Past, Present, Future: The Milan-Inter Champions League Semifinal Derby

The Champions League semifinals are set. Milan will face Inter in a two leg Derby della Madonnina semifinal next month. For many, this matchup conjures up epic images of a fiery confrontation that are disturbingly celebrated. Those images actually have a very dark history behind them, involving an injury to a player and abandoning of the match as well as sanctions. As far as successes, both teams won the trophy the last time they each made it this far, but both teams are struggling with their league form right now. Additionally, the future of both clubs are on different trajectories, particularly financially. This storied matchup highlights the intersection of the past, present, and future of both clubs.

People forget the damage behind the "epic images" in 2005

The Past

2002-03 Champions League Semifinals

The first time Milan and Inter met in the semifinals, Milan won the Champions League. The matchup was in May of 2003, and the Milan home match ended in a goalless draw. The following week, they met again, and Shevchenko broke the deadlock in stoppage time of the first half. Inter would equalize with a late goal from Martins, but Milan won the tie by virtue of the away goal rule. Milan went on to face another Italian rival, Juventus, in the final in Manchester, where they won 2-3 on penalties after a scoreless draw.

Shevchenko's goal sent Milan to the final, his penalty there won the trophy.

2004-05 Champions League Quarterfinals

The last time there was a Milan Derby in the Champions League, it was actually in the quarterfinals. Milan were the home team for the first leg once again, and they defeated Inter 2-0 with goals by defender Jap Stam and the legendary Shevchenko. It was the second leg that became notorious. Inter were down a goal from Shevchenko, of course, and they thought they had scored an equalizer, but it was called off. That sent the snakes into a frenzy, and their fans began throwing objects and then flares onto the pitch, one of which hit Milan goalkeeper Dida on the shoulder, who suffered burns from it. 

The match was suspended while he received treatment, the fires were put out, and the pitch was cleared. As the players stood around waiting, the "epic" photos were taken, but they did not at all tell the story of what was going on. A player was down, and football was being held hostage by thugs and criminals. The referee tried to restart the match, but he was forced to abandon it when the fans continued to throw things. Milan were awarded a 3-0 win and Inter were given a stadium closure for the following season. Dida, however, was never the same goalkeeper he had been before that.

A pitch set on fire, a player injured, and football lost... more despicable than epic.

2009-10 Winners

The last time Inter played in a Champions League semifinal at all was in 2009-10, when they went on to win their third title, despite making it to nine semifinals. This was the team built from the ashes of Calciopoli, a Serie A scandal in which a network of former Inter directors not only helped Inter avoid their own prosecution, but carefully orchestrated the demise of their biggest rivals. They benefitted from their rivals being relegated or having significant points deductions, and even bought players from their rivals for cheap, as well as assigning themselves one of the league titles in question. 

Javier Zanetti lifted the 2009-10 trophy for Inter and remains at the club as vice president today

Their entire identity has been built upon conspiracies and delusions about refereeing, and many of their trophies, including this Champions League trophy, would have never been theirs without their criminal behavior. In fact, just this week, more wiretaps and evidence was revealed further implicating them as being the worst offenders of referee tampering in 2006, but they have still avoided all consequences due to legal loopholes and friends in high places. It was also their victim mentality that instigated the fans who threw flares in the 2005 semifinal match at the San Siro.

2006-07 Winners

The last time Milan played in a semifinal was in the 2006-07 season. Having been punished with a points deduction in the league that season for their part in the Calciopoli scandal, Milan would go on to Athens and face a rematch with Liverpool, who had defeated them in 2005. This time, they would get sweet revenge, and Paolo Maldini lifted the Champions League trophy. Milan have been to the semifinals 14 times, and have won seven Champions League trophies in all, second only to Real Madrid.

"After Istanbul, there is always Athens."

The Present

Milan are the current Serie A title holders, having won the Scudetto last season. Currently, they sit fourth on the table, although they could drop to fifth if Juventus win their points deduction appeal as early as today. Since the World Cup break, Milan have struggled with mentality and consistency in their league matches. Their Champions League performances, however, have been on another level. And after a season plagued so extensively with injuries, with Pioli having had only one day in training where every player was fit, Milan are finally enjoying a mostly fit squad.

On the black and blue side of the city, Inter are just two points behind Milan in Serie A, just like they finished last year. They, too, have been dropping points and playing inconsistently. However, despite losing the first Derby 3-2 to Milan in September, Inter won the second league Derby in February 1-0. They also beat Milan 3-0 in the Supercoppa match in January. However, Inzaghi has struggled to control his squad, with multiple fights reported  between players throughout the season, including on on Tuesday ahead of their quarterfinal second leg. Inter have to worry about their second leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal against Juventus next week, an extra distraction.

I M Always Second: Winning the Scudetto is 'Not For Everyone.'

The Future

Both Milan and Inter had been working jointly for the past four or five years to build a stadium together. However, Milan recently announced that we would be pursuing our own stadium project. The biggest factor for this split is the uncertain future of the ownership and the poor financial management of Inter. Two years ago, when Inter won the Scudetto, there were a few months when the club could not even pay their own players' wages. Why they were still allowed to compete, let alone win Serie A is a testament to how corrupt the league and the FIGC are. 

To be fair, UEFA are not much better, as multiple clubs competing in this year's competition are involved in serious financial and corruption scandals, including Juventus, Barcelona, Manchester City, and our city rivals. Inter are about to default on their loan for non-payment, which would see Oaktree take over their club similarly to how Elliott took over Milan when Yonghong Li defaulted. Ironically, Wednesday, the day Inter qualified for the semifinals, Zhang was also summoned to appear in another lawsuit for unpaid debts of €300 million.

Milan's past, present, and future.

In stark contrast, also on Wednesday, it was reported that Milan are projected to end the 2022-23 fiscal year with a profit. The Club have virtually no debt, and have a current annual wage bill of only €88 million. Inter, on the other hand, have an astounding €880 million in debt, and their player wages are €134 million annually. Milan have been building a mostly young, very sustainable team, while Inter have been signing our traitorous rejects and begging their exes to come back on loan. Milan's fortunes are absolutely on the rise, while Inter do not even know who their sugar daddy owner will be by summer.

Another sign of Milan's promising future is that Milan are the only European team to feature in both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Youth League semifinals this year. Former Milan fullback Ignazio Abate has led the Milan Primavera squad to the semifinals for the first time in their history, and they face Hajduk Split on Friday in Geneva, with the Final to be played on Monday. It is almost as if they have inherited Milan's DNA in UEFA competitions.

Milan Primavera are playing in their first UEFA Youth League Semifinal.

The last time Milan played Inter in the Champions League, Inter fans injured a legendary goalkeeper and ruined his career. Milan may have gone on to the final that year in Istanbul, but after being up 3-0 at halftime, they lost on penalties, a match that is still Maldini's biggest regret. This year, the final is being held in Istanbul once again, and Maldini is back at Milan as a director. Should we reach the Final, we could even potentially face Ancelotti, who actually managed that Milan team in Istanbul. There are just too many coincidences, too many painful memories.

Additionally, Milan have eight league matches to secure a top four finish in order to even qualify for the Champions League next year. Sure, all of this Champions League success has brought a significant amount of income and improved our image. But what good does any of that do if we do not even qualify to play in the elite European competition again next year? I would honestly rather not even have to face Inter again this season, let alone worry about the distraction of two more big matches when we are trying to qualify for next year. But since we are here, I hope that we eviscerate those puny grass snakes and remind them of our Milan DNA. AC Milan are the past, present, and future of the Champions League in Milano.

Champions League Semifinal Dates and Times

Champions League Semifinal first leg
Milan vs. Inter
Wednesday, May 10, 2023 • 21:00 (3pm EDT)

Champions League Semifinal second leg
Inter vs. Milan
Tuesday, May 16, 2023 •  21:00 (3pm EDT)

This post inspired by the music of The Prodigy's "Firestarter"

Coming up is the
UEFA Youth League Semifinal
Hajduk Split U19 vs. AC Milan Primavera
Friday, April 21 • 18:00 CET (12 noon EDT)
This match can be streamed LIVE on Paramount + in the U.S. or on

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 31
Milan vs. Lecce
Sunday, April 23, 2023 • 18:00 CET (9am EDT)

Past, Present, Future: The Milan-Inter Champions League Semifinal Derby Past, Present, Future: The Milan-Inter Champions League Semifinal Derby Reviewed by Elaine on 1:30 AM Rating: 5
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