Posts Tagged ‘ italian ’
The year is 1985. Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev are figureheads of the cold war. At Heysel Stadium 39 spectators are killed at the European Cup final. Live Aid concerts raise £50m for victims of famine in Ethiopia. DNA is first used in a criminal case. Roger Moore steps down as James Bond. And a 16-year-old coltish defender with a famous name makes his debut for Milan at half-time in a Serie A match at Udinese.
He is the son of Cesare Maldini, a former European Cup-winning captain for the club. He trots on at half-time and glides through his overture on impressively long, strong, limbs. He looks calm, classy, eminently comfortable. Milan’s fans reckon young Paolo is a chip off the old block. Some 25 seasons later, his footballing achievements beggar belief.
This weekend the 41-year-old pulls on the shirt of the club he joined at the age of 10 for the 901st time. With more than 1,000 professional matches under his belt – every single one of them in the rossonero of Milan or the azzurro of Italy – Maldini will make his farewell bow at San Siro. His career has cranked on and on, past so many milestones (they announced they would retire his No3 shirt several years ago) it is hard to know where to begin honouring the end. The club’s official website has tried to sum it up with a simple tribute that has run all week long: 25 SEASONS. 900 GAMES. ALWAYS AND ONLY MILAN. GRAZIE PAOLO!
A quarter of a century in the first team of any club is a staggering enough feat. To do it at one of the world’s elite teams, sweeping up five European Cup medals and seven Serie A titles along the way, sets a benchmark that looks unmatchable. To put it into perspective, 35-year-old Ryan Giggs would have to play on for Manchester United for another seven years to equal Maldini’s length of service. Real Madrid’s Raúl, who turns 32 in the summer, will need to continue for another 10 years. This is a man who has won the European Cup in three different decades.
There will be no special party. It is his choice. He just wants to use the last two games of the season to say goodbye, first to the people who love him at San Siro, then to the greater family of Italian football with an away game at Fiorentina. The man has always done things with irresistible, understated charm.
And that is the real legacy of Maldini. The statistics only tell part of the story. They don’t tell you anything about the elegance and gallantry with which he played. All the negative stereotypes of Italian defensive arts – niggling and pinching and sly shirt tugging – were unnecessary for Maldini. Probably the best left-back ever created played purely as well as powerfully.