Roberto Baggio (not pictured) missed the crucial penalty as Brazil beat Italy to the 1994 World Cup
Franco Baresi. Roberto Donadoni. Roberto Baggio. The names are synonymous with AC Milan’s glory years.
They are also etched into the memory of every Italian fan who witnessed the country’s World Cup penalty shootout defeats of 1990 and 1994.
All three spoke of the trauma they felt over missing their spot-kicks. All three sought solace in the ‘Mind Room’, Italian football’s first psychology laboratory.
Backed by Silvio Berlusconi and hailed by a succession of Milan managers from Arrigo Sacchi to Carlo Ancelotti, the Mind Room helped underpin an unprecedented run of success as the Rossoneri won 21 major trophies during the 23 years it was operational from 1986.
Combining stress relief therapy with cognitive training and neuroscience, the laboratory’s impact would be felt as far afield as Chelsea, where its founder constructed a similar set-up in 2009.
Things had come a long way since the plan for the first incarnation was hatched, at a meeting between a soon-to-be Italian prime minister and an amateur karate champion.
Dr Bruno Demichelis had been a martial arts student since he was a young teenager. In 1971, aged 24, he was beaten at an international karate competition by a less-fancied Japanese opponent. He struggled to process defeat and returned home to Italy looking for answers.
“It wasn’t a technical problem or a physical problem; I …….