At Milan, a club once renowned for their gloss and glamour and high octane atmosphere, Ariedo Braida dulled the crass shine of the nouveau riche with old fashioned elegance. By contrast to those he associated with, the director was eloquent, sincere and renowned for his etiquette – a quality that made the difference in a working class sport that had begun to gorge itself on excessive wealth. He still cared to listen, to lend a helping hand and for that, great players such as Marco van Basten and Andriy Shevchenko arrived, helping to create an outstanding Milan.
Fundamental in constructing the sides deployed by one of Europe’s greatest teams, Braida may have been sophisticated be he was also a businessman when it came to closing the deals and getting the men he wanted, continuously beating the competition. His greatest talent was in realising what people needed and how to approach individual situations.
Frank Rijkaard? He had to act quickly, admitting that after he got the signature, he rushed to the toilet and stuffed the contract down his trousers to ensure its safety from the protesting Sporting fans.
Shevchenko? He appealed to the Ukrainian’s ambition, giving him a Milan jersey with his name on the back, Placing it in his hands he whispered “With this, you’ll win the Ballon d’Or.” And he did.
As for Kaka, while Leonardo was the man who noticed and contacted him, he was also the one that was about to lose him. Braida believed in the player and in his ability to compete and thus made the effort to remain in contact, softly wooing the Brazilian until the deal was completed. Without Braida, Kaka may have never have arrived at Milanello.
At times, Braida proved to know even more than the best Coaches in the world and that includes the great Fabio Capello. With Milan in need of a forward, it was Braida who saw the potential impact George Weah would make and acted quickly to bring the African to the city despite the nonchalance of the Coach, who was yet to trust the player’s quality. Not only did Capello not believe but he reportedly remarked that the club had bought him a ‘waiter’.
O ye of little faith. Weah not only proved to be a sensation but he helped Milan win two Scudetti, picking up the Ballon d’Or in 1995. Braida had known the outcome all along.
Sadly, the sporting director was never truly given the credit he deserved for his vision, sage advice and excellent dealings. Silvio Berlusconi, Vice-President Adriano Galliani and even Leonardo all boasted rambunctious personalities and a desire for adulation. As such Braida was forced to be content with only a few words of praise for the pivotal role he played in the arrival of the true greats and the construction of a balanced team.
That’s not to say he was always right or never made mistakes. His critics will point out that the Rossoneri did let Patrick Vieira go, while Christophe Dugarry was preferred to Zinedine Zidane, much to Juventus’ pleasure. Meanwhile the director was highly lauded for the purchase of Thiago Silva even though the centre-back admitted his arrival at Milan was largely due to Leonardo.
Others go so far as to say that his job was hardly difficult considering he was working for a European giant that once boasted an enormous budget and a brand that attracted the greatest talent. When the money dried up and the quality of the League deteriorated, so too did Braida’s reputation as that of a great negotiator and talent spotter. In truth he was made a scapegoat for Milan’s failures, eventually phased out by the club to which he dedicated 27 years of life.
After a brief stint with Sampdoria, Braida is back to working for a European giant with the capability of attracting the stars – a task at which he’s previously excelled. But it remains to be seen whether he still has the charm to accomplish the greatest feats in a world full of competition and even more money.