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Sunday, 26 June 2016

Paolo Maldini - football great

Milan defender's record-breaking career spanned 25 years


Photo of Paolo Maldini
Paolo Maldini
Paolo Maldini, the AC Milan defender who won the European Cup and Champions League more times than any other player in the modern era, celebrates his 48th birthday today, having been born on this day in 1968 in Milan.

A Milan player for the whole of his 25-year professional career - plus six years as a youth player before that - Maldini won Europe's biggest club prize five times. Only Francisco Gento, a member of the all-conquering Real Madrid side of the 1950s and 60s, has more winner's medals.

Maldini also won seven Serie A championships plus one Coppa Italia and five Supercoppa Italiana titles in domestic competition, as well as five European Super Cups, two Intercontinental Cups and a World Club Cup.

Only in international football did trophies elude him, although he played on the losing side in the finals of both the World Cup, in 1994, and the European Championships, in 2000.

His European Cup/Champions League triumphs came under the management of Arrigo Sacchi (1989 and 1990), Fabio Capello (1994) and Carlo Ancelotti (2003 and 2007).

The 1994 victory by 4-0 against Barcelona was described as one of the greatest team performances of all time.  Under Capello, Maldini was also part of the Milan team that went unbeaten through the whole of the 1991-92 season, setting an Italian record of 58 games without defeat.

Maldini, who made his senior Milan debut as a 16-year-old in 1985, holds the record for most appearances for the club at 902 in all competitions. No player in history has made more appearances in Serie A (647) or in UEFA club competitions (174).

Following his retirement after the 2008–09 season, Milan retired the number three shirt in his honour. He was 40 years and 339 days old when he made his last appearance against Roma at the club's home stadium at San Siro in May 2009.  Only his teammate Alessandro 'Billy' Costacurta (41 years 25 days) and the former Sampdoria stalwart Pietro Vierchowod (41 years 10 days) were older among outfield players in Serie A history.

His international career brought him 126 caps, a  number surpassed only by Gianluigi Buffon and Fabio Cannavaro, and 74 appearances as captain, which was a record until Cannavaro, the 2006 World Cup-winning captain, overtook him on the way to a new mark of 79 appearances as skipper.

A player known not only for his proficiency as a defender but for his composure on the ball, Maldini is part of a football dynasty.

His father, Cesare, who died earlier this year at the age of 84, also played for AC Milan and Italy and had a successful coaching career that included two spells at San Siro, as well as periods in charge of the Italy Under-21 team, winning three European Under-21 championships, and the senior national team.

Now his eldest son, Christian, has worn the captain's armband for AC Milan's Under-19 team.  Paolo's younger son, Daniel, is also training in the Milan youth system.

Although Cesare was born in Trieste, he was living in Milan when Paolo was born.  Married since 1994 to Adriana Fossa, a Venezuelan former model, he guards his private life zealously and among only a few details he has revealed about his life away from the pitch he once told a reporter he owned 100 pairs of jeans.

Photo of Trieste's Piazza dell'Unità d'Italia
The waterfront Piazza dell'Unità d'Italia in Trieste
Travel tip:

Trieste, the main city of the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, lies close to the Slovenian border.  Once the main seaport of the Austro-Hungarian empire, it has a mix of styles, with the seafront, canals and imposing squares reminiscent of Venice, and the coffee houses and architecture showing the Austrian influence dating from the era of Hapsburg domination.

Travel tip:

Although AC Milan play at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in the San Siro district of Milan, the club's administrative headquarters is about three kilometres away in Via Aldo Rossi in the Portello district, accessible from the centre of Milan via Linea 1 on the metro, getting off at the QT8 station.  Visitors can enjoy the Mondo Milan Museum, which charts the 117-year history of the club, which was founded in 1899 by two Englishmen, Alfred Edwards and Herbert Kilpin.

(Photo of Paolo Maldini by Yelena Rybakova for Soccer.ru CC BY-SA 3.0)

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