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Barcelona-Milan connections run deep

Before the seventh meeting in two years of AC Milan and FC Barcelona, runs through the stellar list of players to have represented both sides in recent times.

Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimović embrace after the Barcelona-Milan quarter-final in 2012
Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimović embrace after the Barcelona-Milan quarter-final in 2012 ©AFP/Getty Images

From Michael Reiziger to Bojan Krkić – via the likes of Patrick Kluivert, Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimović – the list of players to have represented both AC Milan and FC Barcelona in recent times is stellar. Before the seventh UEFA Champions League meeting of the teams since September 2011, looks at the links between two European football heavyweights.

"Destiny is incredible – I love the Champions League," said AFC Ajax's on-loan forward Bojan about the prospect of facing parent club Barcelona as well as Milan, where he played last season, in Group H. Ajax have a special connection with both sides, in fact, starting in 1997 when their former defender Reiziger joined Barcelona after failing to make an impact with the Rossoneri.

The right-back, who would win the Liga twice in seven years with the Azulgrana, was the first of four players to appear for each of Barça and Milan having originally made their name as part of the Ajax XI that conquered Europe in 1995.

While Edgar Davids spent the second half of 2003/04 on loan at the Camp Nou from Juventus after a brief spell with Milan in the 1990s, Winston Bogarde and Kluivert followed Reziger's footsteps in moving to Barcelona directly from the Diavolo. The striker was particularly successful in that corner of Spain, scoring 90 goals in 182 Liga games.

However, Barcelona and Milan's associations with Dutch football began even earlier. Johan Cruyff and Ronald Koeman will always be significant figures in Blaugrana history, as will Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten in the annals of the Serie A outfit. Then comes Frank Rijkaard, who lifted the European Cup as a Rossoneri player – getting the only goal of the 1990 final against SL Benfica – and as coach of the Catalans, overseeing the victory against Arsenal FC in the 2006 showpiece.

A FIFA World Cup winner with France, Christophe Dugarry switched to Barcelona from Milan ahead of the 1997/98 season yet made just seven league outings – two more than Demetrio Albertini, who finished his career at the Camp Nou in 2005 after winning the Scudetto five times and the UEFA Champions League twice during 13 years at San Siro. Francesco Coco, another Milan old boy, also had a brief stint in Barcelona, comprising 23 matches in 2001/02.

The following season Milan brought Rivaldo from Barcelona. However, the 1999 Ballon d'Or winner failed to reproduce the form that made him a fans' favourite in Catalonia, spending a single campaign in northern Italy in which he earned a UEFA Champions League winners' medal. Meanwhile Ronaldo, who netted 34 goals in 37 Liga appearances for Barça in 1996/97 – and took the Ballon d'Or in 1997 as well as in 2002 – ended his European career at Milan in 2007/08 after long service with FC Internazionale Milano and Real Madrid CF.

Then came Ronaldinho, who landed in Milan after helping Barça secure the European crown in 2006, on the back of 70 goals in 145 top-flight matches. The 2005 Ballon d'Or winner headed to Lombardy with Gianluca Zambrotta in 2008, staying until 2011 and registering 20 goals in 76 Serie A fixtures before returning to his native Brazil.

Ibrahimović, another Ajax graduate, was the next to go directly from Barcelona to Milan in 2009. The Sweden captain was a league champion with both sides, a feat repeated by Mark van Bommel, who also picked up the UEFA Champions League trophy in 2006. "In terms of glamour I don't think it comes any better than Barcelona and Milan," said Celtic FC manager Neil Lennon whose team are also in Group H. It is difficult to argue with that assessment, judging from the illustrious names above.

Milan host Barcelona on Tuesday 22 October before the reverse fixture on Wednesday 6 November.