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The Archive

January 2003

AC Milan vs Modena - match preview
31.1 || scharatz


Milan will be looking to recover from last week's setback at Udinese when they host out-of-form Modena at the San Siro.

The Rossoneri were outclassed in the first-half last week, and although they improved in the second-half, it wasn't enough to prevent them going down to a 1-0 defeat. This may prove to be the toughest period in coach Carlo Ancelotti's season, although a game against Giovanni Di Blasi's men should be just what the doctor ordered.

Midfielder Andrea Pirlo was keen to play down claims that rivals have cracked the Milan code.

"It is true that Chievo, Juventus and Udinese all won by attacking us but the real problem in these games was our own performance," he said, before adding that his side have many different tactical solutions.

Modena are a team sinking like a ship. Long gone are the days of November when they were sweeping all before them. Now the realisation of a relegation fight looms large. It's eight games without a win and with some tricky tests coming up, these are tough times for all at Modena.

At least this week they signed Juventus defender Emiliano Moretti on loan for the rest of the season. The Italian under-21 International was a regular in the Bianconeri's first-team earlier on in the season, and should prove an asset.


FORM GUIDE

Milan: Last Six Matches: DWDWWL

A 0-0 draw and a 5-2 win over Chievo has seen the Rossoneri into the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia. In the league, Ancelotti's men have picked up victories over Bologna and Piacenza, before losing to Udinese last week after David Pizarro's first-half penalty.

Modena: Last Six Matches: DLLLDL

The only points picked up in the last six matches were gained in draws against lowly Como and Brescia. Otherwise, Modena have been beaten by Empoli, Udinese, Inter and Atalanta, without scoring so much as a goal.


LATEST TEAM NEWS

Milan: Rivaldo may be dropped after a disappointing match last week, meaning Rui Costa, Shevchenko, and Inzaghi will form the attack. Serginho and Helveg are the only absentees through injury.

Modena: Ungari will replace the injured Pavan, while Kamara and Fabbrini will play in attack.


PROBABLE LINE-UPS

Milan (4-3-1-2): Dida, Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze, Gattuso, Redondo, Seedorf, Rui Costa, Shevchenko, Inzaghi

Modena (3-5-2): Ballotta; Mayer, Cevoli, Ungari; Balestri, Colucci, Milanetto, Albino, Mauri; Kamara, Fabbrini


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Andriy Shevchenko (Milan): still a fans' favourite, and with his lack of games this season, he will be fresher than most in the second-half of the campaign.

Marco Ballotta (Modena): the veteran keeper has had a miserable season and made another costly mistake against Atalanta last week. Modena will need him to rediscover his form if they are to take anything from this daunting fixture.

Serie A to be split?
31.1 || Seamus

Clubs will discuss the possibility of restructuring Serie A into two groups of 20 teams each in a League meeting on February 14.

“We must find a new formula that limits the number of relegations,” explained League President Adriano Galliani, “and therefore cut costs."

"The current set-up is the only one in the world where eight out of 38 teams have their status changed every year.”

There has been increasing criticism of the fact four teams are relegated and promoted each season, leading to more uncertainty in the divisions.

Former FA President Antonio Matarrese even suggested the reforms could apply from next season, therefore making this year’s relegations void.

“The project is still under examination,” revealed Atalanta President Ivan Ruggeri. “It will be placed in front of the League for discussion in a fortnight.”

The move has been suggested in order to counter the suggestion that Serie B is restructured into two groups.

“The second division has its own problems already,” continued Ruggeri, “and to split it into two would be dangerous for the future of many clubs.”

It has been suggested that Serie A will be sliced into north and south in a bid to raise interest in the poorer half of the country.

There is only one southern side left in the top flight – relegation strugglers Reggina – while the bottom five clubs in Serie B are from south of Rome.

“We cannot yet verify whether or not this will be the case,” added the Atalanta chief. “Football belongs to all of Italy.”

Lecce administrator Mario Moroni also revealed more background to the proposal.

“It is a serious project,” he claimed, “and will be discussed as soon as possible. The plan to split Serie B has already been presented to the Federation, so we must counter that with another solid proposal.”

The League meeting today also discussed other problems, such as the rising wages given to players.

The clubs were given notice to negotiate directly with the players and cut the cost of wages to just 80 per cent of their turnover by 2003-04.

That figure should then be lowered to 60 per cent by the end of the following year.

Laursen admits Rangers interest
29.1 || Seamus

AC Milan defender Martin Laursen says he will not be moving anywhere until the end of the season, but admits he would consider a move to Ibrox.

The Dane claims his agent has already been in contact with the Gers.

Laursen, who has found first-team opportunites hard to come by at the San Siro in a defence which also includes Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta, is set to consider his options over the next few months.

He told the Daily Record: "I have not spoken to Rangers directly but my agent had contact with them. Of course I would be interested in going there. Rangers are one of the best-known clubs in Europe.

"I have decided to stay in Milan for the next four months at least and then assess everything in the summer. I have three more years on my contract here so I don't have to move."

Roberto Carlos: "Milan are the team I fear most "
29.1 || Seamus

Real Madrid full-back Roberto Carlos has written off Arsenal's Champions League challenge, claiming AC Milan are Real's main threat.
The Brazilian ace is hoping he can help the Spanish giants to retain their European crown after they claimed an unprecedented ninth European Cup win in May.

Carlos feels that although Arsenal and Manchester United have been impressive in Europe this season, neither team is capable of snatching the top prize away from the Bernabeu.

"Milan are the team I fear most because they play spectacular football," he said. "Juventus and Inter are strong, as are Manchester United and Arsenal but Milan have something extra. I believe the final will be Real v Milan."

AC Milan are paired with Real in Group C of the second phase of this season's competition and they recorded a 1-0 victory over Vicente Del Bosque's team in the San Siro last month. The return game at the Bernabeu is scheduled for Wednesday 12 March.

Meanwhile, Arsenal top Group B with four points from two games played ahead of the competition's resumption on 18 February.

Pirlo: "No one has cracked Milan's code"
29.1 || Seamus

Following AC Milan's shock defeat at Udinese last weekend, the Rossoneri's talented young midfield organizer Andrea Pirlo has scoffed at the suggestion that opposing manager's have discovered a crucial chink in his side's armor.

"It is true that Chievo, Juventus and Udinese all won by attacking us but the real problem in these games was our own performance," insisted the former Italian U-21 skipper.

"I would not make a drama out of what happened this Sunday, it was an off-day and can happen to any team. We were put under pressure in midfield during other games, but still managed to emerge with the three points," he explained. "We have many different tactical solutions that can be used."

"The team knew it could not always be wine and roses, even before the defeat at the Stadio Friuli. Perhaps this game can teach us how to change our approach in similar circumstances. If we play the way we know how, then there is no need to worry about what our opponents get up to elsewhere."

Empoli sign starlet Borriello
27.1 || scharatz


Milan have confirmed that Under-21 striker Marco Borriello has joined Serie A minnows Empoli.

A Rossoneri statement released on Monday said that the player had been sold on a "temporary basis."

No other details have been released but the forward will definitely star for Empoli for the rest of this season, even if he could also remain on loan for the 2003/04 campaign.

Borriello had been linked with a move to Silvio Baldini’s side for some months amidst rumours that he could be offered in a bid to gain an option on Empoli defender Sanchez Cribari.

The former Treviso ace, scorer of three goals in three Under-21 games, will be a useful addition to the Tuscan outfit who have had injury problems in attack.

Main hitman Luca Saudati was ruled out for the season with a broken leg earlier this term, while new Italy international Antonio Di Natale is also suffering with fitness problems.

Ancelotti: We failed miserably
27.1 || scharatz


Carlo Ancelotti has bitterly criticised his men after their 1-0 defeat at Udinese, while Luciano Spalletti celebrates a crucial result.

“The whole team failed this test miserably,” said the tactician. “We were never really in the running and tried to hang on to the ball instead of passing. It allowed our opponents to use their aggression well.”

Despite playing against ten men for the entire second half, Milan were rarely able to bring a save out of Morgan De Sanctis.

“We were lacking our usual patience and our rush to get an equaliser proved counter-productive.”

The win was sealed by the first penalty given against the Rossoneri this season.

“The handling offence seemed involuntary,” said Ancelotti, “but we will accept the decision without creating controversy.”

Vice-President Adriano Galliani was also disappointed at this performance.

“I didn’t expect the same stunning show we put on in the Coppa Italia midweek,” noted Galliani, “but I certainly didn’t think I’d see such a poor display.”

“In any case, we must look forward and try to work on the mistakes made today. It is pointless to create a tragedy out of one defeat.”

Udinese are over the moon at this unexpected victory and drag themselves up to sixth place in the standings.

“I am very happy because the team showed it is inferior to no-one,” beamed Luciano Spalletti.

“We deserved the lead thanks to a splendid first half performance and it was a clear penalty. After the break we compensated for Nestor Sensini’s red card with an organised defence.”

Udinese 1:0 Milan
26.1 || scharatz


Pizarro pen 35 (U)
Stadio Friuli


Milan suffer their first defeat since November as they were unable to break down ten-man Udinese.

Carlo Ancelotti's men needed at least a point to remain clear at the top of the table, but travelled to face the only other Serie A side with an unbeaten home record.

The Rossoneri fielded their now typical away game formation - Manuel Rui Costa and Rivaldo backing a lone striker - with Pippo Inzaghi spearheading the attack. Massimo Ambrosini stepped in for Gennaro Gattuso.

There was controversy on ten minutes when Manuel Rui Costa was charging towards goal, but he was stopped for an extremely dubious ruling that the ball had crossed the line.

Moments later Udinese had the first real chance of the match when Dida made a desperate reaction save on Roberto Muzzi's counter-attack.

The Friuli side laid siege to Dida's goal and forced the defence to scramble clear from Martin Jorgensen.

Both teams relied on pace and kept the ball to feet, and on 16 minutes Pippo Inzaghi thumped his angled drive straight at the goalkeeper.

Marek Jankulovski swerved a spectacular effort past the near post as Udinese continued to pile on the pressure.

The referee pointed to the spot on 35 minutes as Paolo Maldini handled the ball when he was already on the ground. This was the first spot-kick awarded against the Rossoneri this season and it was successfully converted by David Pizarro.

There was bad news for Udinese as Mirko Pieri limped off with a thigh problem before the break.

Milan fought back and Kroldrup bravely dived in front of Inzaghi's close-range effort.

Carlo Ancelotti introduced Andriy Shevchenko and Gennaro Gattuso at half-time and they were immediately more aggressive.

The game turned at the dawn of the second half when Inzaghi was brought down as he ran towards goal and Nestor Sensini therefore saw red as last man.

On the resulting free kick from the edge of the box, goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis punched out Rui Costa's effort.

Milan increased the pressure with Inzaghi and Shevchenko, while Pizarro almost scored an own goal wth a wayward clearance.

Soon after Valerio Bertotto cleared a Brocchi lob off the line and on the counter-attack Brocchi was booked for hacking down Jankulovski. Udinese wanted a last man foul given, but Paolo Maldini was several metres ahead of them.

On 70 minutes Inzaghi hit the back of the net, but it was disallowed for a very tight offside ruling.

Seedorf's low drive shaved the upright, but Udinese battened down the hatches in defence to close down all remaining spaces.

Two minutes from time Rui Costa put in a splendid cross, but Inzaghi ballooned over the bar.

Even goalkeeper Dida went up for the final corner kick, but it was to no avail.


Udinese: De Sanctis; Jankulovski, Bertotto, Sensini, Kroldrup; Pinzi, Pizarro, Rossitto, Pieri (Gemiti 41); Jorgensen (Sottil 48); Muzzi (Warley 77)

Milan: Dida; Simic (Brocchi 63), Maldini, Nesta, Kaladze; Ambrosini, Pirlo (Gattuso 46), Seedorf; Rui Costa; Rivaldo (Shevchenko 46), Inzaghi

Ref: Paparesta

Sent off: Sensini 47 (U)

Udinese vs. Milan - match preview
25.1 || Seamus

League-leaders AC Milan travel to Friuli on Sunday evening knowing the results of the games that will be played earlier that day. But, given that they have three teams – Lazio, Inter and Juve – breathing down their necks, this might work against the Rossoneri. They have no choice but to win to maintain or perhaps extend the three-point gap that separates them at the top of the table.

Not an easy task, considering they will be traveling to the only other side that is unbeaten at home in the league. Udinese have shown tremendous composure this season and have recorded a memorable win against Inter at the San Siro. In fact, they could consider themselves a bit unlucky to not have earned more points against AC Milan last time the two sides met when Roberto Sensini deflected a Rivaldo free-kick into his own net with but a minute to go.


TEAM NEWS
Luciano Spaletti is struggling to decide who to play after having eight players unavailable for this clash. The trio of Carsten Jancker, Vincenzo Iaguinta and Siyabonga Nomvete are all missing up front and hence the bald-headed technician will be forced to field Dane Martin Jorgensen in attack alongside the ever-reliable Roberto Muzzi. The other players on the injury list include midfielders Almiron and Margo and defenders Caballero and Genaux. To add to that Brazilian Alberto has been disqualified for two weeks by the Lega Calcio. Bertotto, Sensini and Kroldrup will continue to form the compace three man defence that has served them so well while Jankulovski earns a place in the middle of the park.

Carlo Ancelotti will be without Serginho, Helveg and Redondo for this game, which will hardly be a problem given the men at his disposal. This game should see the return of the good old Milan formation with Pirlo playing in the center of the pitch and Inzaghi heading up the attack, supported by the two creatives, Rivaldo and Rui Costa. That however means that it is Andriy Shevchenko's turn to sit on the bench. Midweek Coppa hero, Clarence Seedorf who scored twice against Chievo will also be benched in place of Massimo Ambrosini.


FORM GUIDE
Milan: WDWDWW
AC Milan have showed amazing continuity after the season resumed. They have broken Bologna's record at the Dall'Ara and thumped Chievo Verona 5-2 away from home. Now, they turn to Udine and look to destroy another home record in their bid to pull away from the chasing pack.

Udinese: WDWWDL
Udinese's last few games have been a place comparison to their first part of the season. They have only picked up five points from their last five games and to be honest, they did not deserve all three against Modena. But, they have proved in the past that they can be a tough team to break down, especially at home.


PROBABLE LINEUPS
Udinese (3-5-2): De Sanctis; Bertotto, Sensini, Kroldrup; Gemiti, Pinzi, Piazarro, Jankulovski, Pieri; Jorgensen, Muzzi

Milan (4-3-2-1): Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini; Rui Costa, Rivaldo; Inzaghi

Ancelotti denies Rivaldo row
25.1 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti has played down claims of a split with Rivaldo over his international career.

“There is no row between Rivaldo and myself,” commented the Milan Coach. “Brazil want to call him up and his club can do nothing other than let him go.”

Rivaldo was expected to hang up his Selecao boots after lifting the World Cup this summer, but this week he confirmed his intention to head for the 2006 tournament. There were reports his agent was at the Milanello training ground to discuss the matter.

The first issue will arise in a friendly with China on February 12 – just a few days before a top of the table clash with Lazio and the return of the Champions’ League.

“I doubt there will be problems for the Lazio game,” claimed Ancelotti. “Rivaldo will return to Italy on Thursday and can play on Sunday night. He can certainly face these two matches without any trouble.”

The Brazilian may well be in action tomorrow evening when leaders Milan travel to Udinese – the only other Serie A side with an unbeaten home record this season.

“Udinese will be different from the time we beat them 1-0 at the San Siro,” warned the tactician. “We must try to make the most out of our pace, as we did against Chievo midweek.”

The Rossoneri exhibited some spectacular football during that 5-2 Quarter-Final victory on Wednesday evening, but Ancelotti is keeping his cards close to his chest.

“I have a few doubts for the starting line-up. There are nine players battling for six places.”


Gk: Abbiati, Dida, Fiori

D: Costacurta, Kaladze, Laursen, Maldini, Nesta, Roque Junior, Simic

M: Ambrosini, Brocchi, Dalla Bona, Gattuso, Pirlo, Rivaldo, Rui Costa, Seedorf

F: Inzaghi, Shevchenko, Tomasson

Rui Costa in Benfica pledge
24.1 || scharatz

Manuel Rui Costa will return to Benfica – but not until he has won everything possible with Milan.

A report in the Portuguese newspaper ‘Record’ yesterday claimed that the club and sportswear giants Adidas would team up to raise the cash needed for a summer bid.

But the international midfielder doesn’t believe that a move to the club he left in 1994 for Fiorentina is imminent.

"No one has talked to me about this move occurring," said the Rossoneri playmaker. "And I don’t think that my return to Portugal is likely to happen in the near future.

"But I still have a very strong bond with Benfica and it is a dream for me to wear their shirt again. I’ll first win everything with Milan and then I’ll even walk back to Portugal for that club."

The 30-year-old playmaker was signed by Benfica in 1991 after he was spotted at Third Division side Fafe.

In three seasons he played 82 League games for the capital outfit and scored 13 goals.

Milan play Perugia in the Coppa Italia semi-final
23.1 || scharatz


Perugia make Cup history



Fabrizio Miccoli was on target again as Perugia beat Juventus 2-0 to reach the Coppa Italia semi-finals for the first time ever.

Already 2-1 winners of the first leg in Turin last week, the home side scored twice in the closing stages to seal a 4-1 aggregate victory.

Despite the opening game deficit, Juventus boss Marcello Lippi rested many of his side’s top stars including Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet. And their absence was keenly felt as the Bianconeri failed to breakdown an organised Perugia outfit.

The first half was a dull affair as Juventus only threatened late on through Alessandro Birindelli and Marco Di Vaio.

Lippi threw on Marcelo Zalayeta after the break but the Italian champions never really looked like breaking the deadlock, as Zalayeta and then Pavel Nedved wasted good chances.

But as Juve piled forward, Perugia pounced on the counter-attack to take total control of the tie. Juventus owned Miccoli curled in a splendid effort from outside the box on 84 minutes - to add another to the two goals he scored at the Delle Alpi in the first meeting.

The Umbrian outfit made it 2-0 in injury time from the penalty spot. Pagliuca was brought down by Juve ‘keeper Antonio Chimenti and Brazilian ace Ze Maria disposed of the penalty with ease.

Perugia face Milan in the semi-finals, while Lazio take on city rivals Roma in the other two-legged tie.

Perugia 2-0 Juventus (4-1 agg)
Scorers: Miccoli 84, Ze Maria pen 94


Donati joins struggling Torino
23.1 || Seamus

Relegation threatened Torino have confirmed the loan signing of Parma midfielder Massimo Donati.

The youngster, who is actually owned by Milan, arrives for the rest of the season after failing to settle at the Stadio Tardini.

The Under-21 international put pen to paper on a contract this morning and could feature against Bologna on Sunday.

Rivaldo targets 2006 glory
23.1 || Seamus

Milan ace Rivaldo has revealed that he wants to continue his international career with the aim of winning the 2006 World Cup.

The Brazilian only lifted up the trophy seven months ago but claims that he is desperate to repeat that success in Germany.

"I am 30-years-of-age and I have lots of energy to use up," said the Rossoneri summer signing. "I believe that I can still give a lot to the national team."

The attacking midfielder also responded to the thoughts of new Selecao boss Carlos Alberto Parreira, who said he would be focusing on bringing through young players.

"I know that in our country there is a selection of quality youngsters that could play for Brazil…but I’m not dead yet," added Rivaldo.

In other international news, the Italian Football Federation have announced that Italy’s Euro 2004 qualifier against Finland will take place in Palermo. The game is set for March 29.

Ancelotti defends Galliani and his players
23.1 || Seamus

AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti has today replied to allegations made by Inter vice-president Facchetti about biased refereeing towards the Rossonero society. Facchetti earlier stated that Adriano Galliani's dual position as head of AC Milan and the Italian League had something to do with the fact that Milan had nine penalties awarded to them in the first half of the season and none against.

"I'm irritated and sorry. These statements don't give Milan the credit we deserve. We deserve our 39 points but now it seems that we made them thanks to the nine penalties we were allowed. The teams who suffered them didn't complain. I'm surprised that Inter do, as we didn't stab them from the penalty spot!"

Ancelotti was evidently angry, but appeared composed in the press conference and further stated that there was no question surrounding Galliani's dual role. He also outrightly defended his players and said:

"When we deserved to lose, we lost. I don't know the real aim of these words. Nobody has the right to attack Inter, Juve, Lazio or any other club, and the same goes for us. I want to defend my players."

Ancelotti's greatest fear remains that allegations like these could spoil the serene atmosphere at Milanello and break the team's continuity on all competitive fronts. According to some, that might be precisely the reason Inter's vice-supremo made those comments.

Milan's nine Serie A penalties 'Embarrassing' - Inter Vice-President
23.1 || Seamus

Inter vice-president Giacinto Facchetti believes that his Milan counterpart Adriano Galliani's powerful position is influencing referees to give penalties in the Rossoneri's favour.

Galliani is the president of the Italian football league, and this season Milan have had nine penalties, compared to Inter's tally of just two.

"The problem regarding Galliani's position is still unresolved," Facchetti was quoted as saying in the Gazzetta dello Sport.

"A balance of nine penalties in favour and none against in seventeen matches represents, in my opinion, an embarrassing tally - not only for us, but also for other adversaries (of Milan).

"I'm not calling into question Galliani's great abilities as a manager, his honesty, nor the strength of his team.

"But I find it impossible not to ask myself the question: how come he doesn't feel embarrassed?"

Chievo Verona 2:5 AC Milan
22.1 || scharatz

Manuel Rui Costa was inspirational as Milan swept Chievo aside to qualify for the Coppa Italia Semi-Finals.

Everything was to play for following the 0-0 first leg draw at the San Siro, but Milan made an immediate impact by scoring within 40 seconds.

Oliver Bierhoff did not have luck against his former club as his error accidentally set up Kakha Kaladze for a bicycle-kick by the back post.

Chievo – still reeling from their 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Juventus on Sunday – were visibly shaken by this early goal and the Rossoneri dominated in midfield.

Jon Dahl Tomasson almost netted a second when he took advantage of a poor backpass, but the Dane fired straight at the goalkeeper.

The Flying Donkeys gradually got back into the game and proved most dangerous with set pieces.

There was bad news for Milan as after just 20 minutes Thomas Helveg pulled up with a thigh strain and gave Roque Junior his first appearance since August. The Brazilian World Cup winner damaged shoulder ligaments during a Champions’ League qualifier.

Still, the Rossoneri doubled their lead on the counter-attack. John Mensah lost the ball in midfield and Tomasson, Manuel Rui Costa and Clarence Seedorf combined for a well-worked goal.

Moments later they made it three with a spectacular move. Rui Costa nutmegged a defender on the edge of the box and Christian Brocchi put the ball back in for Tomasson’s tap-in.

Portuguese international Rui Costa was particularly inspired and at the dawn of the second half set Tomasson through with a classy backheel, but the Dane fired just over the bar.

Rui Costa perhaps deserved his own goal, but his shot was parried into the path of Seedorf for the Dutchman’s brace.

Chievo got one back when substitute Luigi Beghetto turned Alessandro Nesta and fired in by the near post.

Milan relaxed, and late on Daniele Franceschini volleyed a splendid goal from Ivano Della Morte’s centre.

The final word fell to the Rossoneri as ex-Chelsea star Sam Dalla Bona chested down a free kick at the back post and rifled into the roof of the net.

Milan will go on to face either Juventus or Perugia, but Serse Cosmi’s men have the upper hand with a 2-1 first leg win at the Delle Alpi.


Chievo 2 – Milan 5

Scorers: Kaladze 1 (M), Seedorf 43, 64 (M), Tomasson 45 (M), Beghetto 69 (C), Franceschini 81 (C), Dalla Bona 84 (M)

Milan qualify 5-2 on aggregate

Chievo: Ambrosio; Mensah, Lorenzi, D'Anna, Pesaresi; Nalis, Andersson, Passoni (Beghetto 38), Lazetic (Della Morte 66); Bierhoff (Franceschini 46), Pellissier

Milan: Abbiati; Helveg (Roque Junior 20), Laursen, Nesta, Kaladze; Gattuso, Brocchi, Redondo, Seedorf (Dalla Bona 66); Rui Costa (Borriello 71), Tomasson

Ref: Messina

Costacurta: I didn't expect to play so many games
20.1 || Seamus

Veteran Milan defender Billy Costacurta says he didn't expect to see so much first team action on his return to the club.

It was largely expected that he would act as cover when he signed in the summer, but he has played a more prominent role than many thought.

"I had even enrolled for a financial course at the New York University, before Milan called me back," the club's official site quoted him as saying on the 'Controcampo' Tv programme.

"I like very much being at the club, so I'll try to stay there as long as God knows. I didn't expect to play so many and important games. The excitement you live in big challenges, like the ones against Inter or Real Madrid, is the key to success."

Pirlo thanks Perugia
20.1 || scharatz

Milan ace Andrea Pirlo maintains that Perugia’s destruction of Inter on Sunday helped his team beat Piacenza.

The Rossoneri were making hard work of the relegation candidates before goals from Pirlo and Rivaldo saw the side come from behind to win 2-1.

"When the news filtered in from Perugia that Inter were losing, we all received an extra incentive to give that little bit extra," said the international.

Those two results ensured that Milan took the title of ‘Winter Champions’ ahead of their city rivals, even if Pirlo knows the glass is only half full.

"It was our objective to reach 39 points after 17 games and that has allowed us to start the second half of the season as the leaders.

"The win against Piacenza was obviously important but we must continue to collect victories if we want to go all the way."

However, Milan’s win did come at a price as attacking midfielder Serginho will be out of action for three weeks with an ankle injury.

"He needs a few weeks of rest," admitted boss Carlo Ancelotti. "His injury is a blow for us but hopefully he can get back to full fitness as soon as possible."

Serginho set to be out of action for 3 weeks
20.1 || scharatz

Serginho was forced off injured after a tough challenge with Gurenko in the first half of the game against Piacenza. The Brazilian had some tests at the hospital which excluded bone damages. He sustained a sprain on his ankle and is set to be out of action for three weeks.

AC Milan 2-1 Piacenza - match report
19.1 || webmaster

Scorers: Gurenko 52 (P), Pirlo pen 54 (M), Rivaldo 68 (M)

Milan had to beat Piacenza in order to be crowned Winter Champions at the halfway point of the campaign, but it was a very tough victory.

Alessandro Nesta was suspended, so Billy Costacurta joined Paolo Maldini in central defence. Rivaldo pushed Manuel Rui Costa onto the bench and Pippo Inzaghi faced his hometown club.

Milan had a strong start, but after just four minutes Dida required two desperate saves in quick succession on Boselli's header and a follow-up Cardone bicycle-kick.

Gurenko was booked for a dreadful tackle on Serginho, a challenge that sprained his ankle and forced the Brazilian to be substituted soon after. Up until then the winger had been playing as a support striker alongside Inzaghi, leaving Shevchenko a free role and Rivaldo even deeper behind them.

There was controversy on 20 minutes when Inzaghi hit the back of the net, but saw the goal disallowed for a dubious offside position.

Piacenza played without fear at the San Siro and put the Milan defence under real pressure, but they faded towards the end of the first half and Rivaldo became the star of the show.

The former Barcelona man was ready to head in a corner kick, but only an incredible reaction save from Matteo Guardalben kept him out.

It was one of the Piacenza goalkeeper's last moves as an injury saw him replaced by Orlandoni.

The visitors had a good chance on the counter-attack at the dawn of the second half with two successive Dida saves on Enzo Maresca.

Piacenza were always dangerous on the counter-attack and Sergei Gurenko was at the back post to volley in.

But literally 30 seconds later up the other end of the field Inzaghi was hacked down by Maresca and the referee had no choice but to point to the spot. Andrea Pirlo successfully converted to draw Milan level.

Dida was man of the match for Milan and made another fine close-range save on Dario Hubner.

Rivaldo was impressive throughout and eventually hit the back of the net, although much of the credit goes to Pirlo. The midfielder dribbled past several defenders and passed across for a trademark left foot drive from the edge of the box into the far corner.

Milan: Dida; Simic, Costacurta, Maldini, Kaladze; Ambrosini, Pirlo, Serginho (Seedorf 17); Rivaldo; Shevchenko (Tomasson 70), Inzaghi (Gattuso 89)

Piacenza: Guadalben (Orlandoni 45); Cardone, Boselli, Mangone; Gurenko, Riccio (Ferrarese 72), Maresca, Di Francesco (Rinaldi 81), Tosto; De Cesare, Hubner

Ref: De Santis

Ancelotti keeps Milan on edge
19.1 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti has warned Milan not to take Piacenza lightly at the San Siro as the Winter Crown is at stake.

“We must do well to hold possession and move the ball rapidly around the field,” noted the tactician. “Piacenza must not be underestimated.”

The Rossoneri are favourites to be top of the table at the halfway point of the campaign, when they could be crowned Champions of Winter, but the Coach is planning changes.

“The only player certain to start is Pippo Inzaghi,” he revealed. “As for the rest, I will choose who I believe is most suited to this game and make the most of our attacking potential.”

Inzaghi will be able to face off against his hometown club, but Rivaldo may push Manuel Rui Costa onto the bench.

“Serginho is another doubt as I must evaluate whether he is more effective from the start or in the final half-hour.”

Milan made an impact with their all-attack football at the start of the season, but have evened out their strengths and weaknesses in recent weeks.

“Consistency and making the most of our chances is crucial. Added to a very solid defence, this has enabled us to take home some important results and top the table. But we can do better still.”

Maldini rejects Azzurri return
19.1 || scharatz

Paolo Maldini has turned down new offers to resume his international career for the Euro 2004 Championships.

“I was annoyed that this story was in the papers,” said the now retired Italy captain, “most of all because it suggested I would take the place of those who worked hard to qualify. It’s absurd.”

The Milan legend hung up his international boots after the 2002 World Cup campaign and handed the captain’s armband over to Fabio Cannavaro.

“My decision was made a long time ago and had nothing to do with the way the World Cup went.”

The defence has struggled without him and there are calls for his return to the Azzurri fold, including attempts to tempt him back from Giovanni Trapattoni.

“The fact I am missed by my teammates and the Coach can only make me happy, but my decision has not changed, even if it is tough for me to get used to this. To hear such praise makes you think long and hard.”

There seems to be no chance of changing Maldini’s mind, although he does give a slight glimmer of hope to his many fans.

“The only thing that could make me change my mind is myself. But right now I don’t want to think about it and believe my decision should be respected.”

Maldini was set to be given a testimonial match, but that plan was shelved.

“Maybe they postponed it in the hope I would change my mind and return to the Azzurri,” joked the legendary defender.

AC Milan vs Piacenza - match preview
18.1 || webmaster

It was in the very same fixture last year that Carlo Ancelotti debuted as Milan coach in Serie A. At that time, the team struggled to a goalless draw, but how things have turned around for the former Romanista and his club. Milan have fantastic chance to beat Piacenza and be crowned winter champions. The rossoneri are just ahead on goal difference with cousins Inter, but with Inter facing the prospect of an away match and contention with a growing injury list, the rossoneri will be looking forward to Sunday evening celebrations.

Piacenza have never beaten Milan at the San Siro. However, contrary to expectations, contests between these two sides have been rather dull and low-scoring over the past few seasons. In fact, the last five meetings between the sides have ended in four wins for Milan (all 1-0) and one was the goalless draw played out last season on Ancelotti's debut.


TEAM NEWS
Carlo Ancelotti may have selection worries of a very different kind. He has almost his entire squad fit for this game. Chamot and Leonardo have not been called up for the match just as a precaution, while Roque Jr. returns to the team after missing the entire first part of the season due to a shoulder injury. The biggest absentee however, remains Alessandro Nesta, who is suspended for this match. Veteran Billy Costacurta is set to stop in for the barbican Roman. Clarence Seedorf and Andrea Pirlo are also set to return after warming the bench in the previous round. Up front, Ancelotti is likely to go with the trident of Inzaghi, Shevchenko and Rivaldo.

Andrea Agostinelli must be wondering why Johnnier Montano is not being a little cooperative and turning up. The young Colombian would be a wonderful option for the coach in midfield, but he has been missing for a while now and no one seems to know where he is. But, having said that Piacenza still have plenty of talent in their side. Enzo Maresca's wonderful playmaking skills and Eusebio Di Francesco's runs have seen their days at the more famous stadia of Italy. Gianluca Lamacchi has a muscle strain and hence is unavailable. Former Milan defender Giuseppe Cardone will partner Boselli and Mangone in defence. Up front "The out-of-form Bison" Hubner will partner new acquisition De Cesare (eminent solely for his stunning volley against Lazio in the Coppa fourth-round last year).


FORM GUIDE
Milan: WWWDWD
Milan haven't lost a game since their 1-2 reverse at the Delle Alpi against Juve on November 10th. Their form prior to the Christmas break had been devastating with victories over Dortmund, Roma, Inter and Real Madrid among their scalps (all 1-0 eerily). They slipped up on the last day however and allowed Inter to tie them at the top of the table when they failed to beat Brescia at home. However, this year has started well again, with a fully fit squad claiming a wonderful 2-0 win at Bologna and following it up with a scoreless draw with Chievo in the Coppa (where Ancelotti rested most of his regulars).


Piacenza: DDLDLD
Agostinelli's side have not impressed in any games of late. While there new year didn't start of badly, with a 1-1 home draw to Parma, they ended the previous year on a low, succumbing to Chievo Verona in both League and Cup play and being on the wrong side of a 3-1 scoreline in Reggio Calabria. With away ties against Milan, Juve and Inter in the next five weeks, Piacenza better pick up their game away from home where they have picked up only five points in nine games so far, or they may become prime canDidates for relegation all of a sudden.


PROBABLE LINEUPS
Milan (4-3-1-2): Dida; Simic, Costacurta, Maldini, Kaladze; Ambrosini, Pirlo, Seedorf; Rivaldo; Shevchenko, Inzaghi

Piacenza (3-5-2): Guardalben; Cardone, Boselli, Mangone; Gurenko, Riccio, Maresca, Di Francesco, Tosto; Hubner, De Cesare

Classifieds Section Launched
18.1 || webmaster

We launched today a new secion of our site, a classifieds section. You can find it here:
http://www.acmilan-online.com/classifieds

If you want to:
> buy/sell AC Milan tickets
> buy/sell AC Milan merchandise
> ask about used tickets
> advertise your AC Milan [eBay] auctions
> advertise your betting site
> exchange [buy/sell] autographs with other fans
then this section is directed to you. We felt that there's a need for a section like this, since a lot of people are mailing us with questions on the above topics [especially tickets].

Regards,
The Management Team.

Rivaldo targets the Scudetto
16.1 || Seamus

Milan’s primary objective for this season is to win the Italian League title according to attacking midfielder Rivaldo.

"The Italian championship is a very difficult one but Milan have managed to stay ahead in the campaign so far," said the summer signing from Barcelona.

"Juventus, Inter and Lazio are very competitive and it is impossible to predict where each team will finish at the end of term.

"We know that we have some major opposition for the title but we are definitely looking to end the season with the Scudetto shield on our shirt."

The World Cup winner has featured quite heavily in Carlo Ancelotti’s plans this season even though he claims that he hasn’t done himself justice.

"I am improving all of the time but I can assure disappointed fans that they haven’t seen the real Rivaldo yet. The one that people saw for Barcelona and Brazil," he continued.

Rivaldo could be unleashed again at the weekend where a win against Piacenza will guarantee his club the crown of Winter Champions.

"It will be tough against Piacenza but finishing top at the half way point is not that important," the ex-Deportivo ace commented. "It is where you end the campaign that matters."

"Sheva is a great friend," says Inzaghi
16.1 || Seamus

Milan striker Filippo Inzaghi who has seen quite a bit of bench of late has rejected reports that there is a rift with Ukranian teammate Shevchenko.

"Everyone knows that Vieri is a great friend of mine. Sheva is almost equal to the position of Bobo. Andriy and I watch movies together, we trade DVDs and we give advice to eachother every day. I have found that I have not only a great champion at my side, but also an exceptional person and a good friend for every day and for life. This is why I say that Milan must win thanks to his and my goals, and we will win."

This statement can put a firm clamp on any claims that the two strikers are not on good terms and will only reinforce coach Carlo Ancelotti's claim that his side are doing so well largely thanks to the attitude of all the players towards squad rotation.

AC Milan 0:0 Chievo Verona - match report
15.1 || scharatz

The Coppa Italia Quarter-Finals kicked off with crucial Christian Abbiati saves holding off Chievo at the San Siro.

Massimo Marazzina was not even in the stands as the want-away striker has been dropped from the squad following a row with Coach Gigi Del Neri.

Chievo had a strong start with Nikola Lazetic and Sergio Pellissier constant dangers on the flanks. The best early effort saw a Lazetic low drive from 20 metres clip the near post.

Milan started to emerge from their shell and on 21 minutes Sam Dalla Bona sent a fierce piledriver inches wide of the upright.

Fernando Redondo was given a starring role in midfield and moved well despite hardly playing for 18 months.

The Rossoneri needed to increase their creativity and replaced Leonardo with Manuel Rui Costa during the break.

Pippo Inzaghi had penalty appeals for an alleged push by John Mensah waved away at the dawn of the second period.

The Flying Donkeys also made changes as Federico Cossato – who netted the winner against Roma on Sunday – was introduced.

Cossato made an immediate impact as within minutes he latched onto a splendid Pellissier cross and brought a very difficult fingertip save out of Christian Abbiati.

On the resulting corner the goalkeeper required another impressive stop on a Nalis header from 12 yards.

Milan continued to struggle and could only aim a Jon Dahl Tomasson angled drive past the far post before some desperate defending prevented an Inzaghi tap-in and Martin Laursen nodded over the bar.

Serginho came on for the final 15 minutes in a bid to inject some pace into the Milan set-up, while ex-San Siro hero Oliver Bierhoff made an appearance.

Perhaps the Rossoneri’s best chance was ruined by a teammate. Eight minutes from time Tomasson nodded a fine cross wide when Inzaghi was unmarked and ready to volley just a couple of metres behind him.

Chievo also had a stoppage-time penalty appeal when Alessandro Nesta clattered into Pellissier, but once more the referee waved play on.

The final result suits the Flying Donkeys, even though they don't have an away goal, as the spot in the Semi-Finals will be decided in the second leg at the Stadio Bentegodi.


AC Milan vs Chievo Verona - match preview
14.1 || scharatz

The pick of the Italian Cup quarterfinal matchups will kickoff at the San Siro on Tuesday when league-leading AC Milan lock horns with surprise title hopefuls for a second year running Chievo Verona.

While Milan managed a seamless return from their Christmas slumber by beating Bologna 2-0 at the Dall'Ara, Chievo added yet another chapter to their Serie A fairytale by way of a last-gasp Frederico Cossato winner which kept them in the thick of the title-hunt with a 1-0 victory away to AS Roma.

Winning the Scudetto would be nothing short of heaven on earth for the tiny Verona side, but a Champions League place and/or the conquest of the Coppa Italia would still be more than enough reason to have them feeling they were on top of the world.

Considering their unprecedented ascendancy of the ranks of Italian football, the Flying Donkeys are truly a miracle team but in Carlo Ancelotti's side they will face an established and on-song powerhouse that are more than capable of clipping their wings as far as the Coppa Italia is concerned.

"We have a team who can compete on all fronts', said the former Juventus boss. "We really want to do well also tomorrow against Chievo, showing the same right attitude we had in our last tie against Ancona."

"I think Del Neri's side aim at a place for the Champions League and at the Coppa Italia: that's why they will be fierce and determined tomorrow," he continued before confirming that he will continue with the squad-rotation system that has worked so well for the Rossoneri this season.

"Who will I play? I have still to check the conditions of Chamot and Roque Junior, while the other players are all available. I think I will use my freshest men, that is to say Abbiati, Laursen, Helveg, Costacurta, Pirlo, Borriello, Redondo, Dalla Bona and maybe Nesta, as he will be out next Sunday due to ban."

Luigi Del Neri, whose team saw off the challenge of Piacenza to progress to the final eight, doesn't have the luxury of a megaton squad which makes it all the more bold that he has dropped Massimo Marazzina indefinitely for beaking off about only being used as a substitute on the weekend.

Galliani pays tribute to Ancelotti substitution
13.1 || Seamus

Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani paid tribute to coach Carlo Ancelotti's decision to replace Manuel Rui Costa with Serginho at half-time of the Rossoneri's 2-0 win at Bologna.

Ancelotti, who left out Filippo Inzaghi, brought the Brazilian on, and was rewarded as he scored his side's second goal in the victory.

"Milan clinched this success especially thanks to Carlo Ancelotti who played the right team," Galliani was quoted as saying on the club's official site. "During the break I called president Berlusconi who told me how he would have changed the template in the second half and at the restart, without Ancelotti being informed about it, I noticed that he made the change. It's an important win at Bologna. Inzaghi must be happy for this success: he will be decisive in many other games in the future, as he was in the past. With such a wide team everyone has to be dropped to the bench at times."

Bologna 0-2 AC Milan - match report
12.1 || webmaster

Scorers: Shevchenko 51 (M), Serginho 78 (M)

Joint leaders Milan faced a tough test of their abilities with a trip to Bologna - a team that had won all seven of its home games this season - and emerged with flying colours.

The Rossoneri dropped Pippo Inzaghi in favour of Rivaldo in a deeper role just behind Andriy Shevchenko.

Bologna had the first real chance on nine minutes when Paolo Maldini intelligently dived in front of Julio Cruz to block his shot.

As expected, Milan attempted to build play from midfield with intricate passing, while Bologna specialised in closing down the potential spaces for their creative stars and tried to hit on the break.

Manuel Rui Costa was unlucky when his fierce drive from the edge of the box was deflected out off teammate Shevchenko's back.

At half-time Serginho replaced Rui Costa to give the team more pace and width.

Bologna had the first scoring opportunity of the second period with Dida's flying save on a Colucci header.

The deadlock was eventually broken on 51 minutes when Andriy Shevchenko took advantage of the first defensive hesitation and blasted an unstoppable drive into the roof of the net.

Bologna increased the pressure in the final 20 minutes and had penalty appeals for Ambrosini's handling offence - although his arm was across his chest - and an alleged push on Cruz.

But it was substitute Serginho who sealed the win by tapping in a Rivaldo corner kick from six yards.

The Rossoblu refused to give in and forced the Milan defence to scramble clear on Cruz and then Beppe Signori.

Bologna: Pagliuca; Zaccardo, Zanchi, Castellini; Amoroso, Olive, Colucci, Paramatti (Vanoli 69); Locatelli (Meghni 86), Bellucci (Signori 62); Cruz

Milan: Dida; Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso, Ambrosini, Seedorf (Pirlo 76), Rui Costa (Serginho 46); Shevchenko (Tomasson 91), Rivaldo

Ref: Trentalange

Milan need Continental class
12.1 || scharatz

Carlo Ancelotti believes that the Rossoneri need their very best Champions' League form in order to leave Bologna with a result.

“We must have the same concentration, attitude and desire to win as if we were playing a top Champions’ League tie,” warned the tactician.

Milan have shone in Europe so far this season and currently lead the Serie A standings, but have struggled on their travels in Italy.

“Bologna are very organised, especially in defence, and have players who can make the most of the counter-attack strategy. Francesco Guidolin has worked well with the team in these last few years.”

When asked to pinpoint a danger man, Ancelotti has no hesitation in looking to giant striker Julio Cruz.

“Right now there is no question that Cruz is on fine form,” he explained. “His talents lie not only in scoring goals, but in setting up chances for his teammates.”

The Milan boss has made several tactical changes this season and is again forced to make difficult choices.

“With such a large squad it is hard to whittle them down to eleven starters and more on the bench. Just think that I have six players vying for three positions upfront: Pippo Inzaghi, Rivaldo, Manuel Rui Costa, Andriy Shevchenko and Jon Dahl Tomasson.”

Rivaldo is almost certain to sit this one out due to an injury problem, while Tomasson may be dropped among reports he is to be loaned out.

“I also have doubts over the midfield role,” confessed Ancelotti. “Either Andrea Pirlo or Massimo Ambrosini will start the match.”


Bologna vs AC Milan - match preview
10.1 || scharatz

Without doubt the most intriguing game of the weekend takes place at fortress Renato Dal'Ara where Bologna take on Milan.

The Rossoblu have been impregnable at home this season, winning all seven of their games. Admittedly tougher tests lie ahead (Inter, Lazio, Juventus and Chievo are all to come), but if you'd have told coach Francesco Guidolin at the start of the season that his side would be sitting six points off the lead with a 100% home record, he'd surely have taken that.

They really do have the potential to carry on as they are. In Cristian Zaccardo they have one of the best young performers of the season, in Tomas Locatelli one of the league's finest playmakers (when fit), while Julio Cruz and Guiseppe Signori are a handful for any defence. During the Argentine's barren days, it would have been laughable to think that any big club would want him, but so impressive has he been in front of goal that AS Roma have been linked with a move in recent times.

Milan are hardly a side in need of strikers. Indeed, coach Carlo Ancelotti insists that no new faces will be arriving. And rightly so. The Rossoneri are well catered for in all positions, especially in midfield and attack where they have two outstanding performers for every position.

Prior to the winter break, they managed to hold onto first place, despite a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to improving Brescia. As a result of that, Ancelotti's men are now neck-and-neck with neighbours Inter at the top of the table. What a mouth-watering title race it looks like being.


FORMGUIDE

Bologna: Last Six Matches: WDDWLD

The Rossoblu's only recent defeat came in the Coppa Italia, in surprising fashion at home to Vicenza. Otherwise, Bologna have beaten Modena and Parma, and secured fine draws at Chievo and Lazio.

Milan: Last Six Matches: DWWWWD

Prior to the home draw with Brescia, Milan have gained crucial wins against Roma, Borussia Dortmund and Como, while also crushing Ancona 5-1 in the cup.


LATEST TEAM NEWS

Bologna: Cipriani and Falcone are out injured, while Nervo is suspended. Signori should take his place on the bench, with Cruz being supported by Locatelli in attack.

Milan: Roque Junior and Serginho are out, but otherwise Ancelotti has a full squad to choose from. Gattuso should get a spot in the midfield, while Inzaghi and Shevchenko will carry on up front.


PROBABLE LINE-UPS

Bologna (3-5-1-1): Pagliuca, Paramatti, Zanchi, Castellini, Zaccardo, Amoroso, Olive, Colucci, Bellucci, Locatelli, Cruz

Milan (4-3-1-2): Dida, Simic, Nesta, Maldini, Kaladze, Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf, Rui Costa, Shevchenko, Inzaghi


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Manuel Rui Costa (Milan): this is a massive season for the Portuguese. He acknowledges that time is running out for him to win the game's major prizes. Now it's time for his football to consistently do the talking.

Tomas Locatelli (Bologna): the playmaker is enjoying a fine season, and if he can just stay fit, Bologna could yet do really big things.

Serie A to be stopped?
8.1 || Seamus

Shocking new incidents of violence against players could prompt the AIC to call for a stop to Serie A, B and C football.

This week Serie C side Avellino were hit by hooliganism as two players – Alessandro Pellicori and Serge Die’ – were set upon and beaten by a group of ten angry fans.

This morning the situation became even more dramatic as a home-made bomb was set off outside the home of their teammate Massimiliano Pisciotta. A note was placed across the street warning the player to leave Avellino.

“We must stop and take note of what is happening,” slammed Avellino President Nicola Iannarone.

“There needs to be a stop until we realise at long last that without a change of direction the world of football will lapse into a terminal decline.”

Players’ Association (AIC) President Sergio Campana may make the request official in Thursday’s meeting with the FIGC.

A protest against the increase in violence has already been held this season – when all Serie A and B games were delayed by 15 minutes.

"Evidently that protest was not heeded," said Campana. "These incidents are escalating at an alarming rate and we will make the players' position clear."

This Avellino attack was the latest in a long line of violent incidents between players and fans in the last two months.

Napoli defender Franco Baldini saw his car window smashed by metal bars when fans waited outside his home.

Bari midfielder Antonio Bellavista was accosted and punched by supporters outside the Stadio San Nicola before Christmas.

Catania fans pushed and shoved striker Luis Oliveira when they were allowed in to the dressing rooms following a victory over Ternana

Dida trial date set
8.1 || Seamus

Milan's Brazilian contingent have been in the news of late - with a trial date arranged for Dida's illegal passport use case and Roque Junior denying he is set to be loaned back to his native country.

Dida stand accused of using a false EU passport, and will stand trial along with agent Oscar Damiani on April 3.

Former Udinese star Edinho faces a similar charge, but his trial has been delayed because the courts are still trying to track the player down to serve notice.

Milan to be Rivaldo's last 'international-calibre side'
8.1 || Seamus

Milan playmaker Rivaldo has revealed that Milan will be the last European giant he will play for.

Italian daily TuttoSport caught up with him following the club's friendies in Saudi Arabia.

"I have never experienced such a welcome," he said. "Now I can understand why so many Brazilians decide to move to Saudi Arabia. The love of these supporters for South American players is peerless.

"I don't exclude the possibility to come here, after ending my career at Milan, the last International-calibre side in which I will play. Then I could move here to excite people and enjoy myself playing an attractive football."
SA Italy

Roque Junior not in favour of returning to Santos
8.1 || Seamus

Brazilian international defender Roque Junior has let it be known that he does not wish to leave AC Milan in the face of reports tipping him for a loan move to santos as a sweetener to bring teenage prodigy Diego to the San Siro

"I know nothing about reports linking me with a return to Santos," insisted the World Cup winner. "In any case, I do not want a return to my homeland just yet. My intention is to stay with Milan until at least 2005."

Roque Junior's chances of commanding much playing time for the Rossoneri look decidedly slim due to the stranglehold that Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta have on the two central-defensive positions, yet the 26-year-old is determined to stick it out.

"I have spoken to Carlo Ancelotti and he knows what I can offer to this team," he said. "I agree that the rotation system is important for a team that is in so many competitions. The Milan squad is very strong and varied for that reason, so a bit of benchwarming is only normal."

Roque Junior going nowhere
7.1 || Seamus

Roque Junior has slammed reports he is to join Real Madrid or Santos on loan and insists his future lies with Milan.


The Brazilian defender has been out of action since tearing shoulder ligaments in August, but now that he has returned to full fitness is locked out of the side.


“I know nothing about reports linking me with a return to Santos,” he said in an interview with Brazilian newspaper ‘Estado de Sao Paolo’.


“In any case, I do not want a return to my homeland just yet. My intention is to stay with Milan until at least 2005.”


Roque’s loan to the Brazilian Champions would be used as a sweetener to gain an option on teenage prodigy Diego.


A link with Real Madrid has also emerged, but the defender revealed that there had been a transfer request in the summer.


“The real chance to change teams came after Japan and Korea 2002 when Real made an enquiry, but Milan refused to sell me.”


That was before Alessandro Nesta completed his £21m move from Lazio, thereby taking his spot in central defence.


“I have spoken to Carlo Ancelotti,” continued the World Cup winner, “and he knows what I can offer to this team.”


Sitting on the bench in favour of Nesta and Paolo Maldini would not be a problem for the man who lifted the trophy in Yokohama in the summer.


“I agree that the rotation system is important for a team that is in so many competitions. The Milan squad is very strong and varied for that reason, so a bit of benchwarming is only normal.”

Inzaghi: Milan for life
7.1 || Seamus

Milan striker Pippo Inzaghi says he hopes to end his playing career wearing the famous Rossoneri shirt.

The Italian forward is currently in his second season at the San Siro club but claims he will be happy to hang up his boots with the current League leaders.

"If it is possible then I would like to stay at Milan for life," he said from Saudi Arabia, as Milan prepare to play an exhibition friendly against Al Ittihad.

"I am in a family here and I often speak with Vice-president Adriano Galliani. There is the chance that I could end my career here.

"But I would still like to remain when I stop playing and would love to Coach the youngsters at the club. Maybe I could teach them a few tricks of the trade."

The Piacenza-born ace also commented on the Scudetto race and admitted that he fears Juventus above anyone else.

"I know Juve well," he added. "They have a winning mentality that can help them out of difficult situations.

"But Lazio are the real surprise side. They have great champions and have demonstrated that they are real professionals."

Meanwhile, Milan chief Galliani has spoken of the season so far. "We have had six fantastic months," said the official.

"Especially in Europe where we haven’t done so well since 1992-93 season. Back then we won all our games to get to the European Cup Final."

Serginho feels valued by Milan
7.1 || Seamus

Milan's Brazilian left-sider Serginho has told the Gazzetta dello Sport that he feels valued by the club.

"I like feeling important for this team," he said. "I know that officials, coach and teammates have a high consideration of me: it's enough for me."

The player has in the past been linked with a move to rivals Inter.

Redondo to net new deal
7.1 || scharatz

Milan are set to reward the fit again Fernando Redondo with a contract extension after his two-year injury nightmare came to an end.

The Argentine had to wait 26 months to make his Milan debut after he tore knee ligaments just days after his 2000 transfer from Real Madrid.

But after three operations, the playmaker is fit once again and reports suggest the Rossoneri are keen to extend his current contract.

Redondo is only tied to the club until the summer but it looks as if the San Siro giants will offer him a new two-year deal.

The 33-year-old is likely to accept the proposal, which would probably see him end his career in Serie A.

Redondo made his debut for the Rossoneri on December 3, 2002, against Ancona in the Coppa Italia.

However, he has also featured in the League campaign and is a quality alternative for Andrea Pirlo in the Milan first team.

The club’s Vice-president, Adriano Galliani, expressed his faith in the midfielder last summer when saying: "Our most important signing this year is Fernando Redondo."

Milan call on Cudicini
5.1 || Seamus

Milan have been linked with a bid for Chelsea goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini – a return to his first club.

The shot-stopper started his career as a Rossoneri youth product, but was immediately handed out to lower division sides in Italy.

He made his mark in the Premiership and his performances at Stamford Bridge even earned a call-up to the Azzurri squad for the friendly against Turkey in November.

Cudicini is also a familiar name at the San Siro as his father Fabio, nicknamed 'The Black Spider', stood between the posts from 1967 to '72.

Milan have been struggling with goalkeepers of late as Brazilian Dida has taken the first team jersey off Christian Abbiati.

It is reported that Abbiati – who Cudicini has replaced as third choice Azzurri ‘keeper – will be handed to Lazio mid-season as part of a swap deal for Jaap Stam.

He would in turn replace Angelo Peruzzi as the veteran shot-stopper is a target for Premiership Champions Arsenal.

Seedorf: Ancelotti deserves praise
5.1 || Seamus

Clarence Seedorf claims that Coach Carlo Ancelotti is the key to Milan’s success in Serie A and the Champions’ League this season.


“If we are leading the way in both competitions,” remarked the Dutchman, “then most of the credit must go to Ancelotti. He has been able to give the team a wonderful balance.”


There were fears pre-season that the attack-minded tactics would leave them open to the counter-attack, but Milan have conceded just ten goals in fifteen Serie A games.


“The defence is obviously doing well,” noted Seedorf, “but the whole squad is so well organised that every player is willing to work extra hard for a common goal.”


The one weakness that remains in their Serie A campaign is a tendency to drop points on their travels.


“The Italian League is extremely difficult, particularly away from home. In the Champions’ League we have earned some very important wins outside the San Siro, and these results are almost worth double.”


They will try to break that bubble when the season kick-starts again at Bologna – a team that has won all seven games at the Stadio Dall’Ara.


“I only think of our next opponents the day before the game,” revealed the former Inter midfielder, “when Ancelotti outlines their strengths and weaknesses.”


“Our real secret weapon this season is to be totally convinced of our own abilities and not worry too much about who we are facing.”

Maldini - We needed some rest
5.1 || Seamus

Milan captain Paolo Maldini says that the players needed the winter break.

"We needed this pause," he was quoted as saying on the club's official site. "Many foreign countries have even a longer period off and it's very useful both for the club and the National sides. The players are more relaxed at their return and can face with the right attitude their games. I don't think we can have it also in Italy because we have many fixtures. We are still on good form, ten days are not enough to lose your fitness, moreover we have become more responsible."

Nesta: Milan can rule 2003
3.1 || Seamus

Milan stopper Alessandro Nesta believes that his club could complete an historic treble of victories in 2003.

The international is back in training at Milanello and maintains that the Rossoneri could win the Scudetto, the Champions’ League and the Coppa Italia in the next six months.

"We have all the right cards to win every competition that we are playing for," he enthusiastically told ‘Milan Channel.’

"However, we know that it won’t be easy. The likes of Juventus and Inter, in particular, are good enough to take us all the way.

"But the Christmas break was a welcome distraction. It has given us all the time to relax and rest which is the most important thing."

Nesta has been in stunning form for the San Siro outfit since his £20m summer move from Lazio.

But even without ‘their’ instrumental captain, Lazio have stunned Italy by ending the year 2002 just one point behind both Milan and Inter in Serie A.

"Lazio have suffered a lot at board level but you can’t really doubt the quality of their squad," added the Biancocelesti youth product.

"They may have lost a few players in the summer but they deserve to be so high in the League."

Berlusconi: Vialli turned down Milan
3.1 || Seamus

Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has revealed that Gianluca Vialli turned down the chance to sign for the Rossoneri.

"It was always my dream to create an all-Italian squad that would be able to beat the national side," he said.

"One of the key men in this was bringing Vialli here - I even had a written agreement with Sampdoria to that effect.

"But things didn't work out and unfortunately my dream went up in smoke."

Gattuso attacks his critics
3.1 || Seamus

Milan's midfield battler Gennaro Gattuso has launched an attack on those who have criticised his style of play.

The Italy international is ready to return from injury, and told the Corriere della Sera: "Stop saying that I'm not worthy of playing football. I'm aware I'm not Rivaldo or Rui Costa, but 60 per cent of players are like me. My many coaches have never left me aside, so I shouldn't mind about critics."
SA Italy

Diego honoured by Milan talk
3.1 || Seamus

Brazilian sensation Diego – nicknamed the new Pele – says that he is honoured to have been linked with a move to Milan.

Reports over the past week suggested that the Italian club would offer Roque Junior on loan to Santos in exchange for an option on the 17-year-old.

"It is a great honour for me to have been linked with such a prestigious club," Diego told Brazilian newspaper ‘Estadio’.

"Even though there seems to be nothing official about the reports I would be happy if this proposed deal turned into reality.

"But for now I need to concentrate on my current club. I owe Santos a lot and I will stay here in a bid to win as much as possible and to gain even more experience."





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