While the AC Milan-Roma fixture may not enjoy the status of a derby, it remains one of Italian football’s classic rivalries. The two meet for the 151st time this weekend, when the mutual antipathy that exists between the northern city and the nation’s capital, the gateway to the south, will once again ensure there is no love lost on the pitch.
In terms of trophies, AC Milan hold the upper hand, having won 17 league championships and five Coppa di Italia to Roma’s three scudetti and nine national cups, a competition record. The gap between the two sides is even greater when international silverware is taken into consideration.
Milan’s trophy cabinet features one FIFA Club World Cup, three Intercontinental Cups, seven European Cup/UEFA Champions League trophies and two European Cup Winners’ Cups. Meanwhile I Giallorossi have just a Fairs Cup success to their name, achieved in 1961, though they have finished European Cup and UEFA Cup runners-up, each on one occasion.
It goes without saying that the passion generated by the rivalry lacks the intensity of the Milan derby or its Rome counterpart. What gives it a special edge, however, is the fierce competition between the cities the two clubs represent: Rome, the administrative capital of Italy, and Milan, the country’s financial capital.
Facts and figures
I Rossoneri have a clear advantage in the head-to-head, winning 69 of the 150 league matches the two have contested, drawing 44 and losing 37. The northerners even have the edge at the Stadio Olimpico with 26 wins, 27 draws and 22 defeats in 75 meetings there. Yet while AC Milan have recorded the biggest win to date in the fixture, 6-2 on 28 May 1950, the Roman side can point to the most dramatic comeback, recovering from 4-1 down just after half-time to draw 4-4 on 27 January 1935.
Where Milan cannot match their Roman rivals is in the number of Italian players who have won the FIFA World Cup™ while playing for them. While I Giallorossi have had 11 Nazionale world champions in their ranks over the years, from Attilio Ferraris IV (1934) to Bruno Conti (1982) and Francesco Totti (2006), Milan can only count on eight, including Pietro Arcari (1934), Franco Baresi (1982) and their Germany 2006-winning quintet of Gennaro Gattuso, Alberto Gilardino, Filippo Inzaghi, Alessandro Nesta and Andrea Pirlo.
Many are the great players who have run out for these two giants of the Italian scene. Leading the way for Milan is the peerless Paolo Maldini, who made 902 appearances for the club and 126 for Italy between 1984 and 2009. Also taking their place in the Rossoneri pantheon are Gianni Rivera, Franco Baresi, Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, George Weah, Andriy Shevchenko and Kaka, while Gattuso, Nesta and Clarence Seedorf are still representing the club with pride, all of them having helped pen some of the most glorious chapters in its story of sustained success.
Agostino di Bartolomei, Falcao, Pietro Vierchowod, Roberto Pruzzo, Bruno Conti, Gabriel Batistuta, current coach Vincenzo Montella and Marco Delvecchio are just some of the stars who have performed with distinction for Roma over the years. However, pride of place must surely go to Francesco Totti, a Roman born and bred and the greatest player in Giallorossi history.
Like his erstwhile international team-mate Maldini, Totti is a member of the dwindling band of players who have devoted their careers to just one club. In 607 matches for his beloved Roma since 1993, the feisty playmaker has carried his team time and time again, becoming the club’s highest Serie A scorer of all time with 206 goals, making him the fifth leading marksman in Italian league history. A fierce competitor, Totti will be intent on showing Milan on Saturday that his scoring days are not yet behind him.
Another famous figure in Milan history is current owner and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. A lifelong fan who made many a trip to the San Siro with his father Luigi during his childhood years, Berlusconi bought the club on 20 February 1986 and triggered a renaissance in Milan fortunes. Following on from the golden years of the 1950s, illuminated by the Swedish trio of Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm (collectively known as Gre-No-Li), and the unforgettable achievements of coach Nereo Rocco in the 60s, Berlusconi brought in the no-less successful Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti, both of whom took the club to the top in Italy and Europe.
Roma had a legendary president of their own in Franco Sensi, who died in 2008 and was succeeded by his daughter Rosella, who made light of an increasing lack of resources to keep the club in the upper echelons of Serie A. Roma were taken over on 15 April by Italian-American businessman Thomas di Benedetto, who in becoming the institution’s 21st president, said: “Roma is a princess and we are going to make her a queen.”
The rivalry today
Berlusconi has entrusted the task of restoring Milan to the pinnacle of Italian football to 43-year-old coach Massimiliano Allegri, who has so far managed a star-studded squad with aplomb. Opposite number Montella is seven years his junior but knows everything there is to know about Roma. A league champion with the club in 2001, Montella was appointed to the job only in February and advocates an attacking style of football.
This weekend’s meeting in the Italian capital promises to be a very special occasion. Allegri’s men are heading south in search of the point they need to become league champions for the 18th time, while Roma will be doing everything in their power to stop them and secure the points they need to keep their late push for a UEFA Champions League place on track.