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Best AC Milan defenders of all time

Wednesday16 December 2020 | 8:30
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Who are the best defenders in AC Milan history? Who have been able to earn a special place in the hearts of I Rossoneri? Follow us below as we take brief look at the careers of some of the all-time best defenders at AC Milan.

Associazione Calcio Milan, you probably know the club by

AC Milan

, or simply Milan, as who could not know about one of the most decorated clubs in both Italy and Europe? As one of the historically richest clubs in the world, Milan have won some serious trophies throughout their 121 years of history, winning the UEFA Champions League an outstanding seven times, being only behind Real Madrid.

Of course reaching such heights both domestically and internationally would not have been possible if it were not for the players putting all of they had into their game to create moments to be remembered for ages. While forwards and midfielders are always of great importance in a game (obviously), it is the defenders who hold back the opposition and help the goalkeeper keep a clean sheet.

The Rossoneri have had their fair share of famous world-class and iconic defenders over the years, which is why we have decided to take a trip down memory lane and remember some of the

best AC Milan defenders of all time

. But before we get to see who has made the list, we should take a look at the trophies Milan defenders have helped the club achieve over the years. Here is a full list of trophies the Rossoneri have won:

Milan have won 7

Champions League

trophies (3 UCLs and 4 European Champion Clubs’ Cup), 18 Scudettos, 5 Coppa Italia trophies, 1 FIFA Club World Cup, 7 SuperCoppa Italiana titles, 3 Intercontinental Cups, 5 UEFA Super Cups, 2 Cup Winners’ Cup and 2 Serie B Championships. Now that we have had a more in-depth look at their trophies, let us see who the best ever AC Milan defenders are.

All-time best AC Milan defendersBest AC Milan Defenders ever

For your convenience, we have prepared a shortlist of everyone mentioned on the list of

best AC Milan defenders ever. Which of these players are your favorite? Who do you think best helped the club?

  • Christian Panucci

  • Cafu

  • Jaap Stam

  • Alessandro Nesta

  • Mauro Tassotti

  • Cesare Maldini

  • Giovanni Trapattoni

  • Alessandro Costacurta

  • Franco Baresi

  • Paolo Maldini

Now that we know who is on the shortlist, let us have a more in-depth look at the lives and careers of some of the best AC Milan defenders of all time.

Christian Panucci

Back when everything was simpler, some players had the habit of joining Italian clubs such as Inter or AC Milan to hone their skills and become the best around, only to finally switch clubs and move to Real Madrid or Barcelona to spend their prime years in La Liga. Christian Panucci, one of the best AC Milan defenders of all time was a part of this group as well, as he first began his career at

Genoa

and later joined AC Milan to prove his worth.

In fact, that is exactly what he did as he became a regular starter despite being a backup plan for the main defensive lineup of Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta, Mauro Tassotti and Franco Baresi. The Italian right-back spent four seasons with the Rossoneri, but despite his relatively short spell, he managed to become one of the

best defenders in AC Milan history

, helping his club win the Champions League in the 1993/94 season, as well as two Scudettos, the Italian Super Cup and the UEFA Super Cup as well.

Panucci was not only one of the best AC Milan defenders of all time, but was also one of the best right-backs of his generation, as he went on to spend the rest of his career at clubs such as

Real Madrid

, AS Roma, Monaco, Inter Milan, Chelsea and Parma. The former Italy international also got to manage several clubs, including Albania national team after his retirement from football as a player.

Cafu

When it comes to accomplished defenders, few could reach heights of the Brazilian legendary right-back Cafu, who has quite a full trophy cabinet thanks to his successful years both in Brazil and in Italy, where he got to win the most prestigious trophies known to man. Having played for Sao Paulo and Palmeiras in Brazil and

Real Zaragoza

in Spain, Cafu decided to take on new challenges elsewhere and moved to

AS Roma

, where he spent six years before joining AC Milan in 2003.

Now you do not get to be named as one of the

best ever AC Milan defenders

for just playing good, as the Rossoneri have had quite legendary defensive lines over the years, whose names echo through the football halls of fame. The Brazilian right-back is not only one of best AC Milan defenders of all time, he is also considered to be one of the best defenders in the history of football thanks to his immense defensive abilities which helped both his club and country to winning several prestigious trophies, including the Champions League and the World Cup.

Cafu stayed at Milan until 2008 and made a total of 166 appearances for the Rossoneri, as he finally decided to officially hang up his boots in 2009 after winning literally everything there was to win for a football player, with several league titles, domestic cups and super cups, European cups and most important of all, the World Cup, which he won on two occasions, once in 1994 and once in 2002.

Jaap Stam

While many Americans might know Jaap Stam for his managerial role at FC Cincinnati in the MLS, Europeans and the rest of the world, specially Milan fans, know him as one of the

all-time best AC Milan defenders

, despite spending a mere two seasons at the club. Netherlands is one of those countries that usually raises special talents in football, especially when it comes to raising defenders, of which current 

Liverpool

center-back, Virgil van Dijk, is a prime example.

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Stam did not get to be one of the best AC Milan defenders of all time overnight, as he helped solidify the back-four of the Rossoneri with his tall stature that proved highly useful when it came to aerial battles and duels. While he was unable to get his hands on the Champions League trophy during his time at Milan after a defeat against Liverpool in a penalty shootout in the final, he did at least help his team win the Italian Super Cup in the 2004/05 season.

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Alessandro Nesta

Next on our list of

best AC Milan defenders of all time

is Alessandro Nesta, who carries a special place in the hearts of every Italy and Milan fan. Considered to be one of the best defenders of his generation and the history of football, Nesta in fact began his career at

Lazio

and spent nine years The Eagles before finally moving to San Siro in 2002.  He was a part of Milan’s golden age of football, when they dominated both Italy and Europe, winning several trophies, including two Champions League titles in the 2000s.

Not only did the Italian center-back get to dominate club football as one of the all-time best defenders at AC Milan, he also got to dominate the world by winning the 2006 World Cup with

Italy

in the penalty shootouts against a “Zidane-less” France who certainly missed their superstar after he got controversially sent off for head-butting Marco Materazzi. Overall, the iconic center-back managed to make 326 appearances for AC Milan before finally moving to the US, then taking a career break and finally retiring officially in 2015 at the age of 39.

Mauro Tassotti

The current

Ukraine

national team assistant manager is also one of the players who began their career somewhere else, as he too started his journey with Lazio, but joined the Rossoneri much quicker and did not spend almost a decade with The Eagles like Nesta. Tassotti is one of those players who have undoubtedly earned their place on the list of

best AC Milan defenders ever

, as he actually spent an amazing 17 years of his life with the Red and Blacks after switching clubs in 1980.

The Italians seem to know how to raise the best defenders in the world, as every generation has had its fair share of Italian defenders. Tassotti absolutely dominated both Italy and Europe in the late 80s and early 90s as he helped his club win five Scudettos, three Champions League titles, three UEFA Super Cups and many other trophies as well. He went on to make a total of 576 appearances for his club, which earned him the honor of being considered as one of the best AC Milan defenders of all time.

Cesare Maldini

The original starter of the Maldini legacy, Cesare Maldini was one of the most iconic and legendary players in the history of both AC Milan and football in general, as he literally started a legacy which goes on even today through Daniel Maldini, his grandson. While the late Italian sweeper started his career elsewhere and spent a couple of seasons at Triestina and

Torino FC

, no one could deny the fact that he was a Milan legend as he spent more than a decade with the Rossoneri.

Maldini, the original, managed to make it to almost 400 appearances for Milan, as he helped his club win four Serie A titles and the 1962/63 European Champion Clubs’ Cup, which is currently known as the UEFA Champions League. Sadly, Cesare Maldini passed away in 2016 at the age of 84 in the city of Milan. Although he is no longer with us, his heritage continues giving and serving the Rossoneri.

Giovanni Trapattoni

Out of all the players mentioned so far on the list of

best AC Milan defenders of all time

, only two have been non-Italian players, as yet another one of the best defenders in the Rossoneri’s history is Italian. Considered the most successful coach in the modern era of

Serie A

, Trapattoni was also one of the best defenders of his time and helped his club win various trophies including two European Champion Clubs’ Cups, two Serie A titles and many more.

During his time at San Siro, Giovanni Trapattoni managed to make a total of 339 appearances and got to be considered as one of the best AC Milan defenders of all time after becoming a veteran of a footballer in the city of Milan. While his years as a player were truly legendary, his years as a manager have been much more of an iconic era, as he got to manage AC Milan,

Juventus

, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Fiorentina and many other clubs in Europe as he even got to manage the Italy national team for four years.

Alessandro Costacurta

Currently a football pundit, Alessandro Costacurta was the main backbone of AC Milan during the 20 years that he spent at the club as he helped the Rossoneri become one of the most decorated clubs in the world and create such a rich history, which gained the respect of everyone in the world of football. Known to Milan fans as “Billy” due to his thin physique, Costacurta began his senior career at Milan as he was in fact an AC Milan academy graduate.

While oddly enough he spent a season on loan at

Calcio Monza

, he spent the rest of his career as a Rossoneri, making more than 630 appearances donning the club’s jersey. Although he was mainly comfortable with playing as a center-back, “Billy” was also deployed as a left-back and a right-back, as he was versatile enough to take on the challenge of playing on the sides.

It is worth mentioning that due to spending such a long time at one of the best clubs in the world at the time, not only is Costacurta one of the best AC Milan defenders of all time, he is also one of the most decorated players in history.

Franco Baresi

Imagine being a defender and earning the Top-Scorer award in

Coppa Italia

. That is what Franco Baresi accomplished in the 1989/90 season, as he became the Italian Cup top scorer with 4 goals. The 1982 World Cup winner is considered to be one of the most iconic defenders of Milan’s history, who started his career with the Rossoneri and ended his career with the Rossoneri. A true symbol of “one-club man”, who spent twenty years with the club and not once did he leave the Red and Blacks to join any other team.

Not only did Baresi stay with Milan through the best years, he also stayed for some of the worst years of his club when they got relegated to Serie B on two occasions, as he helped his team get back on their feet and return to Serie A once more. His success over the years even made him more loved and respected by Italian than his older brother Guiseppe Baresi who played for Milan’s sister club

Inter

.

Paolo Maldini

The second generation of Maldini footballers gracing the San Siro pitch with their class, Paolo Maldini might arguably be even more loved and respected than his father, as he was part of one of the most formidable defensive lines in the history of football. Father of Christian and

Daniel Maldini

, Paolo began his senior career at AC Milan way back in 1984 when he was a young and ambitious footballer.

But the Italian former football player is not selected as one of the best AC Milan defenders of all time just for the fact that he started his career with the Rossoneri and stayed with the Rossoneri, as he was also one of the main backbones of the club who helped start a golden of success and full of trophies for the Italian side. Paolo Maldini managed to make a phenomenal 901 appearances for Milan, a figure which not many players could reach throughout their illustrious careers.

Maldini was also versatile enough to be deployed as both a left-back and a center-back, which helped the club’s defensive back-four quite a lot through the seasons. It might sound strange to some, but the Italian actually hung up his boots in 2009 after 25 years with the Rossoneri, which shows how much dedication and love the now 52-year-old center-back had and still has for AC Milan.

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That ends our list of best defenders in the history of I Rossoneri, but surely we have not seen the end of it, as new generations of footballers are introduced to the world of football and the Milan side every decade, with new prospects and highly talented youngsters coming of age every year. We will have to wait and witness how many changes this list would see in two or three decades.

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