Memories of AC Milan's most celebrated tie against SL Benfica, the 1963 final, are flooding back for José Altafini as the two clubs meet again on Tuesday night.
Memories of AC Milan's most celebrated tie against SL Benfica are flooding back for José Altafini as the two sides meet again in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.
Altafini's two goals at Wembley helped the Rossoneri beat holders Benfica in the 1963 European Champion Clubs' Cup final, becoming the first Italian club to win the competition. "As usual when playing in Europe we were not getting good results in the Italian league," he told uefa.com. "Moreover, we knew we had to face the European champions. But we were looking for revenge, because in 1958 Real Madrid [CF] had beaten us in the final at Brussels' Heysel Stadium."
Altafini started his career with Milan in 1958, settling in to life in Italy immediately and scoring 28 goals in 32 matches in his first season. The Brazilian-born striker's efforts in the 1963 final took his total for the campaign to 14 - a record that still stands and is still the source of immense pride to the striker. "No one has broken that record and no one ever will because nowadays there are more games and the Champions League is a different format," he said.
Modern Milan hero Kakà scored ten goals in 14 games as Milan won the title last season and earned some admiration from the 70-year-old Altafini. He said: "Kakà is definitely the strongest player in the world. He has shown it on the pitch. Ronaldinho didn't show all he could do last term - maybe he will do it this year." He also had advice for misfiring Milan striker Alberto Gilardino, saying: "He must not keep looking for a goal. He should just wait for it. He has to stay calm."
Having watched Milan build slowly before winning last season's competition, Altafini maintained that another European title was within his old side's grasp this season. "This time around it will be more difficult for Milan because many teams have strengthened their squads," Altafini explained. "But then some teams - like [Olympique Lyonnais] for example - always start well in the group stage and qualify easily but don't manage to progress through the knockout stage while Milan often do the opposite."
Should Milan, who have lifted the famous old trophy another six times that since that first success in 1963, make another slow start and then hit top gear in the group stage again, it could yet put them on course to become the first side to win successive UEFA Champions League titles. "Any team who hits their best form after the group stage will be favourite to win," said Altafini.