Serie A

Kaka conquers Milan & Italian football - Serie A 2003-04

The Brazilian took to Italian football like a duck to water ad and never looked back

 
11:00am on Wednesday 1st April 2020
By
Martin Macdonald

Having already beaten Juventus to become champions of Europe the season before, AC Milan then stripped the Bianconeri of their Scudetto by storming to the 2003-04 Serie A title.

Both the Old Lady and Roma had done their best to keep up with Carlo Ancelotti’s side but there was no stopping the resurgent Rossoneri, who won the league by a whopping 11 points, losing just twice along the way.

Kaka was their inspiration, with the Brazilian having surprised all and sundry by the way in which he rapidly adapted to the Italian game, but this was a truly tremendous team. Cafu had slotted seamlessly into a brilliant back four alongside the iconic Italian trio of Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta and Alessandro Costacurta.

Clarence Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso formed one of the most complete midfield trios of the modern era, while Kaka and Rui Costa provided the bullets for the lethal Andriy Shevchenko to fire Milan to a first Scudetto in five years.

CHANGES

Milan had paid Sao Paulo €8.8 million for Kaka, with club owner Silvio Berlusconi describing the fee as “peanuts”. He wasn’t wrong, with the silky trequartista going on to prove himself one of the greatest signings in the Rossoneri’s history. However, getting Cafu on a free transfer following the expiration of his Roma contract was also an excellent and pivotal piece of business.

Elsewhere, Inter realised that they had erred badly in allowing Adriano to join Parma on a permanent transfer, so they brought him back to San Siro in January 2004, at a cost of €24.8m.

Inter had sold Hernan Crespo to Chelsea at the start of the season, bringing in another Argentine, Julio Cruz, as a replacement, while the Nerazzurri also picked up a couple of wingers in Andy van der Meyde and Kily Gonzalez.

Roma added Christian Chivu, John Carew and Amantino Mancini, while the still cash-strapped Lazio took a punt on former Milan midfielder Demetrio Albertini.

The most intriguing transfer, though, was undoubtedly Perugia's now infamous acquisition of Saadi Gheddafi, son of the notorious Libyan dictator Mu'ammar.

SEASON SUMMARY

After two seasons without a trophy since arriving at San Siro in 2001, Hector Cuper needed a strong start to the season to silence his growing band of critics. He didn’t get one, though, and the former Valencia boss was sacked on October 19, after a run of four games within a win, which included a 3-1 derby defeat to Milan.

Former Rossoneri coach Alberto Zaccheroni took over and he managed to lead the Nerazzurri to a fourth-placed finish, thanks in no small part to Adriano, who scored three times in their last two games, against former club Parma and Empoli, to secure Champions League football.

That did little to quell the anger of the Inter fans, though, as they were forced to watch Milan run away with the league.

Serie A Player of the Year, Kaka

Juve and Roma both enjoyed a week at the top of the standings during a competitive first half of the season but the Bianconeri were undone by their inability to beat their rivals.

Indeed, they took just two points from their four games against Milan and Roma, suffering a shocking 4-0 defeat at the Stadio Olimpico in February before seeing their Scudetto hopes ended by a 3-1 loss at home to the Rossoneri in March.

Roma were much improved under Fabio Capello, after finishing eighth in 2002-03, and went unbeaten until Christmas. However, they were then defeated 2-1 in the capital by Milan, who then sealed the Scudetto with a 1-0 win over the Giallorossi on May 2.

AWARDS

PLAYER OF THE SEASON

KAKA

The Brazilian enjoyed a remarkable debut season in Serie A, scoring 10 goals in 30 appearances, netting one apiece in his two derby appearances against Inter.

MANAGER OF THE SEASON

CARLO ANCELOTTI

The former Parma and Juve boss was rightly rewarded for winning his first Serie A title, and in such commanding fashion too, with Milan losing just two games over the course of a dominant campaign.

TOP GOALSCORER

ANDRIY SHEVCHENKO - 24 GOALS

The Ukrainian striker was at his brilliant best in 2003-04, scoring 24 goals, including the strike against Roma on matchday 32 that clinched the title.

GOAL OF THE SEASON

For the first time, the Oscar del Calcio AIC selected a goal of the year and the inaugural winner was ANDRIY SHEVCHENKO, who opened the scoring in Milan's 2-1 win at Roma by controlling a pinpoint cross-field pass from Seedorf on his chest before guiding the ball home with the outside of his right foot.

MOST EXPENSIVE TRANSFER

Adriano

Parma to INTER

€23.4m

KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON

With the top-of-the-table clash between Milan and Roma at the Olimpico level at one goal apiece, Gattuso won the ball for the visitors, Kaka quickly passed it back to Pirlo, who released Rui Costa. The Portuguese surged forward, cut inside one man and then fed Shevchenko, who fired home that goal that ended Roma’s unbeaten record and set Milan on their way to the title.

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