Milan is not just a fashion capital, it is also a city of football. While Fashion Week fans have another two weeks or so to wait, there was a derby in the Northern Italian city last Saturday. The winners were our opponents on Tuesday 6 September, AC Milan - one of the traditional giants in European football. Plenty of reason to take a closer look at the Italians:
An Italian Hollywood
The history of the Lombards goes back to the end of the 19th century and their foundation as a football and cricket club. It is story full of glory and glamour, and a few big scandals along the way too.
AC Milan won their first European championship in 1963, and from then on, they have been greats of the continent's football scene. Their run of success was suddenly halted in 1980, when a betting scandal saw them forcibly relegated to Serie B. Promotion back to the top flight immediately followed, bringing the glory back to Northern Italy. They now have seven European titles to their name, and 19 Italian championships.
Big names from the past
AC Milan have been known for generations for their great playing names such as Kaka, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, David Beckham, Paolo Maldini and Andriy Shevchenko. Along with their numerous successes, the Italians are known for their legendary 2005 Champions League final defeat against Liverpool after leading 3-0 at half-time. The location of that final was Istanbul - where this season's final will also be played.
Lean years are over
The past decade has not been a happy one at the club known for its constant success. The 2021/22 league title finally ended an 11-year barren run with no titles. Milan have been made to sweat during that time for spots in European competitions, and once in recent years even finished a season down in 11th. The Scudetto and the excitement are now back, however!
The turbulence of recent years has been reflected in the boardroom. The best-known figure at that level was former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was a majority owner between 1986 and 2017 - overseeing a huge chunk of the club's history. In 2017 a Chinese consortium of investors acquired Berlusconi's shares, and then sold them to an American hedge fund a year later. American private equity company RedBird bought a controlling stake this summer.
A temple to be no more
The home of AC Milan is the legendary Giuseppe Meazza stadium, named after a former Inter legend - and therefore known among Milan fans mostly as the San Siro, due to the name of the district it is located in. Whatever you call it, it won't be around much longer. It is due to be demolished in 2026, with the two Milan clubs moving to a new stadium going by the lofty name The Cathedral.
Zlataning their way to the title
AC Milan have plenty to offer on the pitch at the moment. Superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic said in a dressing room talk that went viral after their title win in May: "Plenty doubted us, plenty laughed at us, and we are now champions." The cult striker is out injured at the moment, unfortunately, and will not be able to appear against us.
The fine Italian style
AC Milan have a lot more about them than just Ibrahimovic. I Rossoneri usually start under coach Stefano Pioli in a 4-2-3-1 system with 2018 World Cup Winner Olivier Giroud leading the attacking line. Theo Hernandez and top youngster Rafael Leao are other glittering names to look out for. It's well known that Italian teams have a particular focus on the defence. Intensive pressing is a bit unusual in Italy, which may allow us to offer an element of surprise.
The backstory is all well and good, but matters nothing compared to what transpires on the pitch. We are looking forward to a sold-out stadium, a great game of football and a top European side in the Red Bull Arena. If you are lucky enough to have a ticket, you can find out all the information you need on coming to the stadium in our match day info.
Anyone who has time tomorrow afternoon should come along to our UEFA Youth League match in Grödig (kick-off 15:00 CET).