AC Milan, the reigning champion, won the Italian league 18 times now. A remarkable period in their rich history was highlighted by Dutch influence. The Dutch stars Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Marco van Basten played a major part in the club’s successes in the late 80’s and first half of the 90’s. National and international titles found their way to Milan and to this day Milan fans and (former) players still express their gratitude.
Gullit and Van Basten joined the club in 1987, Rijkaard one year later. At first, it was Gullit who had the biggest influence. Charismatic Dutch captain Ruud Gullit’s first season at Milan saw the club win the «Scudetto» for the first time in 9 years. To sign Gullit, AC Milan paid the world record transfer fee (at that time) to PSV Eindhoven. But they earned that back in no time.
Marco van Basten played for Ajax in Amsterdam before moving to AC Milan. In Holland, he became the top scorer in the league for four seasons from 1983 to 1987, scoring 117 goals in 112 matches. In 1987, he also scored the only goal in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final. That was the last European trophy Ajax was missing. So it was a great «going-away» present to the club, as a new adventure awaited in Italy.
Like Van Basten, Frank Rijkaard took his first professional steps on the pitch playing for Ajax. He lived in the same part of Amsterdam as Ruud Gullit during their teenage-years. After becoming Europe’s best with Holland in 1988, he completed AC Milan’s Dutch Trinity. In the end each played a significant role in the career of the other.
AC Milan was almost invincible and played a revolutionary type of soccer, demonstrating skills hardly ever seen before in the Serie A. This was part of the owner’s Master plan. In 1986 entrepreneur Silvio Berlusconi acquired the club and saved it from bankruptcy. Berlusconi got manager Arrigo Sacchi to lead the team to success. He was followed up by Fabio Capello, England’s current manager. The «Rossoneri» signed the Dutch trio, where they already had players like Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini and Carlo Ancelotti. This was the start of arguably the most successful era in the history of AC Milan.
During the time of the Dutch trinity (1987-1994) they managed to win four domestic titles, reach the final of the Coppa Italia in 1990 and won four Supercoppa Italiana. They were also a force to be reckoned with in Europe. They won three Champions League trophies, three UEFA Super Cups and two Intercontinental Cups. In all of this the Dutch players effectively used their super soccer skills. AC Milan won the 1989 Champions League final with 4-0 against Steaua Bucuresti. Gullit and Van Basten both scored 2 goals and Van Basten become top scorer with 10 goals in total. The year after it was Frank Rijkaard’s turn. In the final against Benfica he scored the only goal, Van Basten provided the assist.
Along with Boca Juniors, Milan won more FIFA recognized international club titles than any other club in the world. There is no denying the Dutch trinity played their part.
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