Lorenzo Buffon (1949-59) – Buffon made his debut at the age of just 20 and won four Scudetti during a decade with the Rossoneri. He played an important role in Milan’s first great team, a squad that included the Gre-No-Li Swedish trio. Buffon, who is related to the current Juventus and Italy No.1 Gianluigi Buffon, won 16 caps for the Italian national team.
Franco Baresi (1977-97) – Arguably the greatest ‘libero’ in the history of the game along with Franz Beckenbauer and Gaetano Scirea, Baresi (pictured above in the 1993 European Cup final) was voted as Italy’s Player of the 20th Century. Like Maldini, he was a one-club man, playing for Milan for his entire career. He won six Scudetti and three European Cups, and when he hung up his boots the Rossoneri retired his iconic No. 6 shirt. Also played 81 times for his country, captaining the Azzurri to a runner-up spot at USA 94’.
Karl-Heinz Schnellinger (1965-74) – Brilliant blonde-haired defender, who is perhaps most famous for scoring the last-minute equaliser in normal time for Germany in their 4-3 ‘match of the century’ semi-final defeat to Italy in the 1970 World Cup. In nine years at Milan he won one Scudetto, one European Cup, two Cup Winners’ Cups and three Coppa Italia’s.
Paolo Maldini (1984-) – One of the game’s all-time legends, Maldini has been playing at the top of European football for almost a quarter-of-a-century. He made his debut for the club in January 1985, and has since become the most capped player both in the history of the club and Serie A. Has won seven Scudetti and five European Cups among a host of honours, and is also the record appearance-maker for the Italian national team with 126 caps.
Nils Liedholm (1949-61) – Perhaps the most legendary of football anecdotes regards this great Swede. A magnificent passer of the ball, it is said that Liedholm went two seasons without misplacing a pass. When he finally did give the ball away he received a five-minute standing ovation from the San Siro crowd. Liedholm formed one third of Milan’s famous Gre-No-Li – the Swedish triumvirate that also included Gunnar Gren and Gunnar Nordahl. He won four Scudetti at the club and later coached them and Roma to the Serie A title.
Frank Rijkaard (1988-93) – A fantastic holding midfielder, who was just as world-class playing in defence, Rijkaard never received the recognition that his fellow Dutchman in the Milan team, Gullit and Van Basten got. He won two Scudetti and two European Cups with the Rossoneri, scoring the winner against Benfica in the 1990 final. Also had an eventful international career, winning Euro 88’, however he blotched his copybook by infamously spitting at Rudi Voller at Italia 90’.
Roberto Donadoni (1986-96 & 1997-99) – Over the years Italy have not been blessed with too many world-class wingers but Donadoni was certainly one of them. Milan beat Juventus to Donadoni’s signature in 1986 and over the next decade he won every major club honour in the game. A skilful and tricky wideman with brilliant technique, he also played 63 times for Italy, but is sadly most remembered for missing a crucial penalty in the semi-final shoot-out defeat to Argentina at Italia 90’.
Gianni Rivera (1960-79) – ‘The Golden Boy’ made his Serie A debut for hometown club Alessandria at the age of just 15. This prompted Milan to snap him up and in the next 19 years, he won three Scudetti and two European Cups among a host of other honours. His display in the 4-1 final victory over Ajax Amsterdam in 1969 is regarded as one of the best individual performances of all time. It led to him winning that year’s Ballon d’Or, however like another ‘Golden Boy’ of today, Alessandro Del Piero, he never had the same impact at international level.
Jose Altafini (1958-65) – Many regard Altafini as the greatest Brazilian to have ever played in Serie A. He scored 168 goals in 248 matches for the club and won trophies galore during his seven seasons. The forward’s most prized moment came in the 1963 European Cup final when he scored both goals as Milan came from behind to beat Eusebio’s Benfica 2-1 at Wembley. He later moved on to Napoli and Juventus, where he also enjoyed great success. Finally left Serie A at the age of nearly 38 after 18 years in the peninsula.
Marco Van Basten (1987-93) – One of the game’s most complete forwards, Van Basten was the final piece of the famous Dutch triad. He won the Ballon d’Or and the Scudetto three times respectively, the European Cup twice and scored 108 goals in 168 matches for the club. He was also a star for Holland, scoring a memorable goal in the final of Euro 88’. Retired at the age of 29 due to injury.
Gunnar Nordahl (1949-56) – With a quite incredible record of 210 goals in 257 games, Nordhal is not only the top goalscorer in Milan’s history, but also second highest in Serie A behind Silvio Piola. He finished Capocannonieri five times, won the Scudetti twice, while he also scored 33 goals in 43 games for the Swedish national team.
Schnellinger Baresi Maldini
Altafini Van Basten Nordahl
Carlo Garganese, December 2007