Throwback XI: AC Milan 2006/07 – their last Champions League semi-finalists before 2022/23

AC Milan reached their first Champions League semi-final since 2006/07 after beating Napoli in the quarterfinals. Unsurprisingly, a lot has changed at the club since then. So, we are looking back on the Rossoneri’s legendary side from 16 years ago, just for nostalgia.

While 2022/23 boasts stars such as Rafael Leao and Theo Hernandez, Milan’s last UCL semi-final side had some incredible names.

AC Milan beat some of Europe’s best on their way to lifting the trophy in 2006/07. In the round of 16, it took an extra-time winner to get past Celtic. Following this, a 4-2 aggregate victory over Bayern Munich was a more commanding performance.

This then set up a semi-final clash with Manchester United. Carlo Ancelotti’s side actually lost the first leg at Old Trafford in a 3-2 thriller. However, they bounced back from this deficit to win 3-0 in the return leg at the San Siro.

When you look at the players in their squad for those semi-finals, it is clear how they managed it.

AC Milan 2006/07: the defence

Starting between the sticks in both Manchester and Milan was Dida. The Brazilian was a stalwart in the Rossoneri net throughout the 2000s, with this campaign no different.

Ahead of him, Milan’s defence made just one change across the two legs. At Old Trafford, iconic club captain Paolo Maldini started in the centre of defence alongside Alessandro Nesta.

Maldini missed the second leg via injury, though, with Kakhaber Kaladze playing in his place.

Marek Jankulovski and Massimo Oddo fulfilled the full-back slots. Milan did have the legendary Cafu to call upon, too – although they decided against using him in the semis.

The midfield “Christmas tree”

Now, here is where this team truly becomes world-class. Anchoring the midfield was Andrea Pirlo. Of course, he was not there for his defensive tendencies so much. Instead, the Italian maestro dictated the tempo and possession of this AC Milan side in 2006/07, as he did throughout his career.

The main ball winner of this team was Gennaro Gattuso. A tenacious midfielder, his aggression was a juxtaposition next to the serenity of Pirlo’s play. Additionally, Massimo Ambrosini brought further energy to the left of the pitch.

The power of this AC Milan side becomes clearer as we work our way up the “Christmas tree” formation. Firstly, Clarence Seedorf was the perfect balance of power and guile. In 2006/07, the Dutchman picked up his fourth Champions League winners’ medal. He also had a part to play in their semi-final against Man United, scoring in the second leg.

But the true star of the team was none other than Kaka. The Brazilian won the Ballon d’Or in 2007, with his talismanic presence in this UCL-winning team a key reason for it. Kaka scored twice during the defeat in Manchester, then grabbed one in the reverse fixture.

The attack

Kaka was the side’s main attacking threat during this season, but he was not an out-and-out centre-forward. AC Milan had let Andriy Shevchenko move to Chelsea in 2006, so they chose from a handful of players to fill his place.

Alberto Gilardino started the first game against Man United. He did not get the nod at the San Siro, though, with Filippo Inzaghi returning in his place.

One man they could not call upon, though, was Ronaldo. Despite joining AC Milan in January, the Brazilian was cup-tied for the 2006/07 Champions League campaign. This meant that, unfortunately, “O Fenomeno” still missed out on a UCL title.

It turns out that AC Milan did not need him to do it, either.

A victorious campaign

AC Milan defeated Manchester United in the semis to face Liverpool in the 2007 showpiece. The Italians had lost to the Reds in dramatic circumstances just two years earlier. In Athens, they put those demons to rest.

The Rossoneri ran out 2-1 winners over Rafael Benitez’s side, avenging their 2005 loss. Filippo Inzaghi got both goals for Milan before Dirk Kuyt scored a late consolation.

This gave AC Milan their seventh Champions League title – the second-most in history.

Fast forward to 2023, and the club’s current squad will hope to replicate the previous semi-finalist’s success. The team standing between them and the final? City rivals Inter Milan, who themselves are in their first UCL last-four since 2010.

And that was a pretty good side, too.

Featured image credit: Getty