Paolo Maldini played his last professional football match yesterday, in a 2-0 win for AC Milan against Fiorentina, guaranteeing his team a place in next seasons Champions League, and bringing to a end the career of one of the games legends.
In a era where money seems to be the driving influence in football, amongst players and owners, where constant transfers swells the pockets of all concerned, Maldini, like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Totti, was a one club man, playing his entire career for his home town club. 25 years after making his debut for Milan, as a 16 year old against Udinese in January 1985, the 40 year old defender has hung up his boots.
His career has been littered with success, both with his team and as an individual. During his time with Milan Maldini collected 7 Serie A titles, 5 Champions League titles, a Copa Italia win, 5 UEFA Super Cups, 2 Intercontinental Cups and a FIFA Club World Cup. Maldini also played in a record 8 Champions League finals, and holds the appearance record for both Milan and Serie A.
For his national team, Italy, Maldini notched up a record 126 appearances, captained the team from 1994 until 2002 and played in one World Cup final, 1n 1994 when Italy were beaten on penalties by Brazil.
Maldini will go down as one of the legends of the game, one of the all time great defenders, and one of the most respected players to step out onto the pitch. He was the complete defender, able to play in the centre as well as on the left, his timing, positioning, strength, tackling, pace and leadership made him the best defender of his generation and one of the best ever. The word legend is branded about to easily these days, but in Maldini’s case it doesn’t fully do him justice. He was more than a legend. Mr Milan will be missed by all in Milan, Italy and football fans world wide.
AC Milan have retired the number 3 jersey from their squad list as testimony to the high standing and appreciation they have for their former captain. The number will be unretired should any of his sons play for the first team.