Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Best team in a lifetime

The Catalan love-in was in full flow long before the Arsene Wenger inspired 'sting in the tail' hit reigning Spanish champions, Barcelona tonight.

Their performance over the first hour of their Champions League 2nd round tie at the Emirates Stadium was oozing class, confidence and compusure.... But lacked the clinical finish that would surely have had the game out of The Gunners' reach. Guilt edged chances went begging before Robin Van Persie and Andrei Arshavin earned Arsenal an undeserved victory.

Their brilliance though, had Facebook and Twitter accounts around the world buzzing with praise and adulations for the 'best team in Europe'. An unbelievable amount of social networkers were (in agreement with Australian TV commentator Robbie Mustoe) convinced that this Barcelona side is the BEST club side that the world has ever seen.

I beg to differ.

I was fortunate to be learning the art of football when BBC's Sportsnight was a regular fixture on a Wednesday night and Steve Ryder brought us the wonderful 2D images of the best team that I've ever seen.

AC Milan had everything. They were tactically drilled by the best in the game. A youthful Fabio Capello followed on from the good work of compatriot Arrigo Sacchi and Milan were ALWAYS exponents of a 4-4-2 system. They were as lock-tight in defence as they were prolific going forward.

Sebastiano Rossi was a solid if unspectacular custodian that was fortunate enough to play behind a defence consisting of two of the all time great defenders. Paulo Maldini was actually young during Milan's first era of modern day dominance and he was a full back partner of Mauro Tassotti and latterly Cristian Panucci, both of whom were very accomplished. Il Capitano, Franco Baresi was peerless in the centre of defence alongside the ever reliable Alessandro Costacurta.

The midfield engine room was dominated by Frank Rijkaard, one of only three permitted foreign stars at that particular time in Italy and whilst he dominated things, the dictation was directed by Dimitrio Albertini, a superb one touch holding midfielder that allowed his partner to link up with the more attacking elements of the side.

The wide positions were filled by the workmanlike, but highly effective Roberto Donadoni on the right hand side and either Alberigo Evani or the more forward thinking Marco Simone on the left.

The Milan side were solid and almost impossible to break down. But to be a great side, you need something special at the business end of the pitch. Milan had Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten. The Dutch superstars had a telepathic understanding and whilst Gullit was as good as any second striker that the last thirty years has seen, his partner was even better as an out and out goalscorer and leader of a line. Quite simply, the best centre forward I've seen and only injury forced his career to fall short of what could have been the most outstanding European record in the history of the game.

It is my belief that Barcelona will probably go on to win this year's Champions League.....but in comparison to the Milan side of the late 1980's and early 1990's....they still fall a touch short.

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