Born: Milan 26 June 1968
Club(s): AC Milan
International Caps: 126
International Goals: 7
Quite possibly the best defender of all time. Paolo Maldini was a one club man that played over 900 games for his home town team Milan.
His dad Cesere played for Milan, his son’s Christian & Daniel have played for the youth teams of Milan, i Rossoneri quite simply is in his blood.
Maldini started his career in 1985 aged just 16. The following season he made his breakthrough at right back before being switched to the left back position that he would go on to make his own. In 1987/88 he won his first of 7 Serie A scudetto’s under Manager Arriggo Sacchi. A year later aged 19 he won his first of 126 international caps for gli azzurri before winning his first of five Champions League finals in 1989.
Many regard Maldini as the complete defender. His judgement and reading of the game allowing him to play almost at training ground pace making the art of defending look easy alongside other greats that have accompanied him for both Milan and Italy like Baresi, Costacurta, Cannavaro & Nesta.
Paolo could get forward too and his 6ft frame often raced down the flank to deliver crosses in to the box. His adaptability also enabled him to play comfortably as a centre half which he did for Italy on many occasions.
At times Maldini might have been the sort of player that looked like he was playing with a cigar on, but with the national team, Maldini was close without the cigar. A penalty kick away from World Cup glory in 1994 his side also lost out via spot kicks in the semi finals of 1990. Maldini retired from international football in 2002 after his fourth world cup, if he carried on his international career he would have still had something to offer in 2006 when Italy captained by Fabio Cannavaro they eventually went on to win it.
But so good was Maldini, the fact he didn’t win the top international honours does not deter his greatness as one of the worlds best defenders. In 2005 aged 35 he became the oldest player ever to score in a Champions League final. In 2007 he became the oldest player ever to lift the trophy as il capitano.
A Milan legend, an Italian legend, a legend of the art of defending and a footballer who’s impeccable career is an example to anyone partaking the game who should adhere to follow.