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Sacchi lauds influence of 'innovator' Berlusconi

Legendary former AC Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi has hailed Silvio Berlusconi's influence on Italian football since he became president of the Serie A giants.

Berlusconi has developed a reputation as a controversial, colourful and outspoken character, and celebrates 30 years as Milan president on Saturday.

During that time, Milan have won eight league titles and have been crowned European champions on five occasions.

Sacchi guided the club to the first of those Serie A crowns in 1988, before lifting back-to-back European Cups in the next two seasons, and the former coach believes Berlusconi should receive credit for Italian football's dominance during that period.

"Silvio Berlusconi represented the true rebirth. Just think about the number of European finals between the late 80s and early 90s featuring Italian clubs," he told Il Giornale.

"It isn't just by chance that Italian football enjoyed its best period since the post-war period with the arrival of Berlusconi. He was an incredible innovator.

"[Milan legend] Chicco Evani once said something that sums him up to a tee: the president was so far ahead, that if he turned around, he would be in the future!

"In our first meeting at Arcore, we spoke about football until midnight and when I left, I had this feeling that I had always known him.

"When he chose me, taking a big risk, I said to my family: he's either crazy or a genius. Why was I seen as a risk? That's easy: he took me from Parma, in Serie B, simply because he saw my team play well against Liedholm's Milan in the Italian Cup.

"He was an innovator but much more, he was able to wipe out the dogma in Italian football of winning at all costs, and introduce a much more rewarding and demanding philosophy: win convincingly and entertain. He understood that through great football and respect for opponents, the victory would mean much more."