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Making the difference?

Dan Brennan


Shevchenko may steal most of the awards, and hog most of the magazine covers these days, but nobody who has followed AC Milan's progress over recent times would underestimate the contributions of one of Sheva's chief providers, 22-year old Brazilian midfielder Kaka.

Kaka dominated his last Champions League outing against Shakhtar Donetsk. (CliveMason/GettyImages)

Kaka's performances for the Rossoneri - both in Serie A and the Champions League - have made him one of the continent's most coveted midfielders. Among his known admirers are the Premiership's most discerning connossieurs of foreign talent, Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho.

And the Brazilian is something of a connossieur of the English game. When he steps out at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, the surroundings will all look strangely familiar.

'I watch the Premiership every week - every Saturday,' he reveals. 'I use it as part of my preparation for our own games at the weekend. What I really like is the speed of the game there. They play hard in England, but then I wouldn't say that the game over here in Italy is exactly soft!

And before he signed for Milan from Sao Paulo in 2003, there was every chance he could have found himself doing more than just watching the English game. Roman Abramovich, it transpires, offered him what has now become a familiar package deal: the slow road to Stamford Bridge via Moscow. But the proposed itinerary was not one he fancied.

'When I was at Sao Paulo there was definite interest from Chelsea. They wanted to sign me, but their plan was to send me out on loan to CSKA Moscow first, so it didn't work out,' confirms Kaka.

Chelsea are not known for giving up easily these days, and if Kaka continues to shine on the European stage, Messrs Abramovich, Kenyon, Zahavi and Mourinho will surely put their heads together to come up with some more convincing arguments than a winter sojourn in Moscow. But they may be in for wait. For now, at least, the Brazilian cannot imagine being anywhere except Milan.

'I'm currently very happy at AC, and I really love the city. I hope I'll be staying here for a very long time.

'I'm not surprised by how quickly I've adapted to Europe. I came here when I was ready, when I was sure the time was perfect. I knew I was already mature enough to achieve success, and I think my time at Milan has really helped my development as a player accelerate.'

Not all of his compatriots have found the transition from South American to European football so easy. Kaka is genuinely perplexed by the fact that he won't be lining up against one of his compatriots at Old Trafford tonight. Kleberson might be a World Cup winner, but he can't get near the United first eleven.

'I know he is a great player,' avers Kaka. 'He deserved more chances in the Premiership. He was a key player for Brazil in the World Cup. I'm pretty sure he hasn't forgotten how to play football. Given the chance, I am sure he can be a success still.'

Not that he would choose to question the team selection policy of the United manager. The Brazilian is an admirer of the wily old Scotsman.

'Sir Alex Ferguson is very experienced and knows his team inside out. You have to admire a man who has managed to stay in charge of such a big team for so many years. As for their players, I am a big fan of Rooney - for one so young he is a very impressive footballer.'

He says that he and his Milan team-mates will be hoping that a bit of inside knowledge from one of Ferguson's former employees will help to give them the edge.

'Jaap (Stam) has nothing but excellent memories of Manchester United as he enjoyed so much success with them. But I know he will be really focused on doing well against his old team. And, of course, we will be able to use his knowledge of United to surprise them.'

As well as making chances for Sheva and Hernan Crespo, Kaka has shown himself to be a fine marksman himself. He scored twice in the team's last Champions League game against Shakhtar Donetsk, including one wonderful solo effort which was the culmination of a mazy run through a gaggle of bamboozled opponents. For the Brazilian though, such flourishes are merely icing on the cake.

'Scoring would be nice, but I'm not really too bothered about that,' he shrugs. 'For me, the most important thing is to go out and create as many attacking situations for my team as possible.


Jaap Stam, seen here with Gianfranco Zola, 'nothing but excellent memories' of United. (NewPress/GettyImages)

Looking ahead to the United double header at Old Trafford and the San Siro, Kaka says he can't wait for what he thinks will be a fiercely competitive encounter between two finely balanced teams.


'I'm sure they will be two really tough games - I don't think you can say either team are favourites. I can't wait to get out on the pitch and for the whistle to blow. The Champions League has a different atmosphere all of its own.

'I'm desperate to win the Champions League, and the only way I am going to do that is by helping Milan to beat Manchester United.

'I expect every inch of the pitch to be competed during every single minute of the match. I am sure the fans are going to enjoy a fantastic spectacle.


soccernet
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Nice article posted in MM:

Carlo keeps it in the family

Kevin Buckley
Sunday March 6, 2005
The Observer


'Ciao. You ready?' says Carlo Ancelotti as he plonks himself down on one of the large white sofas in the lounge next to the players' restaurant at Milanello, AC Milan's team retreat near the Swiss border. This is not the clean-shaven, lightly gelled matchday Ancelotti wearing the Dolce & Gabbana team suit and a slightly edgy expression. Instead, 'Carletto' has a day's stubble on more than a hint of a double chin, tousled greying hair, both hands stuffed deep into his pockets, at ease in a dark bomber jacket and grey cords. He has the appearance of a comfortable, successful 45-year-old relaxing at home.
No wonder. At this 'home' he is surrounded by a close footballing family that includes many former team-mates with whom he has worked, off and on, for nearly 20 years. Ancelotti played in the great AC Milan side who won the European Cup in 1989 and 1990 - the last team to win it two years running. Of those who lined up alongside Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten in those finals, eight are still on the staff at Milan. Six are coaching and two, Paolo Maldini and Alessandro 'Billy' Costacurta, still playing. Ancelotti reels off the names of those still in the family, using his fingers to count them. Franco Baresi coaches Milan's under-16 Primavera side, assisted by former defender Filippo Galli. Angelo Colombo heads the youth sector, Alberigo Evani coaches the under-13s. 'Then,' Ancelotti adds modestly, 'there's me.' And his assistant, Mauro Tassotti. Milan's 'family' theme even extends to Ancelotti's 15-year-old son Davide, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of foreign players. The youngster once embarrassed Papi in front of journalists by contradicting his denials about buying Jaap Stam, blurting out: 'But Papi, why don't you buy him, you're always talking about him.'

Davide is steadily progressing through Milan's youth system, and has graduated from Evani's under-13s to Baresi's Primaveras. 'It's his first year in the Primavera of a big team, and he's really happy,' says his proud father. 'They don't train here. He stays at a college near Milano during the week and then on Fridays comes home to Parma.' Could father find himself selecting son in Serie A in the future? 'It could happen,' says Ancelotti, laughing. 'It would be great for Davide, but I don't choose the promotions in the youth-team sector.'

As for the present youth is barely getting a look-in at Milan, where there are more over-30s than under-30s. Costacurta is 38, Maldini, seeking his fifth European champion's medal, is 36. One of Ancelotti's back-four options - Maldini-Costacurta-Nesta-Cafu - has the combined age of 136. Before last month's first leg in Manchester, many observers reduced the tie to 'United's young strikers versus Milan's old legs'. Yet the quality and timing of Maldini's interventions were awesome and his almost telepathic partnership with Costacurta was a great help in the closing minutes. How do they do it? 'Well, they have the advantage of their experience,' says Ancelotti. 'And they have the advantage of their [athletic] preparation. Each player does individualised training, working on specific features. This is much more advanced than even just five years ago.' The club have physios and computer programmes planning individualised weekly diets and training regimes in meticulous detail.

At Old Trafford, Brazilian defender Cafu stepped in for Stam, the victim of a muscle injury in the pre-match warm-up. 'Stam really wanted that match, psychologically, he really wanted to play,' says Ancelotti. 'But with a muscle problem there's nothing you can do.' Cafu lived up to his nickname, ' pendolino ' - commuter - constantly chugging back and forth along the right touchline, despite Ancelotti repeatedly yelling from the dug-out for him to stay back. 'He's very generous, very exuberant, sometimes too much so.' In the end the coach had to take him off and send on Costacurta 'to block that
side. Billy pushes up much less.' Milan are expected to see off Manchester United this week, but Ancelotti is adamant that the tie is not over yet. Rarely can a game plan have gone so well as in that single-goal win in the first leg, though. 'Yes, we succeeded in breaking up Manchester's usual game of building wave after wave of pressure until you crack.' The loss of Shevchenko to injury - the Ukrainian striker also misses Tuesday's match - meant Ancelotti played a single front-man, 'and our five-man midfield thwarted United's supply lines. They did have two good chances in the first half, though. But we have to forget about that match.'

There will be no complacency at the San Siro. 'Oh, no. I've come back from Manchester with a 1-1 before,' he says, recalling United's memorable 3-2 second-leg victory at Stadio delle Alpi when he was Juventus coach in 1999. He was sacked at Juve despite coming second twice in Serie A in consecutive seasons. 'At Juve that doesn't count. At Juve you have to win.' He is full of praise for Sir Alex Ferguson, 'someone I hold in high esteem'. 'For someone to be in the post for so long reflects well upon the club itself, and upon Mr Ferguson. Being there for 18 years means he's done great work. And he has had a lot of success. In Italy a coach who didn't win trophies straight away wouldn't survive.'

Ancelotti finished playing at Milan in 1992, coaching Reggiana, Parma and Juventus before returning to Milanello in 2001. In the meantime football had undergone the television revolution and the Champions League had mushroomed. Is the next step a fully fledged European league? 'It's already here, isn't it?' he says, that left eyebrow rising into a high arc for the first time, a nervous giveaway when he senses tricky questioning. In the most combative of Serie A press conferences it can stay raised for minutes on end. 'It seems we already have a European league, effectively. The Champions League is the most fascinating of the competitions in my opinion.' But it overshadows the domestic competitions. 'A little, yes, a little. But I don't think that their appeal will disappear.' He still favours having two European group stages to produce more matches between the biggest sides. 'But you'd have to reduce something elsewhere. It'd be necessary to have less games in the national leagues.' Another debate in Italy this season concerns saturation television coverage.

Many Serie A matches have been played in half-empty stadiums, and crowds are far lower than in Germany and England. One of the reasons is that every game is televised live. Given that Ancelotti's ultimate boss, the Milan president, is Silvio Berlusconi - who also happens to be Italy's prime minister and the country's leading media magnate - he is used to treading a fine line in the televisio -versus-empty-seats debate. 'I experienced football when there wasn't television,' he says. 'For someone like me, who grew up in a little town, it was difficult. All you saw was half an hour on television each week. Now you can see the big matches, English football, the Spanish championship.' Even Serie A players are complaining about the constant switches in kick-off times and suchlike. 'Yes, for a fan who goes to the stadium, certainly it can be a problem,' he says, 'but for the fan who stays at home it's a good thing.'

Any adverse effect upon attendances doesn't worry him. 'The big matches are always full - try and get a ticket for Milan-Manchester - and also in Serie A. Those matches that are, let's say, less attractive, the people prefer to watch on television. But the passion for football, the passion that the Italian fan has, will always be there.' Ancelotti thinks he saw the future of football in Manchester, and that could help fill the seats again. 'There's a different culture, the people go to the stadium earlier, they have tea, coffee, then after they stay for dinner. In Italy it doesn't happen because the stadiums aren't set up for it, there isn't the culture. People go to the match and go home. After the Manchester match I had to do a little detour to get to the press conference, and I saw the restaurant. It was absolutely packed. That's unheard of here. Manchester have the highest revenues in Europe, exactly because of this, making the stadium a place you can stay.' Looking beyond this week, Ancelotti is sticking with his prediction that a team beginning with 'm' will win the Champions League. 'Milan, Manchester, Munich, or Madrid,' he says. The bookmakers say it will be the family men of Milan.​
 

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Great aim :shades:
 

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You are welcome, Diavolo.

Thanks to http://www.andriyshevchenko.net/

[03/04] Electric Sheva Dreams of Success


Momentous events were unfolding so thick and fast in Andriy Shevchenko’s life as last year drew to a close that it was hardly surprising he was suffering from insomnia.

As well as the usual concerns of being a striker at one of the world’s most celebrated clubs, he became a father for the first time, moved out of central Milan to a new home on the banks of Lake Como and found his inner calm destabilised by the political division engulfing his homeland Ukraine. There was barely room to take in the news that he had been crowned European footballer of the year.

Shevchenko was flabbergasted. Such an individual honour was, he reckons, always off his radar. For all his assets, he did not expect such acclaim ahead of players who grace the finals of World Cups and European Championships; players whose caps are feathered internationally as well as domestically.

“I thought it would be a serious handicap that, compared to others, I’ve never played in the finals of a major tournament with Ukraine,” he says.

But football’s world order has been shaken. Favourites have keeled over early at the past two showpiece events and last year Shevchenko watched from afar as Europe’s most illustrious names — Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry, Francesco Totti, Raul — sullied their reputations while Greece marched on at Euro 2004.

By the age of 28, “Sheva” has amassed an outstanding hoard of personal and team honours, but he is desperate not to become pigeon-holed with George Best and George Weah as one of those truly great players never to have appeared in the finals of a World Cup.

“I dream of success with Ukraine,” he says. “If it doesn’t come, my career will have been no great shakes.”

At the halfway stage in qualifying, Ukraine are tearing away at the top of a fiendishly difficult group that includes Greece, Turkey and Denmark.

Coach Oleg Blokhin underlines just how inspirational Shevchenko is to his young team, saying: “Andriy is our locomotive. We don’t have players of the calibre of Kaka, Cafu and [Paolo] Maldini to play alongside him, but he carries the team up.”

And his coach at Milan, Carlo Ancelotti, sums up his ability in three simple sentences: “Shevchenko is the best attacker in Europe. He has a great deal of consistency and he just keeps scoring — which in Italian football is very difficult. He is a complete player, someone who can do everything on a football field.”

Shevchenko missed the first leg of the Champions League last 16 match against Manchester United at Old Trafford — where he scored the winning penalty to give Milan the trophy in 2003 — because of injury. His cheekbone and eye socket were fractured in an accidental clash of heads with a Cagliari defender the weekend before the first leg, but he might return — wearing a mask — for Tuesday night’s game at the San Siro.

Back home in the Ukraine, Sheva fever is rife. At his old school, they have locked up his old desk, such is the clamour to sit at it. Whenever he scores for Milan, the kids begin lessons by boasting to each other. “They say things like, ‘My father played football with him once’ or ‘My father grazed the geese with him.’ New myths arise constantly,” explains one of the teachers in Dvirkivshchyna, the village where Shevchenko was born and raised.

His grandmother ensured that he had every chance of a decent life by maintaining the local tradition of cutting some of his hair when he was a baby to bury under a pear tree. Legend has it that the ritual encourages curly hair and good fortune. It seems to have worked. ;)

While young Shevchenko was growing up, he bore witness to two seismic events in the former Soviet Union’s history. When he was nine a nuclear reactor exploded at nearby Chernobyl, and when he was 14, Ukraine declared independence. Both influenced his philosophy.

In the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster, local children were evacuated to the Crimea for three months during the clean-up operation. Shevchenko recalls it as a confusing time.

“No one said anything,” he once said. “We just knew that something terrible had happened. No one really told us anything for about three years and I couldn’t stop thinking about the small village next to Chernobyl where the people had to leave in the middle of the night, not even being able to pack a single suitcase.

“If my goals and victories can help the world remember Chernobyl and bring a smile to the face of the people still suffering then I dedicate all my success to them.”

And the political climate as Ukraine sought independence? “Above all, it was difficult for kids my age to choose what to do because of the uncertainty,” he says. “Thankfully, football found me.”

More specifically, Alexander Shpakov, Dynamo Kiev’s youth coach, saw him playing in a school tournament. Shpakov had to be creative to persuade Shevchenko’s father, Mykola — an officer in the Soviet army — and mother, Lyubov, to let him join their academy.

“His father imagined for him a future in the military,” the coach recalls. “I told him Dynamo would be good for him and would toughen him and help him in his military career.”

Mykola nurtured his son with affection and discipline. “I never used the strap,” :mute: he said once. “You’ll achieve nothing beating the child, but you must be strict. Only with the combination of strictness and love will you get a good result.”

A similar blend was central to the methods that made Kiev’s legendary coach Valery Lobanovsky such a success. Daily contact with one of football’s most distinguished masters moulded the young Shevchenko into a player of devastating efficiency. When he was named European footballer of the year this season, the striker enthused to France Football magazine about his mentor’s approach.

“Lobanovsky made a big impression on me,” Shevchenko said. “He was continually explaining to a player the need to play first and foremost for his team. He insisted an attacker must also be able to create things, and to defend, not just score goals. His way was affectionate but also very tough and his hardness was a way of pushing me. Lobanovsky told me I could be a great player, but he stressed that I needed to work harder and harder every day. He was a great beacon of inspiration to me.”

By the time Shevchenko was 20, Lobanovsky nicknamed his protégé “The White Ronaldo” before adding that his boy was a more complete player than the Brazilian. The White Ronaldo proved that he could upstage the best of them with a hat-trick at the Nou Camp as Dynamo whipped Barcelona 4-0 in the Champions League in 1997.

The men from Kiev went on to reach the semifinals two seasons later, by which time Shevchenko had his pick of Madrid, Manchester and Milan. Having fallen for the Italians on a visit to the San Siro when he was 14, he was happy to reignite the love affair as a 23-year-old.

In Dynamo colours he had gathered five league championships, three cups, 60 goals in 117 league matches and 20 in 28 Champions League games, but the £16-million transfer invited scepticism in Ukraine and Italy. It had not been uncommon for players from that part of the world to flounder in the West, but Sheva adjusted sufficiently to be top scorer in Serie A in his first season in 1999.

Milan’s fitness science expert, Jean Pierre Meersseman, said: “Andriy is a phenomenon. He is perfect in all the tests, in power, speed and acceleration sequences. Mentally, he has an extraordinary capacity for concentration and analysis.”

Shevchenko is adored by the rossoneri because, when Milan are in trouble, he is there to rescue them. His goals are not just decorative, but decisive. And he is unusual among strikers in that, according to research in the Italian press, the goals he scores are fairly evenly split between right foot, left foot and head.

No player better epitomises the frontiers crossed between eastern and western Europe in modern football than Shevchenko. Having conquered Italy with his Lobanovsky-inspired attacking play, he has also taken a touch of Milan to Ukraine by opening two Armani boutiques in Kiev.

In his new home, a picturesque 19th-century villa overlooking Lake Como, there cannot be much more room on the mantelpiece, but he would not be Lobanovsky’s star student if he did not continue the quest for more glory at full speed ahead.

Typically, after his decisive penalty in the 2003 Champions League final against Juventus, he asked his employers if he could take the trophy back to Kiev to display under the gaze of the statue of Lobanovsky outside Dynamo’s stadium.

“From my first years as a professional I learnt to have the will to win things. If you win one thing, you have to prove to people that you are good enough to win it again and that has always been the case for me. As Lobanovsky always said, it’s hard to get to the summit, but even harder to stay there.”

(Guardian Newspapers 2005)
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Rooney and Ronaldo fall at feet of Milanese great
From Rick Broadbent in Milan



:devil: PAOLO MALDINI is a one-club family man :devil: who juggles his time between cementing his legendary status and his role as director of the Milan Foundation, a charitable organisation designed to help socially disadvantaged children.

Wayne Rooney, on the other hand, is widely portrayed as a Shrek-like turncoat who varies his time between saving English football and being castigated for corrupting the nation’s youth with his foul mouth. Stylistically, one is Armani and the other Army & Navy, which is why watching them bridge the generation gap at the San Siro was such enthralling viewing. :cool:


Would youth taunt experience or would it be the night that Rooney’s callowness was exposed by a man old enough to be his father? Maldini still likes to gallop forward, and if he churns the turf rather than scorches it these days, he still has a presence. Not quite the swashbuckling star of yore, then, but neither is he a knee-buckled icon living on past glories.

The first half was his. This was a night when Manchester United needed someone to eke their way into folklore, as Roy Keane had done against Juventus in Turin in 1999, but Rooney was forced to drop deeper and deeper in search of a kick while Cristiano Ronaldo was dominated by Maldini’s ability to play like a souped-up Peter Pan.

The stature of Maldini should not be underestimated. While it is often said that Rooney is no respecter of reputation, it is worth remembering that last summer, on holiday in Miami, an awestruck Wes Brown asked the man with the tousled hair and doe-eyes for an autograph. This is the Maldini effect. He commands respect, not only for what he has done for 20 years at Milan, but for what he is still doing at the ripe age of 36.:proud:

As Rooney drifted, eventually to the periphery and beyond, United craved his spark.

So what if he is bad for kids? Like Keane, he is at his best when teetering on the edge of self-destruction, but he looked subdued, unsure of his role, almost resigned.

United needed the Rooney who had played with fire against Arsenal at Highbury, but it appeared as though he had believed this week’s headlines about how his rough edges were doing for the nation’s youth what junk food and Eminem had achieved.

The goal was coming as United’s big players failed to dredge their core for a big game. Rui Costa and Andrea Pirlo took control of midfield, Ronaldo began shooting from the sort of range that would have troubled The Jackal in Frederick Forsyth’s novel and United were unable to expose the war-weary limbs of the veteran left back.

It might have been different had Ryan Giggs’s first-half drive bounced the other side of a post, but like their talismanic captain, Milan improved with each passing minute.

Defeat against a side of this calibre is no disgrace, but Ferguson’s record in Europe, 1999 notwithstanding, is a greasy smear on his record. Can he really be called a great when one — slightly fortuitous — victory, in his solitary European Cup final, is all he has to show for his travails? It is to be hoped that Rooney and Ronaldo learn from the chastening experience. It has been proved that, contrary to one school of thought, you can win things with kids, and Rooney was lustrous at Euro 2004. However, it is Maldini who has the chance to add to a cabinet chock full of European medals.

If Rooney wants to silence those harbingers of doom predicting a troubled future, he might look back on this game and the efforts of Maldini, and decide that the way forward is to settle down and have quiet nights in for the next 20 years. Then again, maybe not.
 

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Keep it up aim :shades:
 

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Helena said:
Nice articles! Thanks aim!

Where is it from??
Hope to see you posting more often Helena :cool:
 

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Helena said:
Nice articles! Thanks aim!

Where is it from?? (the one about Il Capitano)

Thanks Diavolo :)
You are welcome Helena. The article is from Times. :thumbsup:
 

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The Family Men of Milan

I don't think this has been posted here, even though it's from earlier this month before the Man U games. I picked up the link from another site and enjoyed the article, as well as the conclusion. ;)

Carlo keeps it in the family

Kevin Buckley
Sunday March 6, 2005

Observer


'Ciao. You ready?' says Carlo Ancelotti as he plonks himself down on one of the large white sofas in the lounge next to the players' restaurant at Milanello, AC Milan's team retreat near the Swiss border. This is not the clean-shaven, lightly gelled matchday Ancelotti wearing the Dolce & Gabbana team suit and a slightly edgy expression. Instead, 'Carletto' has a day's stubble on more than a hint of a double chin, tousled greying hair, both hands stuffed deep into his pockets, at ease in a dark bomber jacket and grey cords. He has the appearance of a comfortable, successful 45-year-old relaxing at home.

No wonder. At this 'home' he is surrounded by a close footballing family that includes many former team-mates with whom he has worked, off and on, for nearly 20 years. Ancelotti played in the great AC Milan side who won the European Cup in 1989 and 1990 - the last team to win it two years running. Of those who lined up alongside Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten in those finals, eight are still on the staff at Milan. Six are coaching and two, Paolo Maldini and Alessandro 'Billy' Costacurta, still playing. Ancelotti reels off the names of those still in the family, using his fingers to count them. Franco Baresi coaches Milan's under-16 Primavera side, assisted by former defender Filippo Galli. Angelo Colombo heads the youth sector, Alberigo Evani coaches the under-13s. 'Then,' Ancelotti adds modestly, 'there's me.' And his assistant, Mauro Tassotti. Milan's 'family' theme even extends to Ancelotti's 15-year-old son Davide, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of foreign players. The youngster once embarrassed Papi in front of journalists by contradicting his denials about buying Jaap Stam, blurting out: 'But Papi, why don't you buy him, you're always talking about him.'

Davide is steadily progressing through Milan's youth system, and has graduated from Evani's under-13s to Baresi's Primaveras. 'It's his first year in the Primavera of a big team, and he's really happy,' says his proud father. 'They don't train here. He stays at a college near Milano during the week and then on Fridays comes home to Parma.' Could father find himself selecting son in Serie A in the future? 'It could happen,' says Ancelotti, laughing. 'It would be great for Davide, but I don't choose the promotions in the youth-team sector.'

As for the present youth is barely getting a look-in at Milan, where there are more over-30s than under-30s. Costacurta is 38, Maldini, seeking his fifth European champion's medal, is 36. One of Ancelotti's back-four options - Maldini-Costacurta-Nesta-Cafu - has the combined age of 136. Before last month's first leg in Manchester, many observers reduced the tie to 'United's young strikers versus Milan's old legs'. Yet the quality and timing of Maldini's interventions were awesome and his almost telepathic partnership with Costacurta was a great help in the closing minutes. How do they do it? 'Well, they have the advantage of their experience,' says Ancelotti. 'And they have the advantage of their [athletic] preparation. Each player does individualised training, working on specific features. This is much more advanced than even just five years ago.' The club have physios and computer programmes planning individualised weekly diets and training regimes in meticulous detail.

At Old Trafford, Brazilian defender Cafu stepped in for Stam, the victim of a muscle injury in the pre-match warm-up. 'Stam really wanted that match, psychologically, he really wanted to play,' says Ancelotti. 'But with a muscle problem there's nothing you can do.' Cafu lived up to his nickname, ' pendolino ' - commuter - constantly chugging back and forth along the right touchline, despite Ancelotti repeatedly yelling from the dug-out for him to stay back. 'He's very generous, very exuberant, sometimes too much so.' In the end the coach had to take him off and send on Costacurta 'to block that
side. Billy pushes up much less.' Milan are expected to see off Manchester United this week, but Ancelotti is adamant that the tie is not over yet. Rarely can a game plan have gone so well as in that single-goal win in the first leg, though. 'Yes, we succeeded in breaking up Manchester's usual game of building wave after wave of pressure until you crack.' The loss of Shevchenko to injury - the Ukrainian striker also misses Tuesday's match - meant Ancelotti played a single front-man, 'and our five-man midfield thwarted United's supply lines. They did have two good chances in the first half, though. But we have to forget about that match.'

There will be no complacency at the San Siro. 'Oh, no. I've come back from Manchester with a 1-1 before,' he says, recalling United's memorable 3-2 second-leg victory at Stadio delle Alpi when he was Juventus coach in 1999. He was sacked at Juve despite coming second twice in Serie A in consecutive seasons. 'At Juve that doesn't count. At Juve you have to win.' He is full of praise for Sir Alex Ferguson, 'someone I hold in high esteem'. 'For someone to be in the post for so long reflects well upon the club itself, and upon Mr Ferguson. Being there for 18 years means he's done great work. And he has had a lot of success. In Italy a coach who didn't win trophies straight away wouldn't survive.'

Ancelotti finished playing at Milan in 1992, coaching Reggiana, Parma and Juventus before returning to Milanello in 2001. In the meantime football had undergone the television revolution and the Champions League had mushroomed. Is the next step a fully fledged European league? 'It's already here, isn't it?' he says, that left eyebrow rising into a high arc for the first time, a nervous giveaway when he senses tricky questioning. In the most combative of Serie A press conferences it can stay raised for minutes on end. 'It seems we already have a European league, effectively. The Champions League is the most fascinating of the competitions in my opinion.' But it overshadows the domestic competitions. 'A little, yes, a little. But I don't think that their appeal will disappear.' He still favours having two European group stages to produce more matches between the biggest sides. 'But you'd have to reduce something elsewhere. It'd be necessary to have less games in the national leagues.' Another debate in Italy this season concerns saturation television coverage.

Many Serie A matches have been played in half-empty stadiums, and crowds are far lower than in Germany and England. One of the reasons is that every game is televised live. Given that Ancelotti's ultimate boss, the Milan president, is Silvio Berlusconi - who also happens to be Italy's prime minister and the country's leading media magnate - he is used to treading a fine line in the televisio -versus-empty-seats debate. 'I experienced football when there wasn't television,' he says. 'For someone like me, who grew up in a little town, it was difficult. All you saw was half an hour on television each week. Now you can see the big matches, English football, the Spanish championship.' Even Serie A players are complaining about the constant switches in kick-off times and suchlike. 'Yes, for a fan who goes to the stadium, certainly it can be a problem,' he says, 'but for the fan who stays at home it's a good thing.'

Any adverse effect upon attendances doesn't worry him. 'The big matches are always full - try and get a ticket for Milan-Manchester - and also in Serie A. Those matches that are, let's say, less attractive, the people prefer to watch on television. But the passion for football, the passion that the Italian fan has, will always be there.' Ancelotti thinks he saw the future of football in Manchester, and that could help fill the seats again. 'There's a different culture, the people go to the stadium earlier, they have tea, coffee, then after they stay for dinner. In Italy it doesn't happen because the stadiums aren't set up for it, there isn't the culture. People go to the match and go home. After the Manchester match I had to do a little detour to get to the press conference, and I saw the restaurant. It was absolutely packed. That's unheard of here. Manchester have the highest revenues in Europe, exactly because of this, making the stadium a place you can stay.' Looking beyond this week, Ancelotti is sticking with his prediction that a team beginning with 'm' will win the Champions League. 'Milan, Manchester, Munich, or Madrid,' he says. The bookmakers say it will be the family men of Milan.

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,5141554-102283,00.html
 

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Ruffian, I thought that maybe merging this gret post you sent :shades: with aim's would be a good idea :hopefull:
 

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Thanks, Diavolo. :) I'd completely forgotten that aim had opened this thread for us.
 

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Brilliant articles! :star: Thanks Aim. :) Keep it up! The Maldini article was special. :cool: Kudos to Rick Broadbent. :thumbsup:
 

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shoryuken said:
Yes, excellent articles, aim. Nice one friend! :smileani:
First Diavolessa Aim :stuckup: :devil: :stuckup:
 

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An old article on Rivera from Soccernet

Tales from the Rivera bank
Sunday, January 4, 2004
Roberto Gotta


Gianni Rivera saved my life.

That would make a hell of an opening sentence, but it would be a tabloid-truth, not an actual truth.

Let me just say Gianni Rivera did something, nearly 24 years ago, that increased my chances of seeing another dawn and being here now, whether it is a good thing or not.

It was May 6, 1979, and I had travelled from Alessandria, one hour southwest of Milano and by the way Rivera's birthplace, to the San Siro, for Milan's home game with Bologna, the last of their campaign: one point would have given the Rossoneri their tenth Scudetto and with it the much coveted Stella, the yellow star which permanently adorns the shirts of the clubs who have won ten Italian titles.

Typically for an Italian stadium - it still happens, making a mockery of all safety regulations - more people had been let in than the San Siro could hold, and a few thousand fans had overflowed into the lower section of the upper tier, which was cordoned off for safety reasons, as it was under renovation.

I was sitting in the lower tier, and had anything from above - people, bricks, tools - fallen down it would have landed right on my head.

The start of the game was delayed as Rivera, Milan captain and talisman, was handed a microphone and pleaded with the overflowed fans to retreat to safer areas. Most of them did, I breathed a sigh of relief, the game started and the most predictable draw in history - Bologna also needed a point to avoid relegation, so neither side broke sweat - was completed without much fuss.

You can still catch sight of Rivera holding a microphone these days, but in a completely different setting. Now 60 - hard to believe for those who have followed his career and seen him keep his boyish looks and gorgeous hairstyle - Rivera is the host of a popular TV talk show on Telelombardia, a regional Tv channel that originates from Milan but can be seen in most of Northern Italy.

But those who only know Rivera in his current guise or as a politician cannot even begin to understand the fascinating, controversial story of one of Italy's most talented footballers ever, one that certanly can only be summarily told here.

Rivera attracted a generation of fans to the game, which he played with grace, vision and an effortless poise that brought him as many raptured friends as enemies and inspired three books, two in the Sixties and one, Nato a Betlemme ('Born in Betlehem'... enough said), a couple of years ago.

Famously, legendary late sportwriter Gianni Brera dubbed him 'Abatino', one of Brera's many ingenious expressions, a term that literally means 'young abbot' but metaphorically placed Rivera in the cadre of players whose fine touch and languid style made them look as if they were not giving their best, and would have provoked the 'get stuck in!' treatment from the less sympathetic onlookers.

A prodigy with Alessandria, for whom he'd made his debut at 15 years, ten months of age on June 2, 1959, Rivera joined Milan in the summer of 1960 and duly went on the dominate the next two decades from his preferred position in the centre of midfield.

Sporting the legendary number 10 that still defines the archetypal brainy player in Italian football, Rivera led Milan to three Scudettos, four Italian Cups, two European Cups, two Cup Winners' Cups, one Intercontinental Cup.

He was named European Player of the Year in 1969, only a few months after Milan had been the last team to truly stop the progress of up-and-coming Ajax in the European Cup Final at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, and six years after the 3-1 Wembley triumph over Benfica in the same competition, when then 20-year old Rivera had been nicknamed 'The Golden Boy' by the British press.

His elegant style belied an outspoken personality which led him to clash with almost everyone who was someone in Italian football: he accused referees of being biased and of plotting Milan's downfall in a couple of Serie A campaigns, he famously hinted that by employing a libero - in that case, the late Inter skipper Armando Picchi - Italy were becoming too defensive and were giving up one man when playing against the world's top sides.

He openly criticized National team supervisor Walter Mandelli for leading a newspaper-inspired crusade against him during the 1970 World Cup at a time when, as he admitted a few months ago to monthly magazine Calcio 2000, he felt he was in one of the best shapes of his life: this perceived ostracism led to his exclusion from the final against Brazil after he'd scored the winning goal in the 4-3 semi-final thriller against West Germany.

The fact that team coach Ferruccio Valcareggi only sent him on with six minutes to play and Italy already down 3-1 deepened Rivera's bitterness. :wth: :mad:

Not only Rivera's, apparently: when the Azzurri arrived back to Italy after the final, they were expecting a warm welcome at the airport but found instead an angry crowd, disappointed with the meek surrender in the last game, and Rivera was the only one who not only escaped criticism.

He emerged as the misunderstood hero of the occasion, his benching against Brazil seen as the real reason for Italy's failure to trouble Brazil's rearguard. :stuckup:

Reports from that time give you the feeling his teammates were less than impressed by his popularity and by his tendency to heap praise on himself, but his cockiness was partially justified by his actions on the pitch and his achievements.

You watch footage from those years now and everyone seems slower than now, Rivera perhaps slower still and keeping the ball too much, but his forte was in spraying inspired passes around and always going forward, with a more than average eye for goal for a midfielder: he was the Serie A's joint top scorer in 1972-73 with 17 goals in a 30-match season, and ended his Milan career with 124 goals in 501 games.

Although Juventus and Inter were as popular as Milan during the Sixties and the Seventies, only Inter's Sandro Mazzola, whom Valcareggi had preferred to Rivera in Italy's starting XI againt Brazil in 1970, and perhaps Gigi Riva, the unstoppable Cagliari centre-forward, caught the public's imagination as much as Rivera did.

However, neither was as controversial as Rivera, Abatino and all, was, not least because he was also inspirational in helping support the fledgling Players' Union.

His transition from iconic footballer with good looks and an almost aristocratic poise to current TV personality has not been straightforward.

As far removed from the dumb-jock cliche as one can possibly be, Rivera retired from football after that 1979 Scudetto win and was given a vice-president's job, but Milan's fortunes immediately took a turn for the worse and after the 1979-80 season they were relegated by the Italian Football Federation for a betting scandal. :( :cry:

They again went down two years later, at the end of the 1981-82 season - this time because they were simply too poor - and after immediately gaining promotion back they were mediocre for a couple of campaigns until a Silvio Berlusconi purchased the club in 1986.

In the managerial and organizational shakeup that followed Berlusconi's arrival, Rivera was offered a far less influential role as chairman of the supporters' club but he turned it down and that was his last involvement with Milan.

He embarked on a political career which saw him elected to the Parliament for four consecutive terms, 1987 to 2001, in the ranks of the centre-left coalition, and he was under secretary of Defence (ironically, a facet he'd always been accused of neglecting, in football) for one term.

His political career stalled, he's nonetheless a sports consultant for the city of Rome and still a very popular figure: his name was put forward in many quarters last summer as a candidate for the chairmanship of the Italian Federation at a time when it was in shambles following the scandal of the invalid financial guarantees provided by some clubs and the legal battles which eventually saw the Serie B expanded to 24 clubs and Fiorentina hand-picked for a leap from the C1 to the B.

But his candidacy never got off the ground - Franco Carraro is still chairman - and it is believed opposition to him had come from Berlusconi's circle. Members of the ruling coalition still do not accept invitations to Rivera's talk show, on the grounds that they do not want to attract attention to someone who could be a popular candidate for Mayor of Milan against them.

This long-running but subdued feud between Berlusconi and Rivera has been a source of grief and split allegiances for many Milan fans who are grateful to Italy's current Prime Minister for saving the Rossoneri and helping them become again one of the world's top teams.

At the same time many cannot (and must not) forget - at least the older among them - that Rivera had propelled them there in the first place four decades ago.

It would take just one goodwill gesture to make things better, but the chances of Rivera's legendary number 10 shirt being retired - although not an Italian tradition - are not great at the moment, and this is sad however you look at it.
 

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Grande Genio :shades:
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Can fragile Milan recover?

Some players admit Ancelotti's team are mentally scarred by loss. Kevin Buckley reports from Milan

Sunday May 29, 2005
The Observer

In August 2003 , on a scalding afternoon at AC Milan's Milanello training complex, Carlo Ancelotti was still bathing in the afterglow of beating his former club Juventus to lift the 'big-eared' cup at Old Trafford three months previously.
Discussing the life of a top coach in modern football, he opined: 'At this level, the job of a coach isn't to work on a player's technique, his skills; he already has that. They arrive here already as top players. You have to work on their minds. It's primarily a job of psychology.'

After witnessing largely the same side suffer the footballing equivalent of a collective mental breakdown in last Wednesday night's final, he must now be fearing it will take a coach-load of psychologists to figure out what went on in his players' heads in Istanbul. And after spectacular meltdowns in two consecutive Champions League campaigns - they lost 4-0 at Deportivo La Coruña in last year's quarter-finals after arriving in Galicia with a 4-1 advantage - Milan may yet go the way of so many talented, but tortured, artists.

Yet before Istanbul it had been the physical state of Ancelotti's illustrious charges that had been worrying most observers, after an alarming drop in condition of almost his entire squad from April onwards. A 1-0 home defeat by Juventus effectively surrendered the title, then they twice lost an away lead at Lecce. Alarm bells sounded. The club blamed '10 games in 30 days'. Resting the regulars for their Serie A fixture preceding Istanbul had the desired affect. It was Liverpool who suffered cramp attacks in extra time. So elegantly stylish was Milan's first-half performance that the greatest surprise was that they held only a three-goal interval advantage. Then came the six minutes of madness.

As ever, midfielder Gennaro Gattuso didn't mix words at the airport when he told La Repubblica newspaper how the whole side had just 'frozen with fear' from the moment Steven Gerrard headed Liverpool's first goal. 'We had been totally dominant. We should never have give them the chance to stage a comeback. It's not the first time it's happened, which has to make us think and ask ourselves questions.'

Ancelotti appears still to be in denial on the nature of the deep crisis afflicting his team. Reminded of Deportivo and the two-goal advantage that evaporated in this season's semi-final at PSV Eindhoven, he replied: 'No, I don't think that the players are [mentally scarred] by those events. It wasn't a physical thing, or a mental thing. I don't know what it is. Strange things happen.'

Asked why he hadn't tried to interrupt the collapse in Istanbul with a substitution, he sounded like a witness to a road traffic accident: 'There just wasn't time. Everything happened so quickly.' He seemed to confirm Gattuso's comments when he admitted that the curious lack of protest by Andrea Pirlo over Liverpool goalkeeper Dudek's flagrant breach of the rules to stop Milan's second penalty was 'probably down to the shock. He was just still so taken up with what had happened.' The ever-honest Italy midfielder was more blunt. Gattuso admitted: 'From this kind of blow there's the risk that we will just never recover. Including myself.' Broken minds sometimes never do.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Great Rivera UEFA Interview fresh out of scanner:


Golden Days

Italian great Gianni Rivera has always seen the things his wayas William Gaillard, UEFA communication director, finds when he meets the artist formerly known as Golden Boy.


La classe a l'etatpur, read the headline in France Football on the day the magazine awarded the Bailon d'Or to Gianni Rivera in December 1969, Pure class. Rivera had just captained Milan to a second victory in the European Cup, following their Wembleysuccess of1963. It was a Golden Ball for a Golden Boy, Rivera having been nicknamed il Bambino d'Om after that first triumph.

Born in 1943 in Alessandria, a Piedmontese town between Turin and Milan, Rivera has always represented the other side ofItalian football, the side most critical ofItaly's football establishment.

"My mother was the daughter of a restaurant owner and my father had been a farmer, who worked as a blacksmith for the railways in order to avoid going back to work in the fields," he recalls with a smile.
Rivera came from a Catholic family and began playing football at the Oratorio, the

local church playground. He played his youth football with Alessandria, at that time a Serie A club, making his first-team debut at 16 before moving to Milan the year after.

Italian football was ruled by catenaccio. Its theoretician was Inter coach Helenio Herrera. It bred a defensive style of football based on man-to-man defence coupled with a libero behind the line of defence.

"Milan also played with a libero, but our style was much more open than Inter's. We were more refined, more offensive-minded," Rivera recalls. "Our victory at Wembley in 1963 caught Italy by surprise. Milan were not part of the ,mafia-like structure that ruled Italian football at that time. Inter were very much favoured by the powers that be, the journalists in partiClilar. Juventus were in a class of their own, under the powerful stewardship of the Agnelli family. Milan were more or less forgotten by the people who ruled Italian football.
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"In the following years, a kind ofbalance prevailed for a short while with the owners of Milan, Inter, Bologna, Fiorentina and Roma playing the role of a counterweight to the might of the Agnellis. It all ended in the 1970s when Juve definitely took over," he adds.

"In the 1960s, Italy's football was controlled by the press. Journalists were able to determine club policy. It was said that no club hired a coach without first consulting with Gualtiero Zanetti, the editor of La Gazzetta dello Sport. It is perhaps an exaggeration, but I don't think it is far from the truth.

"This situation reached its apex with the 1962 World Cup in Chile. The technical boss of the team was the president of a small club, Paolo Mazza from SPAL Ferrara, surrounded by a coterie of journalists. We had drawn 0-0 with West Germany, another draw with Chile would have opened up the next round for Italy. Mazza and his 'rocket scientists' decided six of us needed a rest and revolutionised the team."

Rivera almost laughs as he recalls Italy's 2-0 defeat. "The crowd was ferocious because the Italian press had disparaged the cleanliness of Santiago. The referee, an Englishman called Ken Aston, did everything to make sure the hosts got to the next round. Total disaster."

Anyone who saw Rivera play between 1959 and 1979 would remember him as a symbol of football elegance. He had the qualities, such as technical excellence and vision, that make the difference between a good player and an exceptional one.:star: The author can remember to this day the elegant dribble, the velvety touch, the lightness of the run.

Gianni Brera, who dominated Italian football journalism for four decades, wrote that Rivera "could not suddenly accelerate, he would increase speed progressively and moderately, and without carrying the ball for a long time he would suddenly receive some instant inspiration and get rid of the ball before anyone could tackle him, He was more of an artist than an athlete."


(part I)
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Aldo Maldera, his team-mate at Milan, once said that Rivera told him, "When I have the ball, even if I am not looking at you, just run straight forward and you'll find the ball right in front of you." Most of the time, says Maldera, the ball was there.

Brera and Rivera did not always get along, "probably because I usually answered his criticism," Rivera says today. Brera nicknamed Rivera l'abatino, the small abbot. "At first, it was a nickname given to three of us, Giacomo Bulgarelli, Sandro Mazzola and me at the beginning of our careers with the national team," Rivera explains. "We looked rather lean, thin, fragile. Football players did not do body building at that time!"

Brera once defined an abatino as a "fragile and elegant little man, so stylish that he may appear affected and even fake." He advocated a defensive, opportunistic brand of football that he contended fitted the Italian character. Rivera always disagreed with Brera and argued that the technical qualities and talent of the Italians deserved a better tactical approach. Ironically, towards the end of his life, in 1992, Brera wrote an article praising Rivera entitled "Bring back my abatino!"

In 1970, Rivera emerged as the hero ofthe World Cup semi-final against West Germany..He scored Italy's fourth goal in extra time in a 4-3 victory. The world was enthralled by his talent, so he was astonished to find the next day that he was not in the line-up for the final against Peles Brazil.

That tournament was the first time when substitutions were allowed and Rivera came on six minutes before the end with Italy trailing Brazil 3-1. The head of the Italian delegation was an industrialist, Walter Mandelli, and under his influence coach Ferruccio Valcareggi developed a weird theory that Gianni Rivera and Sandro Mazzola could not play together. Rivera is convinced to this day that excluding him from the final was a political decision by the mafia that ruled Italian football.

"It was a total technical nonsense. We had played together, well, many times before. Valcareggi, who was a nice bloke, invented it to survive under the influence of the journalistic mafia that did not want me in the team. It had been decided I would not play in the final because I did not 'recognise' the ruling mafia. I was onsidered a free spirit and therefore dangerous."

In the 1960s and 1970s, Italian football enjoyed a more competitive balance than it does today. Juventus, Inter and Milan were dominant, but clubs like Bologna, Fiorentina, Torino, Cagliari, Roma, Lazio and Napoli all perennially challenged for honours.

"Money was important, but it was in no way comparable to to day's situation," says Rivera. "The gap between the rich and the not so rich has widened dramatically. No one is interested in reducing that gap. The powers that be like the status quo."

Rivera is worried and angry about Italian football: "Fewer and fewer people are going to the stadium on Sunday. The facilities in Italy are below European standards. We had a chance with World Cup 90 to rebuild our stadiums. It was completely wasted. Billions were spent scandalously.

"I believe that we should think realistically without putting salami slices in front of our eyes. Man created football 150 years ago, he could also kill it. There is too much television today. And too much TV money. Clubs need to rediscover their roots, people need to go back to the stadium. We must strike a balance between sporting interest and money. Clubs should stop spending more than they earn and mortgaging the future. Football needs a basic economic culture and not government decrees exempting it from economic reality."

(Part II)
 
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