The Italian Almanac

AC Milan

Italian Sport - may 25

Long considered one of football's superpowers, AC Milan will contest their 10th European Cup final today against English Premiership side Livepool. But the Italian titans, who have been crowned European champions six times and lifted 17 domestic league titles, have not always been a dominant force in Europe.

At the end of the 1979/80 season they were relegated from Serie A despite finishing third in the table for financial irregularities. They were promoted back to the top flight the following season, but swiftly returned to Serie B after winning just seven matches. Once again, they bounced back and in the 1983/84 season they finished in a respectable eighth place. However, Milan's inconsistency on the pitch and the board's inability to balance the books slowly drove Milan towards bankruptcy.

Silvio Berlusconi, the millionaire media mogul and now Italian Prime Minister, couldn't bear to see the team he supported as a boy fall to pieces, and in 1986 he decided to buy the club. The first thing he did was invest heavily in the club's youth system before modernising the Milanello training ground, which soon became the envy of Europe's leading clubs.

Berlusconi then took a gamble by employing innovative coach Arrigo Sacchi whose attack-minded ideas went against the interminable 0-0 draws that were commonplace in Serie A. Sacchi was given a blank cheque book and he splashed out for relatively unknown Dutch trio Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard, who were later to become AC Milan legends. They provided the backbone and together with Milan prodigies Franco Baresi, Mauro Tassotti and Paolo Maldini, Milan became unstoppable.

After so many years and so many changes in the team, will Liverpool stop it tonight?