the 1980s, Tassotti had won the Supercoppa Italiana (1988) with AC and followed this trophy up with Champions League championships in 1988-89 and 1989-90. Furthermore, the Rossoneri also won the trophy for the winner of the Intercontinental Cup. AC Milan also reached the final of the Coppa Italia in 1989/90.

At that time, the Italian team was coached by Arrigo Sacchi and had a squad that was far from the definition of a “dream team”. Especially the defence was worth it – Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta, Franco Baresi and Tassotti. This foursome is still considered one of the best in the history of football.

In attack, Sacchi was able to rely on an elite trio of strikers in Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard.

AC Milan in the 1990s

One success after another – that’s probably how one could safely interpret the exploits of Tassotti and AC Milan in the 1990s. Or rather, especially in their first half. Sacchi was replaced at the helm of AC by Fabio Capello in May 1991, after which the Rossoneri won three titles in a row in 1991/92, 1992/93 and 1993/94.

Especially the first mentioned season was worth it. AC did not lose a single game, and Tassotti helped Milan to a record 58 matches without a single defeat. And in the 1993/94 season, the Red and Black defence conceded only 15 goals. However, the men in red and black also had great success on the European stage.

In the 1993/94 season the Rossoneri triumphed in the Champions League, beating the famous Barcelona with Johan Cruyff 4-0 in the final. However, overall they were in the final three times – losing to Marseille in the 1992-93 season and to Ajax in the 1994-95 season. In any case, in 1994 Tassotti celebrated winning the championship as captain, as AC were missing Baresi at the time.

In addition, Tassotti celebrated winning the Italian Super Cup three times in a row. But the fact remains that from the 1993/94 season he started to lose his secure place in the starting line-up. Coach Capello started to use Christian Panucci more in his position. In the last four seasons, the Rome native has played only 21, 12, 15 and 10 games respectively.

End of career

The star Tassotti won his last AC title in the 1995/96 season. He hung up his cleats after the end of the 1996/97 season, at the same time as another member of the AC defensive wall, Baresi.

One of the best defences in football history lost two of its members. At the Italian big club, Tassotti made 583 competitive appearances and scored ten goals. And in terms of trophies won? Where to begin…

Tassotti has three Champions League winner’s medals in his trophy cabinet, five for the Serie A champion, won the European Super Cup three times with AC and the Supercoppa Italiana four times. To make matters worse, the Rossoneri also celebrated winning the Intercontinental Cup twice and the Mitropa Cup once during the tenure of the now 63-year-old former defender.

National team career

Ironically, Tassotti hasn’t played much in an Italian football jersey. He made his first start for the national team at the age of 32, when he was called up by the famous coach Sacchi. This was in no small part due to then coach Azeglio Vicini, who preferred players he had worked with in the under-21 national team.

It could be said that he overlooked Tassotti’s performances for AC Milan. And it is all the more paradoxical that previously, the Rossoneri back was jumping in the twenty-one under Vicini. He even represented Italy in the youth team at the 1988 Summer Olympics, together with Maldini. Italy reached the semi-finals then and finished fourth overall.

The only major tournament Tassotti participated in as a senior player for Italy was the 1994 World Championships in the USA. There, the Italians made it to the final, but fell short to the Brazilians. But since the quarter-finals, the former AC back has not played for the national team. In fact, Tassotti had elbowed Luis Enrique in the nose in the quarter-final against Spain (2-1 to Italy), but the referee did not see this action and did not penalize it as a foul.

However, this changed after a subsequent review. FIFA banned Tassotti for eight matches, which was incidentally the longest World Cup ban until the ban for Luis Suárez in 2014. As a result, the Lazio ward never played for the national team again and he personally apologised to Enrique after some time. Thus, Tassotti made only seven appearances in the Italy jersey.

Sources: AC Milan, Serie A, UEFA, Transfermarkt