Milan’s Marvellous Midfield – Gattuso, Seedorf And Pirlo

As lockdown continues I am really appreciating the opportunity of looking back.

It could’ve been easy to go to the early 90s and look at that wonderful AC Milan side. After Rangers, that Milan team were the ones that helped secure my love for football.

But the more I started thinking about Milan’s inspirational midfield of the 2000s, the more I wanted to write about Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf and Andrea Pirlo.

The Warrior, The Professor and The Magician…

They were three different characters and three different types of player but ultimately they gelled perfectly together and were winners!

Between them they won six Serie A winner’s medals and were pivotal in Milan winning two Champions League titles (2003 & 2007).

At the time they sometimes didn’t get the plaudits that they deserved.

They were sometimes ignored as people would discuss the ultimate defensive partnership of Paulo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta. They would often be overlooked as Kaka’s majestic performances would dazzle the world. They may have been ignored as glory hunters would shout about the goalscoring prowess of Pippo Inzaghi or Andriy Shevchenko.

But looking back, you cannot help but understand that this Milan midfield allowed the whole team to tick and dictate games.

I first saw Rino Gattuso as a raw teenager playing in Scotland for Rangers. He was like an energetic, headless chicken. He had all the passion needed to be a classic Italian warrior. As he matured and found himself at Milan, his passion never left him but he had started to understand his qualities. He had the enegery to play like two holding midfielders and that allowed Pirlo and Seedorf to think about possession rather than tackling. His constant desire to win the ball back for his team and tenacity to get into opponent’s faces also allowed the likes of Maldini and Nesta to stay in the backline.

Former Ajax star Clarence Seedorf was the veteran of the engine-room and he certainly brought a clam elegance to any situation. The Dutch internationalist brought both graft and craft. He was an extremely intelligent player, but he didn’t just rely on his gifted ability because he always worked hard for his team. He could play anywhere in midfield and would have the legs and creative skills to be pushed further forward when required.

When Andrea Pirlo first burst onto the scene at Brescia and then at AC’s rivals Inter Milan, people were comparing him to Roberto Baggio. But like Paul Scholes at Manchester United, Pirlo would discover his natural calling wasn’t in the final third but in a deeper midfield role. As a deep-laying playmaker, Andrea would become a wizard whenever the ball was at his feet. He was a superb technician and would spray passes glorious around the park. His vision created chance after chance for his attacking teammates and relive pressure away from the defence.

The trio worked wonderfully well together, constantly helping each other out. Ball retention and regaining possession were two key factors to this famous Rossoneri side and this illustrious threesome managed to do both for Carlo Ancelotti’s men.

They also appreciated each other and understood that they needed the skill-set that the others provided:

“It wasn’t only about his quality, but he was an animal covering 1000 metres, he had this athletic quality which is why he played until this age. He was someone who ran so much.”

“I played with him for about 20 years when you consider the national youth teams. In difficult moments, I just gave it to him. I always felt assured when I was next to him.”

Gattuso On Pirlo (The World Game)

They blended together effortlessly and gave AC Milan a great balance in midfield.

That’s why it’s fantastic to reminisce during this period and think of a golden generation like Gattuso, Seedorf and Pirlo!

Leave a Reply