Remembering the AC Milan XI that got revenge on Liverpool in the 2007 Champions League final

Few clubs can claim to have reached the true zenith of their respective national league competitions, but AC Milan are firm members within that exclusive community.

Though much like with all great institutions, they have been and still are suffering through a period of instability which has affected their consistency in recent years.

Winning the Serie A title last season was a welcome tonic to relieve them of their troubles, but as they aim to reach their previous heights once again, we’ve decided to take a look at one of their most enviable sides ever assembled. A selection en route to redemption only two years after that devastating loss in Istanbul – and against the very same opponent – for the UEFA Champions League Final in 2007.

Goalkeeper: Dida

A leap of faith and the fortuitous alignment of a galaxy of stars led to the unexpected inclusion of Dida in AC Milan to begin with. The rest of the story was up to him.

After Abbiati’s injury at the Summer Olympics in 2000, Dida found himself in the uncompromising position as AC Milan’s No.1 as Ancelotti looked to bring back the good ol’ days. He soon became an ever-present feature in that fateful journey.

Erratic sometimes and brilliant at others, you never really knew what you were going to get with Dida. But you knew it would be entertaining to watch.

Right-Back: Massimo Oddo

After years of languishing in understudy roles, this was Oddo’s big chance for some much-needed attention on the continental stage.

Regular fitness issues with the ageing, but still brilliant Cafu thrusted the trusty Italian into the limelight for this grudge match with Liverpool. It’s fair to say that Boudewijn Zenden didn’t enjoy this night in Athens, and he can thank Massimo Oddo for his troubles.

Centre-Back: Alessandro Nesta

When you hear the words: ‘cultured’ or ‘balletic’ with regards to the poise and elegance of the modern-day centre-back, you’re inadvertently listening to a description of Alessandro Nesta. Easily among the most composed and impressive defenders of his generation.

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It was the foul demise at his boyhood club Lazio which forced him into the loving arms of AC Milan, but a second chance at European glory in three years proves that it was a fair choice to make at the time.

The world indeed saw the best of Nesta during this period, particularly with that 2006 World Cup win with Italy. His centre-back partner also had a helping hand in that.

Centre-Back: Paolo Maldini – Captain

Versatility and Discipline. Both of which are the only real ‘secrets’ to longevity in the football world. Oh, and being a very good footballer. That also helps.

It’s fair to say that Paolo Maldini has embodied all of that in AC Milan colours. Having started as a left-winger under the guidance of his own father Cesare, a move to full-back soon followed before Father Time brought him in-field to elongate his career.

He formed a more resolute and calm figure at centre-back regularly communicating with his soldiers to render Liverpool’s efforts moot. All in all, it was a good day at the office.

Left-Back: Marek Jankulovski

Every good club required a utility man to ensure that they can remain strong and varied through the long, gruelling league/cup schedule. Jankulovski was that man for Milan.

Technically taking over Maldini’s mantle from a few years back, nobody could have expected a straight like-for-like replacement in the Czech full-back.

But what they found was a sturdy, dependable and reliable runner up and down that left flank to counter the speed of Liverpool’s Jermaine Pennant.

Defensive Midfielder: Gennaro Gattuso

The forthcoming midfielders appeared to move around between each other to suit the flow of the game, whereas the uncompromising figure of Gattuso stayed put.

Right throughout his 13-year stay in Milan, the snarling battler ensured that Ancelotti’s side maintained the tenacity and bite they needed to survive the hard periods and enjoy the good ones. The yellow card he sustained in the first half of this match was simply a matter of nature taking its course.

Though he could be often seen retrieving possession and getting Milan up and going again, it was left to his more talented teammates to take the ball into the opposition’s half.

Central Midfielder: Andrea Pirlo

Arguably the most impressive deep-lying playmaker of his generation, the wonderful Andrea Pirlo was the true orchestrator of this Milan era under Ancelotti.

With a baton in hand and the symphony standing in anticipation before him, Milan’s key moves in this match rightfully (and expectedly) centred around him in the heart of the midfield.

It’s not even too farfetched to assume that his ‘poor freekick’ which ricocheted off their striker was a deliberate attempt on his part in the first conversion of the game.

Much like many of the ostentatious things he tried in his career, it paid off.

Central Midfielder: Massimo Ambrosini

A name which falls under the radar of great names in an AC Milan shirt, true Rossoneri fans will point to the importance of ‘Ambro’s role in this side.

With Ancelotti looking to re-balance the midfield after making the decision to push his ‘trequartista’ further forward, Massimo Ambrosini joined Gattuso in doing the majority of the dirty work for his team. But was more than capable of turning the other way and getting things going in that direction, too.

Playing the full ninety and rarely ever looking out of place is illustrative of the proud man’s enviable career as an AC Milan player.

Central Midfielder: Clarence Seedorf

It’s becoming something of a simple talking point in recent years, but the fact that Clarence Seedorf is the only player to win the coveted UEFA Champions League title with three different sides is a fact that isn’t lost on us.

Neither is the point that he wasn’t a passenger on either of those occasions. On the contrary, he played the full affairs for Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan during their finals which ended up with him lifting that big-eared trophy above his head.

With statements like these, it’s difficult to think of many pure, thoroughbred box-to-box midfielders who made more of an impact than he did.

Read Also – Midfield Magicians: A bona fide winner who simply oozed class, Clarence Seedorf

Attacking Midfielder: Kaka

Carlo Ancelotti was made to learn from his prior inflexibility regarding the CAM role. He famously discarded the abilities of Gianfranco Zola and Roberto Baggio before deciding that maybe his side could benefit from it over his preferred 4-4-2 formation.

Thankfully, this realisation came at precisely the right time to acknowledge a certain Brazilian named ‘Ricardo’ making waves back home with Sao Paulo.

This eventual Champions League win did wonders for Kaka’s career, who would end up taking home the Ballon D’Or trophy for his incomparable efforts in 2007.

Striker: Filippo Inzaghi

Few strikers divide as much opinion as the polarising Filippo Inzaghi.

Sir Alex Ferguson once branded the Italian as being “born offside”, while his own manager said he was a “strange animal” on the eve of this Champions League Final.

Having missed out on the Istanbul tragedy years before, Inzaghi has been very vocal about the thought that this was his destiny to atone for those errors. Two goals scored and a raucous celebration by the game’s end suggests that maybe he had a point.

Read – Defensive Rocks: Paolo Maldini – Milan’s Il Capitano

Read Also – 90s Hitmen: The Divine Ponytail, Roberto Baggio

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