This article is dedicated to arguably one of the greatest defenders of all time. Today is the birthday of that football legend. He is none other than the great Paolo Cesare Maldini.
The Italian legend played all his 25 seasons for AC Milan before retiring at the age of 41 in 2009. He could play as a central defender and also as a left back.
His won 26 trophies for AC Milan. The one club man won the Champions League five times, seven Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, five Supercoppa Italiana, five European Super Cups, two Intercontinental Cups, and one FIFA Club World Cup.
He made his debut for the Italian national team in 1988 before retiring in 2002 with 126 caps, a record which was only bettered by Cannavaro in 2009, and Buffon in 2013.
Maldini captained Italy for 8 years, and held the record for appearances made as Italy’s captain, wearing the armband 74 times, until he was once again overtaken by Cannavaro, in 2010.
With Italy, Maldini took part in three European Championships, and four World Cups. Although he did not win a tournament with Italy, he reached the final of the 1994 World Cup and Euro 2000, and the semi-final of the 1990 World Cup and Euro 1988. He was elected into the all-star teams for each of these tournaments, in addition to Euro 96.
He played at a world class level for his entire career spanning two and a half decades, and won the Best Defender trophy at the UEFA Club Football Awards at the age of 39, as well as the Serie A Defender of the Year Award in 2004. He came second to George Weah for the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1995, the closest a defender had ever come to winning the award until Fabio Cannavaro won the award in 2006.
Maldini also placed third in the Ballon d’Or on two occasions, in 1994 and 2003. In 1999, he was voted 21st in World Soccer’s list of the 100 greatest football players of the 20th century. In 2002, he was chosen as a defender on the FIFA World Cup Dream Team, and in 2004 he was named in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players.
For his extraordinary leadership ability, he was called “ll captiano” by his teammates which means “the captain”. Maldini has the record for most appearances in Serie A with 647. He also appeared for 174 games in UEFA club competitions which is also an record.
After his retirement in 2009, Milan retired the number “3” jersey in his honour. He was inducted in the “Italian Hall of Fame”.
Paolo’s father Cesare also played for Milan for his whole career and his sons Christian and Daniel are also currently AC Milan youth players.
Maldini has been described as “an icon and gentleman of the game”. He was known for his calm manner on the pitch and his ability to read the game, preferring elegance and intelligence to physicality and aggression when defending, and only received a single red card throughout his entire career.
In a 2002 FIFA poll, Maldini was selected as a defender in the FIFA World Cup Dream Team.
He was renowned for his vocal, commanding presence on the pitch, and for his awareness, communication and organisational skills, helping to motivate his team mates and ensuring they remained in position.
Here is a collage of the great one club man during his years at AC Milan.
He was renowned for his consistency, versatility and longevity, breaking into the Milan starting lineup as a teenager and remaining there throughout his career until he retired at the age of 41.
Maldini also appeared in a record eight UEFA Champions League Finals, and is the record appearance holder in all UEFA club competitions.
Although a player like Paolo Maldini is very much popular and well known, here is a video as a tribute to the legend of the game.