In the wake of Gazzetta dello Sport coming out with their top 20 Italian players of all time, discussing the top Milan players of all time is always interesting considering all the superstars and legends that have come through the club. I should note that I am only ranking the players that played their best years at the club, so players like Roberto Baggio or Ronaldinho will get honorable mentions, but will not make the list. Few ever agree on a top 10 list, so I’ll do my best based on my opinions and everyone can judge for themselves.
10. – Andrea Pirlo – Graceful, silky, smooth, calm; Andrea Pirlo at his best was arguably the most enjoyable player to watch in the world during his best days. Winning 2 Champions League titles, not to mention a World Cup title with gli Azzurri as well, during his 10 years at Milan have cemented Pirlo’s legacy in the history of the club.
9. – Ricardo Kaká – His ridiculous speed, elusiveness and darting runs straight up the middle of the pitch tormented defenders. One of the fastest players I have ever, personally, witnessed, the Brazilian was Milan’s best player in the club’s run in 2007 to Champions League glory, capping it off by deservedly winning the 2007 Ballon d’Or. Kaka is the last player other than Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to win the award.
8. – Ruud Gullit – A member of some of the greatest club teams ever assembled, Gullit won the Ballon d’Or in 1987 rocking his iconic dreadlocks. The Milan teams of the 1990s are some of the most legendary groups of players to walk on a pitch together. You could argue all of them be in the top 10.
7. – Andriy Shevchenko – Goals, goals, goals. “Sheva” knew how to score and he did it a lot at Milan. With 127 goals in 208 appearances during his best days at Milan, he was the main man up top during the 2003 Champions League win.
6. – Alessandro Costacurta – Part of a long, laundry list of absolute legendary center-backs to grace the red & black shirt, Costacurta, honestly, is probably massively underrated simply because so many amazing defenders have played with the Rossoneri. Costacurta is part of the generation that would cut CR7’s or Messi’s goal totals in half.
5. – Gunnar Nordahl – This is the original Zlatan Ibrahimovic, except he was 10 times better. The (not so) big Swede scored goals for fun in the 1950s. 210 goals in 257 appearances at Milan is just incredible no matter what time period you’re talking about.
4. – Marco van Basten – You thought Milan was all about defense, didn’t you? Well, we got even more goals. After getting bored hitting the back of the net so much at Ajax, van Basten came to Milan and continued his excellence. Some of Milan’s current strikers could use some advice from him.
3. – Franco Baresi – This man does not even need a caption. Baresi is the definition of a defender. He was a brick wall and a one club man, playing his entire glorious career for the Rossoneri. A loyal and legendary footballer. Priceless.
2. – Gianni Rivera – A creative midfielder that can score; there’s nothing more valuable than that, in my opinion. Rivera won the Ballon d’Or in 1969 and has a very strong case for being the best Italian player ever.
1. – Paolo Maldini – There really was no question. If the club were to be summarized in one word, it would be “Maldini”. 25 incredible years winning five Champions League trophies. The captain of captains. I would argue, the greatest defender ever to play the sport.
Hopefully, you agree with at least some of what I said. Unfortunately, a top 10 list is limited to just ten names. There are still so many players I left out that are worthy of the top 10. Who makes your list?