Zvonimir Boban was one of the most talented players to play for Milan in the 1990s, an impressive feat considering the status of that team. When talking about Milan’s great team, Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard, Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi are just some of the candidates who were not only classic players but also bona fide legends of the game.
Zvonimir Boban, however, was the heartbeat of this team and is often overlooked. Every accolade has been bestowed on the likes of Maldini and Van Basten (and rightly so) but this talented Croatian is often missed out. Boban combined skill, intelligence and an outstanding passing range with a devastating shot; it is sometimes easy to forget just how good he was.
Signed by Fabio Capello for £8m in 1991 from Dinamo Zagreb, he was loaned straight out to Bari. After suffering relegation with the southern team, he came back to Milan to embark on a golden journey in which he would win four Serie A titles, three Italian Super Cups, a Champions League and a European Super Cup.
His partnership with Demetrio Albertini gave the team a touch of class and complete tactical awareness. Boban was a technical genius with a devastating ability to produce breathtaking goals. These were taken from distance, with his head or from a graceful and fluid running pattern with the ball that was fuelled by his raw aggression and determination.
Boban could perform any role in midfield and that ability to adapt made him indispensable. He would not just fit in and do a job; he would play the role as well as the man he was replacing, if not better. The players around him could concentrate solely on their role and in turn produce the maximum impact.
Boban’s one downfall was perhaps his lack of goals (30 in 251 games). When he scored they were usually spectacular, but his ability to create for others was key. His temperament feisty to say the least, but many great players need this aggression in their game to make them who they are. He was always willing to fight for the cause and that aggression helped Milan sweep everything before them in the decade he spent at the club.
When calcio ruled the world, Milan were the greatest team by some distance and Boban was one of the heartbeats of the team.