AC Milan is one of the most prestigious clubs in Europe with continent-wide titles won left and right throughout its history. The club is also one of the wealthiest, and is able to retain some of the biggest names in the sport. Because of that, there have been some all-time greats to make their way through the ranks, but which of them are truly the best?
Today, we’ll reveal our top five players in AC Milan’s history. Before we start the list, some of the players who just missed the cut include Gianni Rivera, Mauro Tassott, Massimo Ambrosini, and Gennaro Gattuso.
Gunnar Nordahl was born in Sweden and began his football career in his home country during the mid-1930s with Hornefors IF where he’d spend the rest of the decade. Nordahl then made his way to Degerfors IF and IFK Norrkoping during the 1940s, but wrapped up the decade with AC Milan where he spent the next seven years.
Nordahl holds just about every scoring record in AC Milan history, including career goals with 221. At the time, almost all of his matches were in league play, making it doubly impressive, and he only needed seven years to set that record. Nordahl had just 257 league matches and scored 210 times in those games.
Travagliato native Franco Baresi was a defenseman who spent his entire playing career with AC Milan. He joined the two-decade club in the same year of his retirement (1997) after coming up with the club’s youth program throughout the 1970s. Baresi went into management after retiring, though he would end up retiring from coaching in the mid-2000s and has been enjoying the quiet life ever since.
Baresi is second all-time in matches played for AC Milan with 719, and 532 of those were in league play. Though he doesn’t hold any scoring records due to being a defender, Baresi was still able to score 16 times. Baresi won Serie A six times as a member of AC Milan and won the UEFA Champions League another three times.
Another member of the list to hail from the Netherlands, Ruud Gullit started his professional career with HFC Haarlem in the late 1970s. After spending time with Feyenoord and PSV throughout much of the 1980s, Gullit made his way to AC Milan where he played more matches than with any other squad, and his tenure ran from 1987 until 1994. He then wrapped up with Sampdoria and Chelsea in the 1990s before becoming a manager.
Gullit is one of a handful of players to win the Ballon d’Or Trophy as a member of AC Milan, doing so in 1987. He was also named World Soccer Player of the Year twice during that time and netted 38 goals during his 125 league appearances. Gullit helped AC Milan win Serie A three times, as well as the Supercoppa Italiana twice.
Marco van Basten
Dutchman Marco van Basten spent time with several youth programs growing up before making his way to Ajax in 1981 where he made his professional debut. Van Basten made over 130 appearances with the squad during the decade before he wrapped up his career with AC Milan, spending seven years there before retiring in 1995 and getting into the managerial side of things.
Van Basten is the only man on the list to win the Ballon d’Or multiple times while a member of Inter Milan. He won the award in back-to-back years in 1988 and 1989, then added his third in 1992. Van Basten won Serie A three times with AC Milan as well as the Supercoppa Italia twice (1988 and 1992) and is seventh all-time in club history with 125 goals. What’s most impressive is that van Basten did it far fewer matches than most other members toward the top of the list.
The other member on the list outside of Franco Baresi to play his entire professional career with AC Milan is local hero Paolo Maldini. He started with the youth program in 1978 and after six years he was brought up to the senior club. Maldini stuck around with the club for a quarter-century, and the defender makes the cut as the top player in AC Milan’s illustrious history.
Maldini holds the record for most matches played as a member of AC Milan with over 900, putting him nearly 200 ahead of any other player. Of those, 647 of them were league matches, and he won a long list of honours. This includes seven Serie A titles, a Coppa Italia, and three Supercoppa Italianas. Maldini won the 2003 Ballon d’Or Trophy, too, as the world’s top player of the year.