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Arrigo Sacchi

Arrigo Sacchi
Personal information
Full name Arrigo Sacchi
Date of birth (1946-04-01) 1 April 1946
Place of birth Fusignano, Italy
Playing position Defender
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1964–1977 Fusignano CF
1977–1979 Bellaria
Teams managed
1985–1987 Parma
1987–1991 Milan
1991–1996 Italy
1996–1997 Milan
1998–1999 Atlético Madrid
2001 Parma
2004–2005 Real Madrid (Director of Football)

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

† Appearances (goals)

Arrigo Sacchi (Italian pronunciation: ; born 1 April 1946 in Fusignano) is an Italian former football coach. He was twice manager of A.C. Milan (1987–1991, 1996–1997), with great success. He won the Serie A title in his 1987-88 debut season and then dominated European football by winning back to back European Cups in 1989 and 1990. To this day, Milan are the last team that became European champions and successfully defended their title in the following season. From 1991 to 1996 he was head coach of Italy and led them to the World Cup Final in 1994, only to lose to Brazil in a penalty shoot-out. Sacchi is regarded as one of the greatest managers of all time[1] and his Milan side (1987–1991) is widely regarded to be one of the greatest club sides to ever play the game, and by some to be the greatest of all time.[2]

Sacchi was never a professional football player (he had played as a part-time footballer in amateur clubs for some years) and for many years worked as a shoe salesman. This led to his famous quote to the ones that questioned his qualifications: "I never realized that in order to become a jockey you have to have been a horse first".[3]


  • Management career 1
    • Early coaching career 1.1
    • A.C. Milan 1.2
    • Italian national team 1.3
    • Later coaching career 1.4
  • Management style and influence 2
  • Managerial statistics 3
  • Honours 4
    • Club 4.1
    • International 4.2
    • Individual 4.3
  • References 5

Management career

Early coaching career

Sacchi had grown up watching attacking sides, such as Budapest Honvéd, Real Madrid, Brazil and the Netherlands. He started his career managing his local club, Baracca Lugo, because he wasn't good enough to play for them. Of the challenge he faced, Sacchi said "I was twenty-six, my goalkeeper was thirty-nine and my centre-forward was thirty-two. I had to win them over". He next coached at Bellaria before joining A.C. Cesena, who were in the Serie B as a youth team coach. He then took over at Rimini who were playing in the Serie C1, and almost led them to a title. He got his breakthrough when he moved to Fiorentina as a youth coach. His achievements with the youth team earned interest from Parma A.C. who were in Serie C1. He got Parma promoted in his first season, and in the following season took them to within 3 points of promotion to Serie A. However, of greater importance to his time at Parma was the team's performance in the Coppa Italia; they beat A.C. Milan 1–0 in the group stages, and beat them again 1–0 on aggregate in the first knockout round. This was enough to attract interest from Milan's owner Silvio Berlusconi, who promptly appointed Sacchi as manager.

A.C. Milan

At Milan, Arrigo Sacchi again faced problems of credibility. The press argued that such an inadequate player could never go on to be a successful coach, and that even Berlusconi—who had played football at amateur level—was probably a better player. However, Sacchi coined a witty term in response: "A jockey doesn't have to have been born a horse". Sacchi was an instant success at the San Siro, leading Milan to its first Serie A title for nine years in his debut season, following up the league title with an Italian Supercup in 1988.

Sacchi's success at Milan gained him two back-to-back European Cups. The success he gained was largely attributed to the Dutch trio he had purchased—Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard. However, other great players such as Roberto Donadoni, as well as the defensive back four of Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta, Mauro Tassotti and Paolo Maldini, were also a key to his success.

The first European Cup final in 1989 was against Steaua Bucureşti, who were beaten resoundingly 4–0. Gullit and Van Basten scored two goals each and Milan lifted the European Cup for the first time in over twenty years. On the way, however, Milan had dispatched Real Madrid 6–1 on aggregate in the semi-final, a result which almost represented the passing of the mantle for best European club. The quarter-final against Werder Bremen was a tight affair; Milan only went through 1–0 on aggregate thanks to a Van Basten penalty. The second round was shrouded in controversy. Donadoni had his life saved only through the quick-thinking of the Crvena Zvezda physio, who broke his jaw to make a passage for oxygen to reach his lungs after he had suffered a bad foul and lay unconscious. The first leg ended in a 1–1 draw and the second leg got called off in 64th minute and rescheduled to be replayed the next day due to the thick fog (Milan was losing 0–1 at the moment). Milan eventually progressed following a penalty shoot-out.

Although the team was not as strong as they had been in the previous season, they were victorious again in 1990. After victories against HJK Helsinki, Real Madrid and KV Mechelen, Milan defeated German giants Bayern Munich in the semi-final, thanks to an away goal. The Dutch magic worked again in the final, as Frank Rijkaard scored the only goal of the game through a Van Basten assist, to conquer Sven-Göran Eriksson's Benfica. By winning the final, Milan became the first team which retained the title since 1980, and the last team to do so to date. Sacchi would also capture back to back European Super Cups and Intercontinental Cups in 1989 and 1990, and would lead Milan to the final of the 1989-90 Coppa Italia, where they were defeated by Juventus. The following season saw them defeated by eventual runners-up Olympique de Marseille in the quarter-final, and finish second in Serie A behind Sampdoria, whilst they were eliminated in the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia by eventual champions Roma. This was Arrigo Saachi's last season with i Rossoneri.

Italian national team

In 1991, Sacchi was appointed manager of the Italian national team, replacing Azeglio Vicini. Sacchi based his Italian selection predominantly on Milan players, especially in the defensive line which featured Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi; the attacking line was led by talismanic 1993 Ballon d'or winner Roberto Baggio of Juventus. Notable exclusions from Sacchi's Azzurri selections included Gianluca Vialli, Roberto Mancini, Giuseppe Bergomi and Walter Zenga.[4]

He successfully led Italy through the qualification campaign to reach the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Despite not being among the favourites and losing their first match 1–0 to the Republic of Ireland, Italy reached the World Cup final (their first since 1982), where they were defeated by Brazil only in a penalty shoot-out— the first in a World Cup final. Under Sacchi, Italy qualified for UEFA Euro 1996, but were eliminated from a group which included the eventual finalists, Germany and the Czech Republic.

Later coaching career

After leaving his position with the national team, Sacchi returned to Milan to replace Uruguayan coach Óscar Tabárez in December 1996. However, the second spell was unsuccessful with Milan finishing 11th in the league and suffering its worst ever Serie A defeat, losing 1–6 at home to eventual champions Juventus.

Sacchi had brief spells in the Spanish Primera Liga, taking charge of Atlético de Madrid in 1998 after his second spell with the Rossoneri. He could only guide los Colchoneros to a disappointing 13th place in the league in his only season at the Vicente Calderón Stadium, although they did qualify for Europe having finished as runners-up in the Copa del Rey. He later returned to Madrid, this time at the Bernabéu as director of football at Real Madrid for the 2004–05 season.[5]

Management style and influence

Nicknamed "the Prophet of Fusignano",[6] Sacchi favored a fluid, yet highly organised attacking 4–4–2 formation,[7][8] discarding the traditional libero[9] in an era where Italian football was mainly focussed on strong defensive play,[8][10] and Helenio Herrera's Catenaccio tactics were still a strong influence.[9] Defensively, Sacchi's teams adopted a zonal marking system, which had already been introduced by his predecessor Nils Liedholm, and were known for their defensive strength, conceding few goals.[9]

Sacchi believes in the Dutch concept of Total Football,[7] insisting that young players should be coached in all aspects of football rather than into specialist positions, helping the team both with or without the ball.[11] He was also a firm believer in team ethic and treating all players as equals,[12] once saying: "The only way you can build a side is by getting players who speak the same language and can play a team game. You can’t achieve anything on your own, and if you do, it doesn’t last long. I often quote what Michelangelo said: ‘The spirit guides the hand.’"[13] To perfect his team's cohesion, Sacchi introduced "shadow play", where his players would simulate a match in training without a football.[9] As a coach, he also attracted controversy, as he was known for implementing a strict and rigorous training regime upon his players, and his teams were often known for their work ethic and discipline. Sacchi is also remembered for his outspokenness, stubbornness, and his meticulous, obsessive attention to detail when preparing tactical solutions and perfecting plays, which his players were then expected to memorise and implement consistently during matches.[14]

He is also credited as an innovator, popularising high pressing from his teams, the off-side trap, and a high defensive line with no more than 25 metres between defence and attack.[7][10][11][15][16] This style of pressing has been emulated successfully by José Mourinho's FC Porto,[10] Pep Guardiola's FC Barcelona,[7] Jürgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund[17] and Jupp Heynckes's FC Bayern Munich.[18] His successor at Milan, Fabio Capello, retained Sacchi's tactics and went on to win four Scudetti in five seasons and the 1993–94 UEFA Champions League.[8] Spanish coach Rafael Benítez, who won the UEFA Cup and La Liga with Valencia CF, the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup with Liverpool F.C., the FIFA Club World Cup with Internazionale Milano and the UEFA Europa League with Chelsea F.C., cites Sacchi as his role model and "the coach who has revolutionised football in the past 50 years".[19]

Managerial statistics

As of 12 April 2015
Team Nat From To Record
G W D L Win %
Italy June 1991 June 1996 47 29 11 7 61.70








  1. ^ "Greatest Managers, No. 6: Arrigo Sacchi". Retrieved 7 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "The greatest teams of all time". The Telegraph. 4 July 2007. Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  3. ^ "No experience required".  
  4. ^ "L’uomo del giorno – Arrigo Sacchi: lo stratega che ha fatto la storia del Milan torna a casa". Calcioweb. 27 November 2014. Retrieved 18 January 2015. 
  5. ^ Paul Madden (1 April 2010). "Spanish Cumpleanos: Javier Irureta". Retrieved 19 October 2010. 
  6. ^ Gianni Mura (13 May 1988). "ALLE RADICI DELL' ARRIGO" (in Italian). La Repubblica. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Barcelona 2011 vs AC Milan 1990s". Sports Illustrated. 19 April 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c "Greatest Managers, No. 6: Arrigo Sacchi". ESPN. 7 August 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c d "Great Team Tactics: Breaking Down How Arrigo Sacchi's AC Milan Took Down Europe". 1 December 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c "Arrigo Sacchi And His Italian Revolution". Forza Italian Football. 27 August 2012. 
  11. ^ a b "Arrigo Sacchi, the magician of Milan, begins to build a new Italy". The Guardian. 22 November 2011. 
  12. ^ Giancarlo Padovan (24 January 1996). "Sacchi pretende un' Italia esagerata" [Sacchi expects an Italy side of the highest quality] (in Italian). Il Corriere della Sera. Retrieved 26 May 2015. 
  13. ^ "They said it: Arrigo Sacchi". FIFA. 26 May 2012. 
  14. ^ "1987: i primi mesi di Sacchi al Milan" [1987: Sacchi's first months at Milan] (in Italian). Canale Milan. 19 November 2011. Retrieved 26 May 2015. 
  15. ^ Francesca Fanelli (20 February 2011). "1986, Berlusconi salva il Milan" [1986, Berlusconi saves Milan] (in Italian). Il Corriere dello Sport. 
  16. ^ Franco Melli (15 January 1992). "l' Italia di Sacchi come l' Olanda di Cruyff" [Sacchi's Italy like Cruyff's Holland] (in Italian). Il Corriere della Sera. Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  17. ^ "Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich: The showdown between ‘Kloppo’ and ‘Osram’". PlayUp. 25 May 2013. 
  18. ^ "Tactical Twins: Arrigo Sacchi's Milan and Jupp Heynckes' Bayern Munich". Bleacher Report. 16 May 2013. 
  19. ^ "'"Benítez interview in 'El Gráfico. Rafael Benítez. 5 January 2012. 
  20. ^ "BARESI, CAPELLO AND RIVERA ACCEPTED IN HALL OF FAME". 26 November 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Guus Hiddink
European Cup Winning Coach
1988-89 & 1989-90
Succeeded by
Ljupko Petrović
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