AC Milan vs Inter: One city in Italy, one stadium in Milan & one of football’s greatest rivalries

AC Milan vs Inter: One city in Italy, one stadium in Milan & one of football’s greatest rivalries

The Milan Derby is part of 90min’s ’50 Biggest Derbies in the World’ Series

The ‘Milan Derby’ will forever hold a prominent position in Europe’s footballing history. It is one of the classic derby showdowns of the last century, and the ‘Derby della Madonnina’, as it’s otherwise known, has always provided Italy with an unparalleled, intra-city rivalry.

Internazionale and AC Milan are two of the greatest European sides ever. Recent years may have seen each side take a turn for the worse, but football was for a long time accustomed to seeing at least one of the Milan sides competing for the very highest of honours.

There has long been a compelling competitiveness between the two teams’ European status. But what about their domestic dealings? Not only do they share the city of Milan, but they both call San Siro their home. Oh, and for a long time, they were battling it out at the pinnacle of Serie A.

The prize? Not only earning the bragging rights of the ‘Derby di Milano’, but also confirming the undisputed status as the best team in Italy. The stakes have been, are now, and will remain so high.

So, let’s delve a little deeper into the history of Milan’s famous rivalry. First port of call: why was it coined the ‘Derby della Madonnina’? Well, one of the city’s principal heritage sights is the ‘Statue of the Virgin Mary’, which sits on top of the Milan Cathedral. ‘Madonnina‘ in Italian.

That’s what Milan and Inter have been fighting for all this time – the bragging rights for one of the city’s most prestigious monuments…well, that’s not entirely true, but it offers insight into how the derby’s significance has long been ingrained into Milanese culture and heritage.

How long has this fierce rivalry been going on for then? Just the 110 years, actually. We reckon it’s worth swinging the clock back a little, and figuring out how all of this started…

It was the year 1899, and Italy were hit with what would develop into a gift sent from the footballing gods. A group of British expats founded the ‘Milan Cricket and Football Club’ , and the football section would immediately prove itself a successful outfit. Several national league titles, a ‘Medaglia del Re,’ and a rise to prominence came about at the start of the 19th Century. Milan were a united club on the rise.

Then came 1908. Issues were raised over the signing of foreign players, and the fallout that ensued left the football club divided. Quite literally.

Milan remained – ‘I Rossoneri’ their nickname, but alongside them came ‘Football Club Internazionale’, or ‘I Nerazzurri’. Perhaps it wasn’t clear then, but this moment laid the foundations for a truly timeless conflict to develop.

1926 saw the inaugural season of the Divisione Nazionale, which ensured the Milan sides would meet a minimum of twice a season. It’s been the same ever since, and boy have there been some absolutely fantastic meetings between the pair. More on that later…

The rivalry grew arms and legs in the 1960s. Sandro Mazzola, Inter’s superstar, was pitted against Milan’s Gianni Rivera, labelled the club’s ‘Golden Boy’. The Milan derby was igniting a whole host of personal rivalries between Italy’s finest footballers. The ferocity of competition between the two clubs’ players had infiltrated the very foundations of Italian football.

Let’s get onto the more recent stuff. Before the turn of the 21st century, Milan were arguably the greatest team on the planet. They dominated domestically between 1989 and 1996, winning four league titles. They didn’t fair much worse in Europe – they cantered to three European Cup victories too.

Handball!Handball!
Handball! | Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Inter, on the other hand, struggled to keep up with a side that boasted the likes of Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Paolo Maldini tearing it up in their prime. Understandable really. Still, Inter went almost 20 years without a Scudetto triumph. It finally came in 2006 in rather unceremonious circumstances as Juventus were stripped of their title, and second-placed Milan had points deducted.

It appeared the tides had turned. Inter cantered to a successive Serie A title in 2006/07, and continued to underline their credentials as not only the city’s best, but the country’s best – they won five consecutive titles between 2006 and 2010, and an unprecedented treble under José Mourinho in 2009/10. The statistics read: Inter – 18 league titles. Milan – 17 league titles.

What happened next? Well, Milan weren’t having any of it. Revitalised by the signing of former Inter forward Zlatan Ibrahimović, they recaptured the Scudetto to match their rivals’ 18 titles. Poised at level pegging, who could emerge the dominant force of the 2010s?

Answer: neither.

Both Inter and Milan have since slumped into intermittent phases of underwhelming mediocrity. Mid-table finishes have become a familiar finality for both, and Juventus’ re-emergence as the country’s undisputed best did both Milan clubs little favours.

But in 2020/21 there is a genuine title race. Inter have the slight edge but Milan remain well in the hunt despite losing their status as pacesetters. There may not be any fans in attendance, but sparks will flare regardless.

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