A Remembrance of the Great Career of Paolo Maldini
We mostly associate him with AC Milan, the team for which he played his entire career, but also with the Italian team in which he was the captain. In the following article, we’ll take a tour through the career of Paolo Maldini, ‘l’eterno capitano’.
The beginnings of Paolo Maldini
He was the son of Cesare Maldini, a historical player of the Associazione Calcio Milan. Paolo entered the club’s training schools at the age of ten until he joined the youth team in 1982.
His professional debut at Milan was in January 1985, at the age of 16. That match was the only one he played in the season, and he faced Udinese Calcio. It was one of the few matches in which he played as a right-back.
Nils Liedholm, who was the coach at the time, said that Paolo Maldini had a “great future as a player” and therefore called him up for the following season. That same year, he made his international debut in the UEFA Cup.
The pinnacle of Paolo Maldini’s career
Since 1987, the success of Milan (and therefore of Maldini as well) began to grow. The coach at the time was Arrigo Sacchi, one of the best in the club’s history. That season they won the scudetto and, two years later, they won the European Cup against Steaua Bucuresti from Romania, after defeating Real Madrid in the semifinals.
Paolo Maldini was the youngest defender. The quintet also included Franco Baresi, Mauro Tassotti, Alessando Costacurta and Filippo Galli.
After that, the next titles he won were: an Italian Super Cup, a European Super Cup and also an Intercontinental Cup. And the decade wasn’t over yet! Milan became one of the best teams in the world during the 1990s. They were the second team with the most titles, right behind Real Madrid, and in a tie with Liverpool.
Paolo had planned to retire in 2007. However, he decided to stay until the end of the year and play the finals of the Club World Cup as a ‘rematch’ to what happened in 2003 against Boca Juniors.
Finally, Il Capitano continued playing until 2008, after 24 consecutive seasons in AC Milan and 1,000 professional matches. In his honor, the team has withdrawn the number three from the jerseys. Only Maldini’s sons, Christian and Daniel, can wear that number if they debut in the A-Series. Currently, they’re in the club’s training categories.
His time with the Italian team
Of course, we can’t ignore the presence of Paolo Maldini in the national team. His debut was in 1988, in a tie with Yugoslavia. The last game he played was a match against South Korea in 2002.
Maldini played 126 matches and scored seven goals for the Italian team. He was the captain in 74 games, which makes him the player who’s done this the most times in the history of the Azzurra. He also participated in four World Cups: Italy 1990 (third place), United States 1994 (runner-up), France 1998 and Korea-Japan 2002 (round of 16).
The records and statistics of Paolo Maldini
Il Capitano holds several records. For example, he’s part of the FIFA 100 list, which means he’s among the top 100 soccer players in the world.
He has the absolute record of presences in the Intercontinental Cup since he participated five times (sharing that record with his partner Alessandro Costacurta). Maldini also made eight appearances in the UEFA Champions League finals. He shares this record with Francisco Gento of Real Madrid.
Paolo has played 2217 minutes in World Cups, a record that no one has been able to beat yet. The closest is Lothar Matthaus, a German player with 2,052 minutes.
Although he played as a defender, he was known for cleanly stealing the ball and not resorting to violence. In the 24 seasons he spent with Milan, he only saw the direct red card once, and the double caution three times. On top of that, he also holds the mark of 58 unbeaten matches in the A-Series, between 1991 and 1993.
And here’s an interesting fact to finish off this list: he’s the only player to have won a European Cup as captain, just like his father, Cesare. Both of them achieved this while playing for AC Milan. Without a doubt, Paolo is a player who has made history!