Name: Paolo Cesare MALDINI
Born: June 26th 1968, Milan, Italy
Height: 1,86 m 6ft 1in
Position: Defender (left/central)
He was excellent in all the main skills a defender should be skillful: speed, positioning, focus, precise and sliding tackles, heading, passing, marking. And he could play well with both feet, despite naturally right footed.
1989/1990/1994/2003/2007 – European Cup/Champions League Winner (AC Milan)
1989/1990 and 2007 – Intercontinental Cup and FIFA Club World Cup Winner (AC Milan)
1994 – 2nd placed World Cup 1994 (Italy)
1988/1992/1993/1994/1996/1999/2004 – Italian League Winner (AC Milan)
2000 – 2nd placed European Championships (Italy)
Paolo Maldini is an example of loyalty, longevity and consistency in the football world. There are some facts and numbers about him that are very hard to beat. It is impressive seeing that he did play from 17 years old to 41 years old with AC Milan and he did more than 900 games with his only career club. Adding to this numbers, he played 14 years with the Italia National team, playing in 4 world cups.
Regular at the starting eleven since 1985/1986, he won everything a player could win at club level, including 5 champions league with almost 20 years of difference between the first one (1989) and the last one (2007). He survived generations of players as he played alongside Gullit and Van Basten, but also Kaká and Shevchenko. He is the common reference of all the great AC Milan teams that conquered the world. Of course there were some frustrating moments like in 2005 Champions League Final, when after a 3-0 lead, AC Milan lost to Liverpool, in a game in which Maldini scored after 51 seconds and become the oldest player to score in a final. In My opinion he couldn´t ask for a more beautiful club career and he was lucky avoiding injuries.
But he was trophyless playing with his National Team. Since his first tournament the Euro 88 at just 20 until the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan he was always there, but the best he achieved was a 2nd place in 1994 World Cup and another 2nd place in the 2000 European Championships. The penalty shootouts were too many times the barrier that Italy couldn´t overtake and ironically, only after his retirement from the National Team, Italy won the world cup in 2006.
His name will always be associated with expressions like “the perfect defender” or “the first modern defender” and it´s fair, because he was really a special player that settled new standards and will be an example to follow for every person that aspires to become a footballer.
My Euro 88 sticker collection was my first contact with his name when I saw his face and I remember thinking, this guy looks so young. Since that 1988 competition with Italy and the AC Milan dominant years straight after, his presence was always regular to any person who followed football. But my strongest memory of him comes in the 1994 World Cup. With Italy boss defender Franco Baresi injured missing most of matches, he played as a central defender and commanded the Italy defense to the final, where he played also as a central defender in Costacurta (banned) place aside Baresi, doing an amazing tournament. The same situation happened in the 1993/94 Champions League final with Baresi and Costacurta suspended he was moved to centre back and they won 4-0. My recent memory from Maldini is the goal he scored against Liverpool in 2005 Champions League final, in the 1st minute, but the goal didn´t make a difference in the end. The overall memory I have from Maldini is common to everybody, a consistent and perfect defender that had a beautiful career.
“That’s the secret to getting ahead in a long and difficult championship. The Champions League requires a lot of energy. We can’t be afraid to play guys who haven’t been used that much.””
“A particular matter of pride because defenders generally receive so much less attention from fans and the media than goalscorers. We are more in the engine room rather than taking the glory.” (after winning World Soccer player of the year award)