Whenever we hear the word Christmas only one thing comes to mind.
Yep, you guessed it, AC Milan. Not just any Milan side though. We’re talking specifically about the 2006/07 vintage.
It was a time when Milan won the Champions League under Carlo Ancelotti using a Christmas tree formation. To those of you who are numerically wired we mean the rarely spotted 4-3-2-1 formation.
So let’s take a walk down the festive memory lane and remember what exactly made the side so special.
At the heart of Milan’s defence stood two pillars of Italian football.
If Michelangelo had crafted two players out of the finest Italian granite he could get his hands on he would have made Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta.
If those two weren’t available then Ancelotti could call upon an ageing, but still classy, Alessandro Costacurta.
The best full-back to play the game
While he may have been coming to the end of his career there’s no getting away from the fact that Cafu was the best full-back in history.
No one before or since has toppled his lung-bursting runs, defensive security and moments of technical magic.
His ability to get up and down was crucial given Milan’s lack of wingers in the 4-3-2-1 formation, aided by Marek Jankulovski on the other side.
That midfield though
You have to go a long way to better the guile and majesty of Andrea Pirlo protected by two Italian Mastiffs in Gennaro Gattuso and Massimo Ambrosini.
But what made this midfield dominant was the fact both Mastiffs could play.
Try and beat them in a fight and you’d be left bruised and battered. Try and play them of the park and you’d get Pirlo’d.
Why have one no.10 when you can have two
Ancelotti was just greedy when it came to picking his playmaker in 2007.
He paired Clarence Seedorf and Kaka together to devastating effect, as Man United found out in the San Siro when both scored in a 3-0 win to reach the Champions League final.
While Seedorf was all perpetual motion and blistering power Kaka was grace and elegance. So elegant that he pipped Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to the Ballon d’Or in 2007.
Just look how happy Ronny was for him.
The star on top of the tree
What’s a Christmas tree without a few presents underneath it or, in this case, a star at the top?
Ancelotti had to choose between the eternally offside Filippo Inzaghi and Ronaldo, who arrived in January from Real Madrid.
More often than not he went with Inzaghi as Ronaldo was cup-tied for the Champions League.
He may not have been glamorous but mamma mia he was effective.
Let’s not talk about the league though…
While Milan’s Christmas tree conquered Europe, and the Club World Championships, it wasn’t quite as successful closer to home.
Ancelotti’s side finished a distant fourth in Serie A, 36 points behind eventual winners Inter, although Milan were docked eight points for the Calciopoli scandal.
Their Copa Italia run also ended in heartbreak when they lost 5-3 to Roma. But that shouldn’t take away from the beauty of the Christmas tree. Bellissimo.