Milan bank on Brazilian trinity
Fashion, opera and design endear Milan to the world. Coincidentally, the city's biggest football club owes much of its allure and success to foreign triumvirates.
Swedes Nils Liedholm, Gunnar Gren and Gunnar Nordahl arrived at the San Siro in 1949, and their legendary unity helped AC Milan end a 44-year wait for a trophy and enjoy what remains one of the most profitable periods in their decorated history. Almost 40 years later, Dutchmen Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten rescued i Rossoneri from another spell of asperity and transformed them into one of the most formidable club sides of all time.
Now, after finishing the 2007/08 season fifth in Serie A, consequently missing out on a UEFA Champions League place, AC Milan are entrusting a trio of esteemed Brazilians with denying arch-rivals Inter Milan a fourth straight league title. And confidence abounds among supporters of Carlo Ancelotti's team that, with Ronaldinho complimenting his Seleção colleagues Kaka and Alexandre Pato, they can do just that.
The three players are at contrasting junctures in their careers. Pato, 19 next week, will be out to evolve into what his potential suggests he can: one of the finest forwards since the turn of the century. Kaka, 26 and the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year, will strive to maintain his immaculate pomp, while Ronaldinho will attempt to rediscover the form which made him one of the finest players of the modern era.
The consensus among the Milan fans is that the 28-year-old can; that he lost his way rather than his rare capacity to swing matches towards the end of his exceptional service to Barcelona. "," proclaimed Pato. "With him and Kaka here, I feel we can win the scudetto."
Kaka dispels the notion that he and Ronaldinho have failed to form an effective tandem for Brazil. "At the 2006 World Cup we didn't do well together for different reasons," he admitted. "But on other occasions we have proved we can play well together. I firmly believe that we will be even better with Pato. The three of us could be really effective together."
The Milan followers certainly share his enthusiasm, turning up in their droves to watch the squad train, waving Brazilian flags with the names of Kaka, Ronaldinho and Pato adorning their red-and-black striped jerseys. It is astounding to think they watched their team stumble home 21 points behind Inter in last term's title race.
The optimism that is sweeping the club is largely indebted to the arrival of Ronaldinho. Rivaldo, a former AC Milan player, is certainly convinced that his 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™-winning team-mate will be a big hit in Italy. "Ronaldinho will do extraordinary things at Milan. He is only 28 and is a great champion," he told La Gazzetta Dello Sport. "He won't have any trouble adapting to Serie A and he will get back to his best at the San Siro."
There, Milan will begin their quest for a first league title since 2004 against Bologna on Sunday. "I am ready and I want to play against Bologna," said Ronaldinho, who believes he will be flashing his iconic smile in Florence on the final day of the season. "."
The halcyon years of the Gre-No-Li and Oranje trinities may be a distant memory, but if Kaka, Ronaldinho and Pato can co-exist to their towering potential, the decorated story of AC Milan could be set to embark on another stunning chapter.