passion12025 December 2019


Arrigo Sacchi's upheaval after back-to-back Champions Cups

AC Milan's 1989/90 season was an impressive one: 54 competitive matches in five different competitions, but Milan made a big impact wherever they played. They came first three times that season and second twice. They won the European Triple thanks to triumphs in the Champions Cup, the Intercontinental Cup and the European Supercup. Those two second-place finishes came in the league, which was snatched away from the Rossoneri on the final matchday, and in the Coppa Italia, where Juventus won the return leg 1-0 having drawn the first 0-0.

It was a stressful season; Milan would have to wait until the 2004/05 season to experience that level of intensity again. August was full of headlines: Gullit would need a knee operation, van Basten was injured, the comeback in the league, the first Intercontinental trip to Japan with a Soviet plane escorting the Rossoneri through Soviet territory before they reached Asia, the refereeing incidents with Rosario Lo Bello, Alemao and the coin, the sheer exhaustion at the end of it all, and finally the victory over everything and everyone in the final game of the season, the Champions Cup Final between AC Milan and Benfica, played in Vienna on 23 May 1990. It was the first game of the season in which the Rossoneri were able to field all three iconic Dutchmen. It was a real cocktail of emotions, and Arrigo Sacchi had felt the effects of it more than anyone else.

Very few people, certainly none outside of the club, knew that the coach from Fusignano resigned after that second European triumph, Milan’s second consecutive Champions Cup. Sacchi's disappointment had already been palpable by the end of the final match of the league season, where Milan beat Bari 4-0 at a neutral ground in Bergamo: "I don't want to talk about this league season anymore; now that it's over I want to forget about it completely."

That was in April, three weeks before the final in Vienna. After said final, Sacchi decided to part company with the Rossoneri. It took all of Silvio BerlusconiAdriano Galliani and Fedele Confalonieri's diplomatic skill and powers of persuasion to convince him to back down from his decision to quit. Arrigo was ultimately convinced and decided to stay for another season, but at a pre-season event at the Ribot restaurant he showed that he was still frustrated, saying: "What happened last season shows us that we can't win just doing what we did last season, you need to work harder and improve, otherwise you don't win; winning isn't easy..."

This was a sign of things to come when it came to the Rossoneri Coach's state of mind during the 1990/91 season.  After Milan lost 2-0 away to Parma, Frank Rijkaard came out with the following scathing comments: "As far as substitutions go, it always comes down to two cards, number eight and number nine", which referred to himself and Marco van Basten. The bitter end to the 1989/90 season had been hard to swallow. It is said that Milan's loss against Verona on the penultimate matchday was announced during a political meeting in Campania. That may be just an urban myth, but what is certain is that then the Napoli president would years later reveal the club had been on very good terms with the referees at the time.

by Mauro Suma

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