AC Milan Legends: Franco Baresi
Franco Baresi was the definition of Il Capitano and played for just one club in his twenty-year career for the Rossoneri during which they enjoyed considerable success.
Known for his no-nonsense defending as a sweeper, the Brescia native came through from the fabled Primavera side and made his first-team debut in April 1978, playing the entire ninety minutes in their 2-1 away win at Hellas Verona. The following year saw him win his first Scudetto in his first full season, which coincidentally was the last for the legendary Gianni Rivera.
His loyalty was immensely defined by his decision to remain in the San Siro in their dark ages, during which he had to endure two relegations to the Serie B in the 1980s. In 1982, he was named as the 39th club captain, following the departure of Fulvio Collovati.
As such, Baresi lifted the first trophy wearing the armband, as Milan won the Serie B title in 1983 for an immediate return to Serie A. Five years later, he won the first scudetto as the captain, kickstarting the Milan dynasty into the new era.
It was also in his career that he had memorable moments in the Milan derby, with his older brother Giuseppe captaining AC Milan’s bitter rivals Internazionale where they were seen leading out their teams at the San Siro tunnel.
Overall, he raised 16 trophies as Milan skipper, the most in club history. That included five Serie A titles and three European Cups.
Baresi formed alongside Alessandro Costacurta, Paolo Maldini and Mauro Tassotti one of football’s most feared backline, as it supplemented the attacking prowess that the Dutch trio of Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard which constituted the Berlusconi era at the San Siro, where they were managed by Arrigo Sacchi and then Fabio Capello.
Internationally, he wore the Azzurri shirt 81 times, and had completed his set of World Cup medals apart from his 1982 winner’s medal (albeit not featured in all their matches), finishing third in their hosting in 1990, and his runner-up finish in 1994 when he missed a penalty in their shootout defeat to Brazil in the final.
He retired in 1997, having played a total of 719 matches (532 in both Serie A and B), scoring 33 goals in all competitions. With his loyalty to the club, Milan retired his number 6 shirt, which was the first in the club’s history. Baresi was succeeded by Paolo Maldini as Milan’s captain.