Written by El-Khoury
25 years, 1,028 official matches, 647 matches in Serie A (29 goals), 161 in Europe (3 goals), 72 in Coppa Italia (1 goal) and 22 in other tournaments. With the Rossoneri he had 902 appearances (33 goals) and with the Squadra Azzurra (National team) 126 appearances (7 goals). In addition, he played an astonishing 8 finals and 5 Champions Cup titles.
This was Paolo Maldini, known in history playing in Milan and the Italian National Team. He is one of the top defenders of all time. Paolo was not only a legendary player, but also was an example of morality and a true athletic spirit. He was the man who continued the legacy of his father, Cesare Maldini, in the Milan club, and made history for the Rossoneri. When he retired, the jersey with the number “3” was withdrawn and he emphasized “my number can only be worn by one of my children”.
A Juve fan in Milan
Little Paolo, despite Milan’s relationship with his father, was a Juventus fan, since he loved watching his favourite player, Roberto Betenga (!) Played in it, but due to the urging of Cesare (his father), he joined the family roster of Milan to please his father. Of course, nothing else could be done!
Paolo first played for AC Milan in Serie A on January 20, 1985, at the age of 16 years and 208 days! The coach and one of his father’s teammates at the Rossoneri, Nils Lindholm, made a change and put him in the halftime of the match with Udinese (1-1) in place of the injured, Sergio Batistini. Specifically, in the first year, after his debut, he started playing in the position of right back, however not long after he was at the left end. In fact, Paolo, although he was right-footed, could play just as well with both feet, deceiving all the football fans who knew him as a left-footed player!
Successes and trophies
Maldini was a key figure as a left-back and central defender at AC Milan, which literally swept Europe from the late ’80s to the early’ 00s under the guidance of Arigo Sacchi, Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti. Under the guidance of Arrigo Sacchi, in 1988 Paolo won the first of seven championships as a member of the stunning defence of Milan along with Baresi, Costacurta, Tassotti and in the 1989, and in 1990 the Champions Cup. Although he was an excellent player, he failed to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award or Ballon D’Or, where he was nominated in both.
He was ranked 3rd for the Golden Ball twice (1994 and 2003). Of course, after winning the Champions League with Milan in Athens and the final in the USA with the Italian National Team in 1994, Maldini became the first defender in history to win the title of Player of the Year from the magazine, World Soccer!
From record to record
On 25 September 2005, Paolo broke the record of legend-goalkeeper Dino Zoff, making his 571st Serie A appearance in a match against Treviso. In addition to the record he had in appearances at Italian stadiums (647), he also had the highest appearances in all UEFA competitions (174).
In the 1993-1994 season, Maldini was a leading member of the Milan defense, conceiving “zero” goals passed them for 929 minutes in Serie A, breaking the Juventus record held from the 1972-1973 season for 903 minutes. At the age of 30, he changed positions permanently and from left back he played as a central defender, having learned to live without the great Franco Baresi, who a few years ago (1996-1997) had hung up his shoes, retiring from professional football.
By the end of his career, Paolo had won 26 titles: 5 Champions Cups, 7 league Championships, 1 Cup, 5 Italian Super Cups, 5 European Super Cups, 2 Intercontinental Cups, and 1 World Club Championship. It is worth noting that Cesare and Paolo Maldini are the only father-son relationship that has won the Champions Cup, wearing the captain’s armband! All this always, with the Milan jersey.
As the leader of the Italian National team
Paolo made his debut with the Squadra Azzura shirt for the National team on March 31, 1988 in a friendly against Yugoslavia and was a member of the team from 1988 to 2002. He played in 126 games, was a captain 74 times (started at the 1994 World Cup) and scored 7 goals.
His first goal with the National Team came in his 44th game, which was a friendly against Mexico (2-0). Paolo played in the final of the 1994 World Cup and Euro 2000. He could have reached the level of participation that no other player could catch, but he stopped from the National team 7 years before ending his career!
The end of an era
When he hung up his shoes, Il Capitano announced that he would not be involved in coaching and was involved in his various businesses (buying the Miami FC in 2015, among others).
Maldini has been honoured countless times, most importantly though in 2012 at the Italian Football Hall of Fame, as well as being one of the four players globally honoured by Athletic Bilbao with the One Club Man Award, an award provided to footballers who have spent their entire careers in a club. He was also twice awarded by the Italian Government for his contributions at the national level.
Surely Il Capitano Paolo will continue to be an eternal symbol. A legend not only for Milan fans, but for all football fans and players who want to be alike. Paolo represents not only his footballing ability but also both his faith in the club and his athletic spirit. Lets see what the 3rd generation of Daniel Maldini has to offer.