Brazilian Kaka (R) of AC Milan vies Arge

The Derby della Madonnina has long been regarded as one of the most culturally significant football matches on the planet, but to fully appreciate its majesty, the rivalry’s roots must be explored.

Inter and AC Milan will duel in the 236th and 237th Milan derbies over the next week with a spot in the 2023 Champions League final on the line. The Milanese football house has combined for ten European Cup/Champions League crowns, but this will be just the third time these two sides have met in UEFA’s premier club competition.

The rivalry is fierce, but a deep-rooted hatred isn’t prevalent between supporters of Milan’s two premier clubs. Multiple players have switched allegiances, while violence between ultras at San Siro has been toned down following the death of a supporter in 1981.

Overall, the Madonnina is a derby entrenched in grace and tactical revolution. The world’s best have passed through Milan over the years, and the city will refuse to sleep until its latest victor, the side that’ll progress into the 2023 Champions League final, has been decided.

The origins of the Derby della Madonnina begin with Nottingham-born Herbert Kilpin, who worked in the textiles industry and opted to take his exploits to Italy.

Genoa and Turin were the primary football bases at the time, but Kilpin was attracted to Milan, and it’s believed a few drunken conversations between Kilpin and his chums led to the formation of what we now know as AC Milan in December 1899.

The formative Milan teams were made up of Brits, Swiss and Italians who were determined to challenge the likes of Juventus as well as Genoa Cricket and Football Club.

Milan won the league three times within the first ten years of their formation, but they started to lose members in 1907 after the Italian Football Federation introduced a rule which prevented teams from adding anymore foreign players.

Milan protested and sat out the following season, but this decision caused a big rift within the club. As a result, more than 40 members, led by painter Giorgio Muggiani, broke away. These mavericks were determined to create a rival club with international players at its foundation.

Their new club was to be called Internazionale “because we are brothers of the world”, Muggiani announced just before midnight on 9 March 1908 at the L’Orologio di Milano restaurant. “This splendid night will give the colours to our emblem”, which he designed. “Black and blue against the golden background of the stars,” he added.

The breakaway greatly impacted Milan, who failed to win another league title until 1951. Inter, meanwhile, won their first Italian Football Championship in 1910, just a couple of years after their formation, and would lift the title four more times before Milan’s next success.

Brazilian Kaka (R) of AC Milan vies ArgeBrazilian Kaka (R) of AC Milan vies Arge

Legends have squared off in the Derby della Madonnina / VINCENZO PINTO/GettyImages

There’s some debate over when the first contest between the two Milan clubs was played. Some say the first meeting took place in Switzerland in the final of the Chiasso Cup which Milan won 2-1.

Their first recorded meeting, however, took place in January 1909 in the Italian Football Championship as Milan ran out 3-2 victors. However, neither club progressed beyond the qualification stage as the now-defunct US Milanese advanced from the Lombardy classification before they were beaten 4-2 on aggregate by Piedmont-based Pro Vercelli in the final.

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