Interview

La dolce vita

Thirty years after beating Benfica in the final to win a second successive European Cup, Ruud Gullit looks back on an AC Milan team that is synonymous with glory and goals. Lots of goals.

INTERVIEW Ian Holyman

You look at that AC Milan side and it’s like a who's who of football legends. Did that make it easier to win the European Cup again against Benfica in 1990, having won it the previous season against Steaua Bucureşti?

No. It was getting more difficult every year, for the simple reason that everybody knows how you play and they are more focused on you. That's why the game was only 1-0.

Before that final in Vienna, did you feel the pressure of being the favourites and expected to win?

I didn’t because for most of the year I was injured; I had a cartilage injury and I was just coming back. When we played against Bayern Munich in the semi-final, that was when the surgeon gave me the OK to train with the team for the first time. Can you imagine: I was training from that game until the final. And you know, the game was on television a couple of months ago; I watched it and I played well. I should have scored some goals, by the way. I missed a couple of opportunities. 

We weren’t going to mention that. Did you remember much about the game before you watched it again?

No, I remember more about the final the year before. It’s strange: there are games that I can’t even remember anymore. Also, because I was out for such a long time, the focus was on, “Let’s get back!” So there were no expectations in that final for me. I knew Rijkaard scored that goal, I was happy, blah, blah, blah. But I had to play a World Cup after that. I had no time to celebrate because I had another tournament coming.

Was your manager at the time, Arrigo Sacchi the kind of guy who would prepare you for your opponents?

Yes. Oh yes, we were watching them all the time. Watching them, watching them, watching them. Of course, you can play your own game but sometimes you have to take advantage of their weaknesses. 

The starting line-up: eight Italians, three Dutchmen

Sacchi has said that you were someone who drove your teammates on.

I was just trying to express myself. Not so much in performance, but more to work as hard as I could for my team. So I was pressing hard. I was putting the opposition under pressure to make mistakes. I didn't feel big enough not to do the hard work; that was part of who I was.

What was difficult for my teammates to understand was that I didn't care who I was playing against, I just wanted to have fun. We were playing against Real Madrid away for the first time [as a team in the round of 16] and I was always in a room with Carlo Ancelotti. The morning we had to play, he stands in front of my bed, I wake up and he says, “You. I watched you all night. You were sleeping like a baby. How can you sleep like a baby when we’re playing Real Madrid? I haven't closed my eyes for a moment!”

I said, “Carlo, please, what are you worried about? We are much better than Real Madrid. Now leave me alone!”

Also, at pre-match meals I would be talking and laughing. In the beginning everyone was looking at me like, “Oh my God, is he serious, this guy?” But that had nothing to do with it. It was just my way of preparing for the match. Some players have to be quiet all the time; that was not for me.

At that time, UEFA rules still stipulated that teams could only field three foreign players in a match. How important to the success of that Milan side was the fact that you were three Dutch guys?

Initially it was just me and Marco van Basten. We begged Sacchi to buy Frank Rijkaard, begged him; we kept on going and eventually they took him. That was the missing jigsaw piece to get everything the way we wanted in midfield. Him and Ancelotti, oh my God! Nobody gets through there. They were so strong on the ball.

The three of us would never sit with each other though. We were always sitting at different tables with the Italians, talking with them in Italian, so they had no feeling that there was some kind of clique of the three Dutchmen. We adapted. And in those days not many Italians were speaking English, so you had to learn the language. Italian is the most beautiful language in the world though so it was easy to learn. 

Italians love everything to do with beauty: cars, women, watches, fashion, holidays, food… everything! So that is a nice environment to live in. And sometimes I make fun of them because there is always drama. “How are you doing?” “Ah, ah, I don’t know. Ah…” Italians love the drama. It’s always like that but it’s a beautiful country with beautiful people, so I’m very fond of the time that I spent in Italy. 

In action against Benfica

Tell us what it’s like. We all dream of lifting that cup; you did it twice. What’s it like the next day? Do you wake up and think, ‘Wow, I’ve done it’?

Yes, you do. But you realise that already when you pick up that “cup with the big ears”. It’s a fantastic feeling because it’s the best thing you can do for a club in Europe, and the whole world is watching. So then you realise, “Hey, this is huge.” Especially in Italy, where they adore the beauty of football. It was wonderful.

But it was difficult too because I had no privacy anymore. I couldn’t go anywhere. No restaurants, no going out, no buying clothes – simple things. It was impossible. But that’s the Italians; that’s their passion. It was hard because I learned to say “no”. People don’t like it when you say that, especially journalists. If I was to say to you, “No interview,” you would be very angry with me. You would say, “Oh, this Ruud, he is very cocky. The arrogance.” That is how it goes.

Thirty years after that victory in Vienna, everybody still talks about that AC Milan side, about the three Dutch guys, about the fabulous goals, about the fabulous achievement. How proud are you that you were part of a team that defined an era in football?

It is exceptional if you think about it. Sometimes you don’t realise it, but it is an unbelievable achievement. What you hear, most of the time, is that people appreciated the way we played. We always tried to attack, even when we were winning games 4-0, 5-0. That was unheard of for a team in Italy; 1-0, 2-1, you know? But this was a team that was going like crazy, trying to score goals, goals, goals, goals. That was very nice to be part of. All these players I played with who were all exceptional. When we all got together, all of a sudden, something clicked. You could feel it: “There’s something going on here.”

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

You look at that AC Milan side and it’s like a who's who of football legends. Did that make it easier to win the European Cup again against Benfica in 1990, having won it the previous season against Steaua Bucureşti?

No. It was getting more difficult every year, for the simple reason that everybody knows how you play and they are more focused on you. That's why the game was only 1-0.

Before that final in Vienna, did you feel the pressure of being the favourites and expected to win?

I didn’t because for most of the year I was injured; I had a cartilage injury and I was just coming back. When we played against Bayern Munich in the semi-final, that was when the surgeon gave me the OK to train with the team for the first time. Can you imagine: I was training from that game until the final. And you know, the game was on television a couple of months ago; I watched it and I played well. I should have scored some goals, by the way. I missed a couple of opportunities. 

We weren’t going to mention that. Did you remember much about the game before you watched it again?

No, I remember more about the final the year before. It’s strange: there are games that I can’t even remember anymore. Also, because I was out for such a long time, the focus was on, “Let’s get back!” So there were no expectations in that final for me. I knew Rijkaard scored that goal, I was happy, blah, blah, blah. But I had to play a World Cup after that. I had no time to celebrate because I had another tournament coming.

Was your manager at the time, Arrigo Sacchi the kind of guy who would prepare you for your opponents?

Yes. Oh yes, we were watching them all the time. Watching them, watching them, watching them. Of course, you can play your own game but sometimes you have to take advantage of their weaknesses. 

The starting line-up: eight Italians, three Dutchmen

Sacchi has said that you were someone who drove your teammates on.

I was just trying to express myself. Not so much in performance, but more to work as hard as I could for my team. So I was pressing hard. I was putting the opposition under pressure to make mistakes. I didn't feel big enough not to do the hard work; that was part of who I was.

What was difficult for my teammates to understand was that I didn't care who I was playing against, I just wanted to have fun. We were playing against Real Madrid away for the first time [as a team in the round of 16] and I was always in a room with Carlo Ancelotti. The morning we had to play, he stands in front of my bed, I wake up and he says, “You. I watched you all night. You were sleeping like a baby. How can you sleep like a baby when we’re playing Real Madrid? I haven't closed my eyes for a moment!”

I said, “Carlo, please, what are you worried about? We are much better than Real Madrid. Now leave me alone!”

Also, at pre-match meals I would be talking and laughing. In the beginning everyone was looking at me like, “Oh my God, is he serious, this guy?” But that had nothing to do with it. It was just my way of preparing for the match. Some players have to be quiet all the time; that was not for me.

At that time, UEFA rules still stipulated that teams could only field three foreign players in a match. How important to the success of that Milan side was the fact that you were three Dutch guys?

Initially it was just me and Marco van Basten. We begged Sacchi to buy Frank Rijkaard, begged him; we kept on going and eventually they took him. That was the missing jigsaw piece to get everything the way we wanted in midfield. Him and Ancelotti, oh my God! Nobody gets through there. They were so strong on the ball.

The three of us would never sit with each other though. We were always sitting at different tables with the Italians, talking with them in Italian, so they had no feeling that there was some kind of clique of the three Dutchmen. We adapted. And in those days not many Italians were speaking English, so you had to learn the language. Italian is the most beautiful language in the world though so it was easy to learn. 

Italians love everything to do with beauty: cars, women, watches, fashion, holidays, food… everything! So that is a nice environment to live in. And sometimes I make fun of them because there is always drama. “How are you doing?” “Ah, ah, I don’t know. Ah…” Italians love the drama. It’s always like that but it’s a beautiful country with beautiful people, so I’m very fond of the time that I spent in Italy. 

In action against Benfica

Tell us what it’s like. We all dream of lifting that cup; you did it twice. What’s it like the next day? Do you wake up and think, ‘Wow, I’ve done it’?

Yes, you do. But you realise that already when you pick up that “cup with the big ears”. It’s a fantastic feeling because it’s the best thing you can do for a club in Europe, and the whole world is watching. So then you realise, “Hey, this is huge.” Especially in Italy, where they adore the beauty of football. It was wonderful.

But it was difficult too because I had no privacy anymore. I couldn’t go anywhere. No restaurants, no going out, no buying clothes – simple things. It was impossible. But that’s the Italians; that’s their passion. It was hard because I learned to say “no”. People don’t like it when you say that, especially journalists. If I was to say to you, “No interview,” you would be very angry with me. You would say, “Oh, this Ruud, he is very cocky. The arrogance.” That is how it goes.

Thirty years after that victory in Vienna, everybody still talks about that AC Milan side, about the three Dutch guys, about the fabulous goals, about the fabulous achievement. How proud are you that you were part of a team that defined an era in football?

It is exceptional if you think about it. Sometimes you don’t realise it, but it is an unbelievable achievement. What you hear, most of the time, is that people appreciated the way we played. We always tried to attack, even when we were winning games 4-0, 5-0. That was unheard of for a team in Italy; 1-0, 2-1, you know? But this was a team that was going like crazy, trying to score goals, goals, goals, goals. That was very nice to be part of. All these players I played with who were all exceptional. When we all got together, all of a sudden, something clicked. You could feel it: “There’s something going on here.”

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You look at that AC Milan side and it’s like a who's who of football legends. Did that make it easier to win the European Cup again against Benfica in 1990, having won it the previous season against Steaua Bucureşti?

No. It was getting more difficult every year, for the simple reason that everybody knows how you play and they are more focused on you. That's why the game was only 1-0.

Before that final in Vienna, did you feel the pressure of being the favourites and expected to win?

I didn’t because for most of the year I was injured; I had a cartilage injury and I was just coming back. When we played against Bayern Munich in the semi-final, that was when the surgeon gave me the OK to train with the team for the first time. Can you imagine: I was training from that game until the final. And you know, the game was on television a couple of months ago; I watched it and I played well. I should have scored some goals, by the way. I missed a couple of opportunities. 

We weren’t going to mention that. Did you remember much about the game before you watched it again?

No, I remember more about the final the year before. It’s strange: there are games that I can’t even remember anymore. Also, because I was out for such a long time, the focus was on, “Let’s get back!” So there were no expectations in that final for me. I knew Rijkaard scored that goal, I was happy, blah, blah, blah. But I had to play a World Cup after that. I had no time to celebrate because I had another tournament coming.

Was your manager at the time, Arrigo Sacchi the kind of guy who would prepare you for your opponents?

Yes. Oh yes, we were watching them all the time. Watching them, watching them, watching them. Of course, you can play your own game but sometimes you have to take advantage of their weaknesses. 

The starting line-up: eight Italians, three Dutchmen

Sacchi has said that you were someone who drove your teammates on.

I was just trying to express myself. Not so much in performance, but more to work as hard as I could for my team. So I was pressing hard. I was putting the opposition under pressure to make mistakes. I didn't feel big enough not to do the hard work; that was part of who I was.

What was difficult for my teammates to understand was that I didn't care who I was playing against, I just wanted to have fun. We were playing against Real Madrid away for the first time [as a team in the round of 16] and I was always in a room with Carlo Ancelotti. The morning we had to play, he stands in front of my bed, I wake up and he says, “You. I watched you all night. You were sleeping like a baby. How can you sleep like a baby when we’re playing Real Madrid? I haven't closed my eyes for a moment!”

I said, “Carlo, please, what are you worried about? We are much better than Real Madrid. Now leave me alone!”

Also, at pre-match meals I would be talking and laughing. In the beginning everyone was looking at me like, “Oh my God, is he serious, this guy?” But that had nothing to do with it. It was just my way of preparing for the match. Some players have to be quiet all the time; that was not for me.

At that time, UEFA rules still stipulated that teams could only field three foreign players in a match. How important to the success of that Milan side was the fact that you were three Dutch guys?

Initially it was just me and Marco van Basten. We begged Sacchi to buy Frank Rijkaard, begged him; we kept on going and eventually they took him. That was the missing jigsaw piece to get everything the way we wanted in midfield. Him and Ancelotti, oh my God! Nobody gets through there. They were so strong on the ball.

The three of us would never sit with each other though. We were always sitting at different tables with the Italians, talking with them in Italian, so they had no feeling that there was some kind of clique of the three Dutchmen. We adapted. And in those days not many Italians were speaking English, so you had to learn the language. Italian is the most beautiful language in the world though so it was easy to learn. 

Italians love everything to do with beauty: cars, women, watches, fashion, holidays, food… everything! So that is a nice environment to live in. And sometimes I make fun of them because there is always drama. “How are you doing?” “Ah, ah, I don’t know. Ah…” Italians love the drama. It’s always like that but it’s a beautiful country with beautiful people, so I’m very fond of the time that I spent in Italy. 

In action against Benfica

Tell us what it’s like. We all dream of lifting that cup; you did it twice. What’s it like the next day? Do you wake up and think, ‘Wow, I’ve done it’?

Yes, you do. But you realise that already when you pick up that “cup with the big ears”. It’s a fantastic feeling because it’s the best thing you can do for a club in Europe, and the whole world is watching. So then you realise, “Hey, this is huge.” Especially in Italy, where they adore the beauty of football. It was wonderful.

But it was difficult too because I had no privacy anymore. I couldn’t go anywhere. No restaurants, no going out, no buying clothes – simple things. It was impossible. But that’s the Italians; that’s their passion. It was hard because I learned to say “no”. People don’t like it when you say that, especially journalists. If I was to say to you, “No interview,” you would be very angry with me. You would say, “Oh, this Ruud, he is very cocky. The arrogance.” That is how it goes.

Thirty years after that victory in Vienna, everybody still talks about that AC Milan side, about the three Dutch guys, about the fabulous goals, about the fabulous achievement. How proud are you that you were part of a team that defined an era in football?

It is exceptional if you think about it. Sometimes you don’t realise it, but it is an unbelievable achievement. What you hear, most of the time, is that people appreciated the way we played. We always tried to attack, even when we were winning games 4-0, 5-0. That was unheard of for a team in Italy; 1-0, 2-1, you know? But this was a team that was going like crazy, trying to score goals, goals, goals, goals. That was very nice to be part of. All these players I played with who were all exceptional. When we all got together, all of a sudden, something clicked. You could feel it: “There’s something going on here.”

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

Interview

La dolce vita

Thirty years after beating Benfica in the final to win a second successive European Cup, Ruud Gullit looks back on an AC Milan team that is synonymous with glory and goals. Lots of goals.

INTERVIEW Ian Holyman

You look at that AC Milan side and it’s like a who's who of football legends. Did that make it easier to win the European Cup again against Benfica in 1990, having won it the previous season against Steaua Bucureşti?

No. It was getting more difficult every year, for the simple reason that everybody knows how you play and they are more focused on you. That's why the game was only 1-0.

Before that final in Vienna, did you feel the pressure of being the favourites and expected to win?

I didn’t because for most of the year I was injured; I had a cartilage injury and I was just coming back. When we played against Bayern Munich in the semi-final, that was when the surgeon gave me the OK to train with the team for the first time. Can you imagine: I was training from that game until the final. And you know, the game was on television a couple of months ago; I watched it and I played well. I should have scored some goals, by the way. I missed a couple of opportunities. 

We weren’t going to mention that. Did you remember much about the game before you watched it again?

No, I remember more about the final the year before. It’s strange: there are games that I can’t even remember anymore. Also, because I was out for such a long time, the focus was on, “Let’s get back!” So there were no expectations in that final for me. I knew Rijkaard scored that goal, I was happy, blah, blah, blah. But I had to play a World Cup after that. I had no time to celebrate because I had another tournament coming.

Was your manager at the time, Arrigo Sacchi the kind of guy who would prepare you for your opponents?

Yes. Oh yes, we were watching them all the time. Watching them, watching them, watching them. Of course, you can play your own game but sometimes you have to take advantage of their weaknesses. 

The starting line-up: eight Italians, three Dutchmen

Sacchi has said that you were someone who drove your teammates on.

I was just trying to express myself. Not so much in performance, but more to work as hard as I could for my team. So I was pressing hard. I was putting the opposition under pressure to make mistakes. I didn't feel big enough not to do the hard work; that was part of who I was.

What was difficult for my teammates to understand was that I didn't care who I was playing against, I just wanted to have fun. We were playing against Real Madrid away for the first time [as a team in the round of 16] and I was always in a room with Carlo Ancelotti. The morning we had to play, he stands in front of my bed, I wake up and he says, “You. I watched you all night. You were sleeping like a baby. How can you sleep like a baby when we’re playing Real Madrid? I haven't closed my eyes for a moment!”

I said, “Carlo, please, what are you worried about? We are much better than Real Madrid. Now leave me alone!”

Also, at pre-match meals I would be talking and laughing. In the beginning everyone was looking at me like, “Oh my God, is he serious, this guy?” But that had nothing to do with it. It was just my way of preparing for the match. Some players have to be quiet all the time; that was not for me.

At that time, UEFA rules still stipulated that teams could only field three foreign players in a match. How important to the success of that Milan side was the fact that you were three Dutch guys?

Initially it was just me and Marco van Basten. We begged Sacchi to buy Frank Rijkaard, begged him; we kept on going and eventually they took him. That was the missing jigsaw piece to get everything the way we wanted in midfield. Him and Ancelotti, oh my God! Nobody gets through there. They were so strong on the ball.

The three of us would never sit with each other though. We were always sitting at different tables with the Italians, talking with them in Italian, so they had no feeling that there was some kind of clique of the three Dutchmen. We adapted. And in those days not many Italians were speaking English, so you had to learn the language. Italian is the most beautiful language in the world though so it was easy to learn. 

Italians love everything to do with beauty: cars, women, watches, fashion, holidays, food… everything! So that is a nice environment to live in. And sometimes I make fun of them because there is always drama. “How are you doing?” “Ah, ah, I don’t know. Ah…” Italians love the drama. It’s always like that but it’s a beautiful country with beautiful people, so I’m very fond of the time that I spent in Italy. 

In action against Benfica

Tell us what it’s like. We all dream of lifting that cup; you did it twice. What’s it like the next day? Do you wake up and think, ‘Wow, I’ve done it’?

Yes, you do. But you realise that already when you pick up that “cup with the big ears”. It’s a fantastic feeling because it’s the best thing you can do for a club in Europe, and the whole world is watching. So then you realise, “Hey, this is huge.” Especially in Italy, where they adore the beauty of football. It was wonderful.

But it was difficult too because I had no privacy anymore. I couldn’t go anywhere. No restaurants, no going out, no buying clothes – simple things. It was impossible. But that’s the Italians; that’s their passion. It was hard because I learned to say “no”. People don’t like it when you say that, especially journalists. If I was to say to you, “No interview,” you would be very angry with me. You would say, “Oh, this Ruud, he is very cocky. The arrogance.” That is how it goes.

Thirty years after that victory in Vienna, everybody still talks about that AC Milan side, about the three Dutch guys, about the fabulous goals, about the fabulous achievement. How proud are you that you were part of a team that defined an era in football?

It is exceptional if you think about it. Sometimes you don’t realise it, but it is an unbelievable achievement. What you hear, most of the time, is that people appreciated the way we played. We always tried to attack, even when we were winning games 4-0, 5-0. That was unheard of for a team in Italy; 1-0, 2-1, you know? But this was a team that was going like crazy, trying to score goals, goals, goals, goals. That was very nice to be part of. All these players I played with who were all exceptional. When we all got together, all of a sudden, something clicked. You could feel it: “There’s something going on here.”

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

You look at that AC Milan side and it’s like a who's who of football legends. Did that make it easier to win the European Cup again against Benfica in 1990, having won it the previous season against Steaua Bucureşti?

No. It was getting more difficult every year, for the simple reason that everybody knows how you play and they are more focused on you. That's why the game was only 1-0.

Before that final in Vienna, did you feel the pressure of being the favourites and expected to win?

I didn’t because for most of the year I was injured; I had a cartilage injury and I was just coming back. When we played against Bayern Munich in the semi-final, that was when the surgeon gave me the OK to train with the team for the first time. Can you imagine: I was training from that game until the final. And you know, the game was on television a couple of months ago; I watched it and I played well. I should have scored some goals, by the way. I missed a couple of opportunities. 

We weren’t going to mention that. Did you remember much about the game before you watched it again?

No, I remember more about the final the year before. It’s strange: there are games that I can’t even remember anymore. Also, because I was out for such a long time, the focus was on, “Let’s get back!” So there were no expectations in that final for me. I knew Rijkaard scored that goal, I was happy, blah, blah, blah. But I had to play a World Cup after that. I had no time to celebrate because I had another tournament coming.

Was your manager at the time, Arrigo Sacchi the kind of guy who would prepare you for your opponents?

Yes. Oh yes, we were watching them all the time. Watching them, watching them, watching them. Of course, you can play your own game but sometimes you have to take advantage of their weaknesses. 

The starting line-up: eight Italians, three Dutchmen

Sacchi has said that you were someone who drove your teammates on.

I was just trying to express myself. Not so much in performance, but more to work as hard as I could for my team. So I was pressing hard. I was putting the opposition under pressure to make mistakes. I didn't feel big enough not to do the hard work; that was part of who I was.

What was difficult for my teammates to understand was that I didn't care who I was playing against, I just wanted to have fun. We were playing against Real Madrid away for the first time [as a team in the round of 16] and I was always in a room with Carlo Ancelotti. The morning we had to play, he stands in front of my bed, I wake up and he says, “You. I watched you all night. You were sleeping like a baby. How can you sleep like a baby when we’re playing Real Madrid? I haven't closed my eyes for a moment!”

I said, “Carlo, please, what are you worried about? We are much better than Real Madrid. Now leave me alone!”

Also, at pre-match meals I would be talking and laughing. In the beginning everyone was looking at me like, “Oh my God, is he serious, this guy?” But that had nothing to do with it. It was just my way of preparing for the match. Some players have to be quiet all the time; that was not for me.

At that time, UEFA rules still stipulated that teams could only field three foreign players in a match. How important to the success of that Milan side was the fact that you were three Dutch guys?

Initially it was just me and Marco van Basten. We begged Sacchi to buy Frank Rijkaard, begged him; we kept on going and eventually they took him. That was the missing jigsaw piece to get everything the way we wanted in midfield. Him and Ancelotti, oh my God! Nobody gets through there. They were so strong on the ball.

The three of us would never sit with each other though. We were always sitting at different tables with the Italians, talking with them in Italian, so they had no feeling that there was some kind of clique of the three Dutchmen. We adapted. And in those days not many Italians were speaking English, so you had to learn the language. Italian is the most beautiful language in the world though so it was easy to learn. 

Italians love everything to do with beauty: cars, women, watches, fashion, holidays, food… everything! So that is a nice environment to live in. And sometimes I make fun of them because there is always drama. “How are you doing?” “Ah, ah, I don’t know. Ah…” Italians love the drama. It’s always like that but it’s a beautiful country with beautiful people, so I’m very fond of the time that I spent in Italy. 

In action against Benfica

Tell us what it’s like. We all dream of lifting that cup; you did it twice. What’s it like the next day? Do you wake up and think, ‘Wow, I’ve done it’?

Yes, you do. But you realise that already when you pick up that “cup with the big ears”. It’s a fantastic feeling because it’s the best thing you can do for a club in Europe, and the whole world is watching. So then you realise, “Hey, this is huge.” Especially in Italy, where they adore the beauty of football. It was wonderful.

But it was difficult too because I had no privacy anymore. I couldn’t go anywhere. No restaurants, no going out, no buying clothes – simple things. It was impossible. But that’s the Italians; that’s their passion. It was hard because I learned to say “no”. People don’t like it when you say that, especially journalists. If I was to say to you, “No interview,” you would be very angry with me. You would say, “Oh, this Ruud, he is very cocky. The arrogance.” That is how it goes.

Thirty years after that victory in Vienna, everybody still talks about that AC Milan side, about the three Dutch guys, about the fabulous goals, about the fabulous achievement. How proud are you that you were part of a team that defined an era in football?

It is exceptional if you think about it. Sometimes you don’t realise it, but it is an unbelievable achievement. What you hear, most of the time, is that people appreciated the way we played. We always tried to attack, even when we were winning games 4-0, 5-0. That was unheard of for a team in Italy; 1-0, 2-1, you know? But this was a team that was going like crazy, trying to score goals, goals, goals, goals. That was very nice to be part of. All these players I played with who were all exceptional. When we all got together, all of a sudden, something clicked. You could feel it: “There’s something going on here.”

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You look at that AC Milan side and it’s like a who's who of football legends. Did that make it easier to win the European Cup again against Benfica in 1990, having won it the previous season against Steaua Bucureşti?

No. It was getting more difficult every year, for the simple reason that everybody knows how you play and they are more focused on you. That's why the game was only 1-0.

Before that final in Vienna, did you feel the pressure of being the favourites and expected to win?

I didn’t because for most of the year I was injured; I had a cartilage injury and I was just coming back. When we played against Bayern Munich in the semi-final, that was when the surgeon gave me the OK to train with the team for the first time. Can you imagine: I was training from that game until the final. And you know, the game was on television a couple of months ago; I watched it and I played well. I should have scored some goals, by the way. I missed a couple of opportunities. 

We weren’t going to mention that. Did you remember much about the game before you watched it again?

No, I remember more about the final the year before. It’s strange: there are games that I can’t even remember anymore. Also, because I was out for such a long time, the focus was on, “Let’s get back!” So there were no expectations in that final for me. I knew Rijkaard scored that goal, I was happy, blah, blah, blah. But I had to play a World Cup after that. I had no time to celebrate because I had another tournament coming.

Was your manager at the time, Arrigo Sacchi the kind of guy who would prepare you for your opponents?

Yes. Oh yes, we were watching them all the time. Watching them, watching them, watching them. Of course, you can play your own game but sometimes you have to take advantage of their weaknesses. 

The starting line-up: eight Italians, three Dutchmen

Sacchi has said that you were someone who drove your teammates on.

I was just trying to express myself. Not so much in performance, but more to work as hard as I could for my team. So I was pressing hard. I was putting the opposition under pressure to make mistakes. I didn't feel big enough not to do the hard work; that was part of who I was.

What was difficult for my teammates to understand was that I didn't care who I was playing against, I just wanted to have fun. We were playing against Real Madrid away for the first time [as a team in the round of 16] and I was always in a room with Carlo Ancelotti. The morning we had to play, he stands in front of my bed, I wake up and he says, “You. I watched you all night. You were sleeping like a baby. How can you sleep like a baby when we’re playing Real Madrid? I haven't closed my eyes for a moment!”

I said, “Carlo, please, what are you worried about? We are much better than Real Madrid. Now leave me alone!”

Also, at pre-match meals I would be talking and laughing. In the beginning everyone was looking at me like, “Oh my God, is he serious, this guy?” But that had nothing to do with it. It was just my way of preparing for the match. Some players have to be quiet all the time; that was not for me.

At that time, UEFA rules still stipulated that teams could only field three foreign players in a match. How important to the success of that Milan side was the fact that you were three Dutch guys?

Initially it was just me and Marco van Basten. We begged Sacchi to buy Frank Rijkaard, begged him; we kept on going and eventually they took him. That was the missing jigsaw piece to get everything the way we wanted in midfield. Him and Ancelotti, oh my God! Nobody gets through there. They were so strong on the ball.

The three of us would never sit with each other though. We were always sitting at different tables with the Italians, talking with them in Italian, so they had no feeling that there was some kind of clique of the three Dutchmen. We adapted. And in those days not many Italians were speaking English, so you had to learn the language. Italian is the most beautiful language in the world though so it was easy to learn. 

Italians love everything to do with beauty: cars, women, watches, fashion, holidays, food… everything! So that is a nice environment to live in. And sometimes I make fun of them because there is always drama. “How are you doing?” “Ah, ah, I don’t know. Ah…” Italians love the drama. It’s always like that but it’s a beautiful country with beautiful people, so I’m very fond of the time that I spent in Italy. 

In action against Benfica

Tell us what it’s like. We all dream of lifting that cup; you did it twice. What’s it like the next day? Do you wake up and think, ‘Wow, I’ve done it’?

Yes, you do. But you realise that already when you pick up that “cup with the big ears”. It’s a fantastic feeling because it’s the best thing you can do for a club in Europe, and the whole world is watching. So then you realise, “Hey, this is huge.” Especially in Italy, where they adore the beauty of football. It was wonderful.

But it was difficult too because I had no privacy anymore. I couldn’t go anywhere. No restaurants, no going out, no buying clothes – simple things. It was impossible. But that’s the Italians; that’s their passion. It was hard because I learned to say “no”. People don’t like it when you say that, especially journalists. If I was to say to you, “No interview,” you would be very angry with me. You would say, “Oh, this Ruud, he is very cocky. The arrogance.” That is how it goes.

Thirty years after that victory in Vienna, everybody still talks about that AC Milan side, about the three Dutch guys, about the fabulous goals, about the fabulous achievement. How proud are you that you were part of a team that defined an era in football?

It is exceptional if you think about it. Sometimes you don’t realise it, but it is an unbelievable achievement. What you hear, most of the time, is that people appreciated the way we played. We always tried to attack, even when we were winning games 4-0, 5-0. That was unheard of for a team in Italy; 1-0, 2-1, you know? But this was a team that was going like crazy, trying to score goals, goals, goals, goals. That was very nice to be part of. All these players I played with who were all exceptional. When we all got together, all of a sudden, something clicked. You could feel it: “There’s something going on here.”

Penalty Pedigree

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