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Grazie Ambro: A Tribute


And so it ends. After 18 seasons of running around, snarling and tackling all whilst sporting a flurry of long blonde hair with a band, come August, MASSIMO AMBROSINI will be a Milan player no more.

Football has changed over the years and with changing times, even the clubs have changed their systems and policies. Milan too has changed its approach as they have decided to take a different path now, focusing on youth and ‘building stars instead of buying them’. The new campaign was labelled as “Year Zero” as they wanted to start a fresh cycle and concentrate on youth.

This year, once again the Rossoneri fans bid farewell to another long lasting servant, Massimo Ambrosini. After the mass exodus last season when Alessandro Nesta, Pippo Inzaghi, Clarence Seedorf, Rino Gattuso ,Gianluca Zambrotta and Flavio Roma decided to jump off the Milanese train, this year it’s the club captain who will not be with the side in the coming campaign.

In June 2013 AC Milan CEO Adriano Galliani confirmed that Ambrosini would leave the San Siro, once his contract has expired, ending an eighteen-year stay with the club.

Ambrosini played 489 times and scored 36 goals for Milan, winning four Serie A titles, two Champions Leagues, two UEFA Supercups, one World Club Championship and one Coppa Italia.

Ambro moved to Milan in 1995 when Capello snapped him up from Cesena, still only 17. He was not able to cement his place in the starting 11 and was used sparingly. He was given only a handful of games but still played a small hand in helping Milan snatch up the Serie A title. His role was still very limited which prompted his loan move to Vicenza in 1997. He immediately became a regular and helped them avoid relegation.

Seeing his stellar performances, Milan called him back and he became a regular till injuries held him back, restricting his appearances and affecting his form.

He won his first Champions League trophy with Milan in 2003 where he replaced Rui Costa in the 87th minute at Old Trafford against their old foes, Juventus. Milan capped their European success with a league title the following season.

In 2004-05, Ambrosini probably scored one of his most memorable goals when his late second half extra time header sent Milan in to the finals as they beat PSV on the away goal rule. He would eventually miss out on the final due to another inury, where the Rossoneri were scuppered in their attempts to claim a second Champions League title in three seasons by their infamous six-minute blackout against Liverpool in Istanbul.

He then cemented his place in the starting XI and formed an envious Midfield alongside Gattuso, Kaka, Pirlo and Seedorf. Milan avenged their 2005 loss to Liverpool in the final of the 2006–07 Champions League as Milan defeated Liverpool 2-1. Ambrosini started the game and won his second Champions league title with Milan.

Ambrosini first tasted captaincy, in Paolo Maldini’s absence, when he was named the stand-in captain for the European Super Cup Final against UEFA Cup winners Sevilla FC, which Milan won 3–1.

In 2009, Ambrosini was officially named club captain, inheriting the armband from Paolo Maldini.

He won his first trophy as captain when Milan won the 2010-11 league title and it was all the more sweeter as they finished above their cross city rivals, Inter Milan.

Ambrosini was sent off in his last match against Siena but Milan still managed to win the match and secure CL football. He was left a bit bitter as the management did not communicate with him and he did not get a chance to say good bye to his fans. “I would have liked to have said goodbye to the fans after the last match of the season but the club had still not communicated what they had planned.

I am sure it was not a painless decision to make – at a managerial level- but I had an idea what was going to happen.”

He joined Fiorentina on a free transfer once his contract expired but his last press conference had a hint of bitterness but he still was very thankful to the club and its fans. He held back his tears while giving his speech.

“I wanted to say thank you to everybody. It is not easy because I’m moved by the occasion. I’ve waited a couple of days before speaking because if I’d spoken as soon as I found out about the club’s decision, I might have said things in the heat of the moment. That wouldn’t have been right.I want to thank everybody starting with the president and Galliani and Braida (Sporting Director) for 18 wonderful years; 18 years I will never be able to forget.I wanted to wait a few days, to allow the sense of disappointment to recede slightly, which I think is totally justifiable.My thanks extend to all those people who are not in the limelight, the people who work behind the scenes, who in my opinion are the true strength behind Milan – like those at Milanello (Milan’s training headquarters)  who have been like a family to me. I don’t do Facebook or Twitter, but I’ve felt all the affection shown by the Rossoneri supporters and I thank them here and now,  because it’s the only way I can speak to everybody while I am still a Milan player. A huge thank you to all the fans, because  18 years is a long time….  and once again I thank the club, because being with Milan has allowed me to play in magnificent stadiums, to play with great teammates and to be captain of this great team. The disappointment I might be feeling now cannot be stronger than the joy and happiness of a person who thinks of himself as one of the lucky ones. I am happy to have achieved what I have achieved.

“I gave everything for this team and I got just as much back, but I have no intention to ask for a farewell match. I always respected the club’s policies. Next time I speak, I’ll no longer be a Milan player. It is not my place to say whether it was the right decision or not, but it can’t go down as a shocking decision seeing as I am 36.I’d have preferred it if the decision had been communicated with more care, but I’m here to thank everybody and say goodbye to the people who helped me become a Milan player, my last thought goes to them.”

A gracious goodbye, from a true leader, whose loyalty and commitment will be much missed.

Due to his recurring knee troubles, he couldn’t cement his place in the Italian national team. He only managed 35 caps for his national side and was a part of the Italian squad at the 2000 Summer Olympics and at UEFA Euro 2000 where Italy lost to France in the finals. He got one more shot when he was called up for 2008 EUROs after putting in some battling displays for his club side, but it ended in disappointment. He couldn’t win any silverware with the national team.

In a generation of technically gifted Milan players, Ambrosini’s selfless currency was attitude and work rate. A currency made all the more valuable by its relative rarity. Stupidity could not have elevated Ambrosini from emerging midfielder to one of the finest central midfielders in Italy, intelligence and an instinctive awareness of danger did. He always stayed away from the limelight, purely focusing on his football and dedicating himself to his career and family.

The dogged midfielder had immense potential as a youngster and perhaps a series of injuries held him back but what he won with Milan was much more than trophies, he won the hearts of millions of fans.

Ambrosini may not have lit the world but his determination and his love for the badge could not be questioned. He always gave his best when he put on the Milan jersey. No amount of money can buy that for you.

It is indeed the end of an era for the Rossoneri as they focus on replacing experienced talent with young ability in a bid to return to the helm. Ambrosini played a huge role in what Milan achieved in the previous decade and no one can take it away for him.

Loyalty is a rare trait and it is time to give up the ideology that loyalty is still around. Players are all too quick to kiss the badge on their chest and proclaim their undying love to the team they are playing for, all for them to then jump ship when an influx in wages is waved in front of their face. At times like these, Ambro stayed true to his jersey and the badge he kissed and we all should be thankful to him for showing such loyalty to our beloved club.

He may be a Fiorentina player now but he will always be in our hearts.

His presence, tackles and most importantly, his leadership qualities will be missed.

This is not just an article; this is an un-ebbed flow of thoughts of a passionate Rossoneri fan, for someone who has represented that Milan spirit since forever.

Grazie Captaino!!

What are your thoughts on Massimo Ambrosini? Any special memories? Let us know by dropping a comment below. Don’t forget to follow us at @OOTB_football on Twitter, like us on Facebook and give us a follow on Google+ and Tumblr as well.

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