The hero the last time AC Milan won an Athens final, Dejan Savicevic has called on the Rossoneri to show "cool heads and brave hearts" against Liverpool FC.
Article top media content
If AC Milan need any inspiration for Wednesday's showdown with Liverpool FC they need look no further than the last time they contested the European Champion Clubs' Cup final in Athens.
That night against FC Barcelona in 1994 Fabio Capello's great Milan side were at the peak of their powers, blowing away Johan Cruyff's "Dream Team" with a mesmerising performance spearheaded by the mercurial Dejan Savićević, known by the Rossoneri tifosi as Il Genio, the Genius. Savićević, now president of the Football Association of Montenegro, admits to feeling some trepidation as his side prepared to face the likes of Romário, Ronald Koeman and Hristo Stoichkov, but in the event Barcelona were no match for the Rossoneri who powered to a 4-0 victory.
"I'll never forget that match," Savićević told uefa.com. "We went to Athens with a little fear. We had a lot of problems and were playing against a big team. But we knew we had some advantages. We were very disciplined and tactically ready for a tough game. Barcelona were a team of stars, but we were the better team. Perhaps not so spectacular, but very, very strong and competitive, even though we were without some important players. Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta, the rocks in our defence, were suspended and I remember Christian Panucci played at left-back while Filippo Galli had the difficult job of looking after Romário, the best forward in the world."
In the event, Romário's contribution was negligible as Milan seized the initiative with a pair of first-half goals from Daniele Massaro. The match is best remembered, though, for a moment of magic two minutes after the restart from Savićević who pounced on a defensive error before surprising Barcelona goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta with a sensational lob from the touchline. "I saw Zubizarreta was off his goalline and I decided to try and make it. It was a really great goal, one of my best, and surely the most famous." Marcel Desailly added the fourth 12 minutes later as Savićević won the European crown for the second time in three years, following his success with FK Crvena Zvezda in 1991.
Savićević will be at Wednesday's final and is looking forward to renewing acquaintances with some famous faces, including Paolo Maldini, incredibly still in the side 13 years on from that first Athens final. "I can't wait to see my old team-mates, to speak with them about the old days and, of course, to cheer for Milan once again." Not that he thinks the Rossoneri will have it all their own way as they look to avenge defeat in the 2005 showpiece. "Liverpool are tough opponents. Physically they are very strong and they are disciplined. Liverpool remind me of Milan 13 years ago, but I hope Milan will find a way to win.
"It is very important not to play under pressure, not to think about that final in Istanbul, about revenge. That was a specific match and I don't think that scenario will ever happen again. Milan must play with calm and patience, with cool heads, but brave hearts. Just like we did it against Barcelona in Athens. Milan's biggest advantage could be their experience. Paolo Maldini, Clarence Seedorf, Fillipo Inzaghi, Andrea Pirlo and Dida have all played a lot of important games. Also, Milan have the magnificent Kaká, who could be decisive."