Arrigo Sacchi is number 2 in 90min's Top 50 Great Managers of All Time series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next week.
Andrew builds it further...Going beyond what even he’d planned for himself -- his arms like machines, the single-stroke roll building steam and power and pinning the audience in their seats...Fletcher raising his hands, beckoning Andrew forward...He and the drummer working together, player and conductor, competitor and coach...
Andrew moves to the toms, then back to the snare, then back. The bass drum and hi-hat next, every part of the set joining in, every limb, every component, everything building up, up, up...
It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen...Andrew tearing a hole through the stage, his heartbeat racing, the sweat pouring from him like a waterfall, blood gushing from his hands and staining the cymbals and drum-heads...Everything a BLUR...
Then -- a BLAST OF SEPARATED SNARE HITS -- and then -- Andrew CHOKES the crash cymbal. A second of pure silence.
Fletcher looks at Andrew. Andrew looks at Fletcher. And then -- Fletcher turns to the band, raises his hand...
...and CUES THE FINAL NOTE.
That was the final scene of Damien Chazelle's Whiplash....yes that was a MASSIVE spoiler and I'm not even going to apologise for it because you should've already seen this film - it's been out for FIVE YEARS.
So yeah, back to the intended point.
The above scene is a moment in which, after years of blood, sweat, tears (yes, it is cliche time people); years of striving for some sort of artistic zenith - it all clicks.
The mental and the physical work in perfect harmony.
The angels sing in his arms.
Everything an artist could ever hope for comes to fruition.
In both the fictional world of Whiplash, and the non-fictional one of, you know, earth.
Just as this moment is one of Michelangelo - Prisoners, The Beatles - A Day in the Life, levels of brilliance from Andrew (the film's protagonist), there were similar levels of brilliance from Chazelle (the film's writer and director).
The setting, the performances, the writing, the direction: all perfect. All working together in unison to create one of the single greatest scenes in film history. Seriously, if you haven't seen this film yet, DO. NOW!
That all might've seemed a bit random, as you are on a football website and you've just clicked on an article about Arrigo Sacchi.
You don't really care about Andrew from Whiplash, you just want to read about the second greatest manager of all time, right?
Well, the aforementioned scene does actually link to Sacchi...swear.
To find that link between Andrew drumming the sh*t out of Caravan and Arrigo Sacchi being number two on 90min's Top 50 Greatest Managers of All Time, one must go waaaayyyyyy back to 1989. So, in order to do that, get your bucket hat on, load up a 'This Is The Stone Roses' playlist on Spotify and get a bottle of Hooch in your hand.
Right, we're now in 1989.
The Serie A is the best league in the world, Arrigo Sacchi is the AC Milan manager, a not yet fully plastic Silvio Berlusconi has been the club's owner for two years, and some of the greatest footballers in the history of mankind have assembled at San Siro.
#OnThisDay As calm as can be, the Swan of Utrecht beats Roma's offside trap to slot it home Van Basten elude la trappola del fuorigioco e segna con grande freddezza pic.twitter.com/CKVwi598sT
And that 'greatest footballers in the history of mankind' utterance isn't even that much of an exaggeration, because, well, this was the AC Milan starting XI at the time:
Giovanni Galli, Mauro Tassotti, Paolo Maldini, Angelo Colombo, Alessandro Costacurta, Franco Baresi, Roberto Donadoni, Frank Rijkaard, Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Carlo Ancelotti.
See. Pretty special group of footballers.
Leading this pretty special group of footballers was a pretty special, revolutionary, tactician.
And that wasn't an exaggeration either, as Arrigo Sacchi was quite literally changing calcio, with his disregard of the tactical tropes that came before.
Sacchi was attempting to kill catenaccio, kill Gioco All-italiana, rip up the dusty old playbooks and write his own.
That was as difficult a task as it sounds.
But by the time 1989 had come around, he had been pretty successful in doing so. Armed with his 4-4-2 formation, through which his team smothered every inch of space around the ball to wrestle control of games and then press forward into the offensive third with very, very, very unItalian pace and conviction (look at all that football lingo), Sacchi had changed football on the peninsula.
In his first year in charge, in - again, not an exaggeration - undoubtedly the most competitive European football league ever, AC Milan won the title; their first in nearly a decade.
Each and every week during the 1987/88 season, I Rossoneri played the game in a different, exciting way previously unbeknownst to calcio lovers, and at a different level to every other team in the country. Each and every week, AC Milan were an eight or nine out of ten.
However, they were yet to reach their peak; have that Andrew drumming the sh*t out of Caravan level performance;top out on the footballing richter scale, and as Sacchi eloquently put it:
"...Give 90 minutes of joy to people...joy to come out from winning but from being entertained, from witnessing something special."
On 19th April 1989, it all clicked.
On 19th April 1989, the mental and the physical worked in perfect harmony. The angels sang in Sacchi's arms as he conducted every single one of his team's movements. Everything a manager could ever hope for came to fruition.
On 19th April 1989, they achieved perfection.
And they bloody well needed to.
Because they were up against one of the greatest Real Madrid teams ever assembled - a team on a 27 game unbeaten run and set to secure their fourth (of five) consecutive La Liga titles - in the second leg of a European Cup semi final after drawing the first leg 1-1. Los Blancos had Bernd Schuster, Hugo Sanchez and Emilio Butragueno, and were aiming to reclaim their place atop of the European game.
Milan were facing the best of the very, very best. They had to go above and beyond.
I Rossoneri went beyond what even Sacchi had planned himself. The players like machines built steam and power and pinned the adoring San Siro audience to their seats - clearly witnessing the "something special" the manager had aspired to create.
Sacchi beckoned his team forward, he and the team working together; players and conductor, competitors and their genius coach.
Carlo Ancelotti set to the tone early on, with an absolute thunder-b*stard of a goal, rifling the ball from the edge of the sun and into the net. Mauro Tassotti to Frank Rijkaard next, lofting the ball to the back-post where the Dutch superstar rose highest to head the ball into the bottom right corner. 2-0.
Every part of the team joining in, every player, every tactical component, everything building up, up, up...
AC Milan (1987-91)
AC Milan (1996-97)
Atletico Madrid (1998-99)
A performance unlike anything the peninsula had ever seen before...AC Milan and Sacchi tearing a hole through the pitch.
Then another goal, this time from the Ballon d'Or collecting, generation defining, towering attacking midfielder Ruud Gullit, who heads home a Roberto Donadoni cross to make it 3-0. And then a quick incisive bit of combination play between Gullit and fellow Ballon d'Or collector Marco van Basten chokes the life out of Los Blancos. 4-0.
The perfect performance, made possible by one of the greatest managers of all time: Arrigo Sacchi.
“Football is born in the brain, not in the body. Michelangelo said he painted with his mind, not with his hands. So, obviously, I need intelligent players. That was our philosophy at Milan. I didn’t want solo artists; I wanted an orchestra. The greatest compliment I received was when people said my football was like music.”