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Combined XI: Juventus v Milan (21st century)

Italy's two biggest clubs, most of the best players to have featured in Serie A have played for at least one of Juventus and Milan.

Here, we put together their combined XI from the 21st century.

GK: Gianluigi Buffon

In goal, a no-brainer. One of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, one of the greatest players to never win the Champions League and one of the greatest players to never win the Ballon d’Or.

There’s a tendency with players who still operate at a high level late in their career to note them for the longevity, but Buffon was so much more than an evergreen goalkeeper.

Back in 2001, Buffon was sold by Parma to Juventus for €52.9m – just 12 months after Luis Figo broke the world transfer record with a €63m move to Real Madrid.

Across his two spells with Juventus, Buffon made more than 500 league appearances – dropping down to Serie B with the club in 2006 – and nearly 700 in all competitions, winning Serie A 10 times and reaching the Champions League final three times.

RB: Cafu

Both Juventus and Milan were blessed with world-class right-backs following the turn of the century, but it’s Cafu who gets the nod here. 

After six excellent years with Roma where he helped the Giallorossi to a first title in almost 20 years, Cafu earned a move to Milan, where he’d get the opportunity to earn the silverware at club level he deserved. 

Cafu would win a second Scudetto in his first season with Milan, reaching the Champions League final the year after, and finally getting his hands on Old Big Ears in 2007.

The Dani Alves before Dani Alves, Cafu was a pioneering full-back; a constant threat down the right flank while still being defensively solid, and was named in the inaugural FIFPro World XI in 2005.

CB: Alessandro Nesta

By the late 90s, Alessandro Nesta had established himself as one of Italy’s best defenders, winning Coppa Italia in 1998, the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1999 and Serie A in 2000. But financial problems forced a fire sale of Lazio’s top assets, and Nesta moved to the San Siro in 2002.

A centre-back without a weakness, Nesta had excellent pace as well as terrific reading of the game. Supremely elegant, Nesta had a ball-playing ability that would make many a midfielder green with envy and was one of the best slide tacklers in the history of the game.

Although Nesta’s later years were blighted with injury, at his best he was one of the best defenders to have played the game, winning two Champions League and Serie A crowns.

CB: Giorgio Chiellini

When Fabio Cannavaro departed for Real Madrid following Juventus’ demotion to Serie B, it created a space in the Old Lady’s back line for Giorgio Chiellini. 

Having broken through the year before, Chiellini would grasp the opportunity with both hands, becoming a mainstay in the Juventus defence for nearly 20 years.

After Inter filled the gap as Italy's top dogs with Juventus in Serie B to win five straight titles, Juventus toppled Inter to reestablish themselves as the dominant club in Italy once again. 

In 13 seasons from 1989 to 2001, the Serie A title was won by seven different clubs. In nine seasons from 2012 to 2020, Serie A was won by one club. 

A leader without the armband, it wasn’t until 2018 that Chiellini was named captain after Buffon’s departure; nevertheless, Chiellini was a rock at the back. Not as elegant or pacey as some of his contemporaries, Chiellini made up for those shortcomings as one of the league’s most formidable and uncompromising defenders.

Three-time Serie A Defender of the Year, five-time member of the Serie A Team of the Year and nine-time Serie A winner.

LB: Paolo Maldini

Paolo Maldini was aged 31 at the turn of the century, but still had another 202 Serie A games, one Serie A title and two Champions Leagues left in him.

Milan’s greatest player, and football’s greatest left-back.

CM: Clarence Seedorf

Only a handful of players can boast to have won the Champions League with two different clubs. The names include Marcel Desailly, Samuel Eto’o, Cristiano Ronaldo and Toni Kroos.

Only one player can boast to have won the Champions League with three different clubs: Clarence Seedorf.

Undoubtedly one of the midfielders of his generation, Seedorf had it all. Tenacity to win the ball in midfield, guile to carve out chances in the final third, the technique to score goals from all over the pitch, and the bottomless gas tank to combine the lot. 

Seedorf joined Milan from rivals Inter aged 26 and spent 10 wonderful years with the Rossoneri, winning two more Champions Leagues and two more Serie A titles.

CM: Andrea Pirlo

The only player here who played for both Milan and Juventus, and it’s hard to know exactly where he spent his best years.

Pirlo was sensational for Milan; sitting alongside the snarling Gennaro Gattuso, Pirlo added the craft and finesse to dictate proceedings from deep, seeing the game seconds ahead of everyone else on the pitch.

Despite his deeper role, Pirlo managed double figures for goals and assists in five straight seasons; a run that saw Milan win two Champions Leagues and the Serie A title. 

Aged 32, Pirlo moved to Juventus on a free transfer and would enjoy some of the finest years of his career. Pirlo was there for the first four of Juventus’s eight consecutive titles and would be named Serie A Footballer of the Year for each of his first three seasons in Turin.

CM: Pavel Nedved

When Juventus sold Zinedine Zidane in 2001, they were posed a serious question. Pavel Nedved was the answer to that question. 

Being a like-for-like replacement for one of the greatest footballers of all time was an impossible task, but Nedved gave it a good go. 

A nightmare for defenders, Nedved had a relentless work rate, covering much more ground than a player of his calibre ever needed to. The Czech legend could carry the ball up the field and find forwards in dangerous position or unleash shots from all over the place that more often than not would find the net.

Nedved was instrumental in Juventus’s run to the Champions League final, scoring a crucial goal in the second leg of the semi-final, only to find himself suspended for the clash with Milan at Old Trafford. A dire affair, Juventus sorely missed Nedved as Milan won on penalties. Some players get better in absence and that could be argued of Nedved, who went on to win the Ballon d’Or that year.

AM: Alessandro Del Piero

As with Gianluigi Buffon, it’s easy to look at the end of Alessandro Del Piero’s career and remember him for his longevity; after all, still featuring as a forward for Juventus at the age of 37 is a remarkable feat, and 95 of his 211 Serie A goals came after his 30th birthday.

But Del Piero isn’t remembered as one of Italian football’s greatest-ever players because of his longevity. The Del Piero who broke through in the mid-90s quickly found himself a part of perhaps the best team of the decade, only to be beset by a serious knee injury in 1998 that robbed him of some of that youthful exuberance.

Nevertheless, Del Piero’s peerless technique and speed of mind get him at the top of the game for another 10 years. From the turn of the century, Del Piero would win five titles with Juventus - including Serie B which he participated in without a moment’s hesitation.

Equally adept at creating goals as scoring them, Del Piero could lead the line, play in behind a striker or drift inside from wide positions. 

Del Piero was twice named Serie A Italian Footballer of the Year and would finish in the top 10 of the Ballon d’Or voting on three occasions

He also had the honour of being featured as one of FIFA 2004’s cover stars alongside Thierry Henry and Ronaldinho.

AM: Kaka

Aged just 21, Kaka was signed by Carlo Ancelotti as the long-term heir to Rui Costa’s throne. The imperious Costa had of course only been signed two years earlier at the age of 29 for the mammoth sum of €44m, but so good was Kaka upon his arrival that he became a crucial part of Ancelotti’s plans. 

Rui Costa never quite regained his place in the side, and even acknowledged in Kaka’s first season that the Brazilian would one day win the Ballon d’Or.

Kaka took Serie A by storm in his maiden campaign. He’d reach the Champions League final in his second season, and while many observers will point to Jerzy Dudek’s miraculous saves, Jamie Carragher’s lionhearted defending or Steven Gerrard’s rousing second-half display, it shouldn’t be forgotten how good Kaka was that night. He absolutely ran the show in the first half as Milan raced into a 3-0 lead, laying on an assist to Hernan Crespo that all but a handful of people to have ever kicked a ball could even dream of attempting.

Kaka ended up on the losing side that night but got his redemption two years later, winning the Ballon d’Or shortly after.

ST: Andriy Shevchenko

Despite facing the likes of Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta and the rest of the formidable defenders and defences of Serie A in the early 2000s, Andriy Shevchenko remained a cut above the rest. 

Quite simply one of the strikers of his generation, Shevchenko was a lethal goalscorer. Arriving in Italy as a 22-year-old who’d already lit up Europe with Dynamo Kyiv, Shevchenko scored 24 goals in his maiden campaign, winning Capocannoniere. 

Shevchenko scored another 24 goals the season after and over the course of his first spell at Milan, was good for 0.85 goals and assists per 90. 

In seven seasons at Milan, Shevchenko hit 24 goals in three of them, winning the Champions League in 2003 and the Ballon d’Or in 2004.

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