Paolo Maldini

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"Maldini" redirects here. For his father, see Cesare Maldini.
Paolo Maldini
Maldini in 2008
Personal information
Full name Paolo Cesare Maldini
Date of birth (1968-06-26) 26 June 1968 (age 46)
Place of birth Milan, Italy
Height 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)[1]
Playing position Defender
Youth career
1978–1985 Milan
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1985–2009 Milan 647 (29)
National team
1986–1988 Italy U21 12 (5)
1988–2002 Italy 126 (7)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Paolo Cesare Maldini (born 26 June 1968) is a former Italian footballer who played as a left or central defender, being adept with either foot although naturally right-footed. He spent all 24 seasons of his career at Serie A club Milan, before retiring at the age of 41 in 2009, becoming a symbol and a legend of the club. During that period, he won the Champions League five times, as well as seven Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, five Supercoppa Italiana, five European Super Cups, two Intercontinental Cups. He played for 14 years for the Italian national team, making his debut in 1988 before retiring in 2002 with 126 caps, three European Championship participations and four World Cup participations. Although he did not win a tournament with the Italian National team, he reached the finals of the 1994 World Cup and Euro 2000, and the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup and Euro 1988.

Maldini is regarded to be one of the greatest defenders of all time.[2][3][4] He played at a world class level for his entire career spanning two and a half decades, and won the Best Defender trophy at the UEFA Club Football Awards at the age of 39. He came second to George Weah for the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1995, the closest a defender had ever come to winning the award until Fabio Cannavaro won the award in 2006. He was chosen as a defender on the FIFA World Cup Dream Team, and in 2004 was named as one of the Top 125 greatest living footballers as part of FIFA's 100th anniversary celebration.[5] He was inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame in 2012.

Maldini was also the Milan and Italy captain for many years and was considered a leader amongst leaders by fellow footballers, leading to the nickname "Il Capitano" (the Captain). Paolo's father Cesare formerly played for and captained Milan, and is a successful national U-21 manager.

Club career[edit]

Maldini, pictured in a pre-season friendly in 2008, spent his entire twenty four year career with A.C. Milan

Maldini made his league debut for A.C. Milan in the 1984–85 season on 20 January 1985, replacing the injured Sergio Battistini in a match against Udinese at the age of 16.[6][7] It was his only league appearance of the campaign, but he was in the starting eleven the following season. The 1987–88 Scudetto marked Maldini's first trophy, and the first of seven league titles, with the club.[8] He was also part of Milan's undefeated Serie A champion side in the 1991–92 season. The back four that included Maldini and fellow long-timers Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta and Mauro Tassotti is widely considered one of European football's most formidable defensive quartets of the 1990s. Following Baresi's retirement, he would also form a formidable and successful partnership with Alessandro Nesta.

In addition to winning his third Champions League and reaching the 1994 World Cup final, Maldini became the first defender ever to win World Soccer magazine's annual World Player of the Year Award. During his acceptance speech, Maldini called his milestone "a particular matter of pride because defenders generally receive so much less attention from fans and the media than goalscorers. We are more in the engine room rather than taking the glory."[9] He then singled out Milan captain Franco Baresi as a player who "really [deserved] to receive the sort of award I have received."[9]

Maldini played his 600th Serie A match on 13 May 2007 in a 1–1 draw at Catania.[10] On 25 September 2005, Maldini broke Dino Zoff's Serie A appearance record after playing his 571st league match against Treviso;[11] seven days earlier, he had played his 800th game in all competitions for Milan. On 16 February 2008, Maldini reached 1,000 senior games with Milan and Italy when he entered as a substitute against Parma.[12]

Maldini has participated in eight UEFA Champions League finals during the course of his career, which is bettered only by Francisco Gento, who also appeared in a Cup Winners' Cup final, bringing his total European finals to nine. Maldini has lifted the trophy five times, the latest coming in Milan's 2–1 victory over Liverpool in the 2007 Champions League final on 23 May 2007 in Athens. In an interview with ESPN that aired prior to the broadcast of the 2007 final, he labeled the 2005 Champions League final, a match that Milan lost on penalties to Liverpool after blowing a 3–0 half-time lead, the worst moment of his career, even though he had scored the fastest-ever goal in a European Clubs' Cup final just 51 seconds into the match, in the process also becoming the oldest player ever to score in a final.

Maldini announced his plans to retire at the end of the 2007–08 season, saying that he would do so with "no regrets."[13] However, following Milan's elimination from the Champions League by Arsenal in March, Maldini stated that he would possibly delay his retirement for at least a further year.[14] He signed an extension on 6 June that kept him at Milan for the 2008–09 season.[15] On 18 April 2009, Maldini announced that he will be finally retiring at the end of the 2008–09 season.

On 17 May, in the Friuli Stadium, Maldini played his 900th official match for Milan in a league game against Udinese. Maldini's last match in San Siro was on 24 May, in a game lost 3–2 against Roma. There was a small controversy when the Milan fans known as "Brigate Rossonere", protested against Maldini as he said goodbye.[16][17] His last appearance for Milan, and his last game as an active player was on 31 May 2009, in the last match of the season, against Fiorentina, which Milan won 2–0. Milan retired his number 3 shirt, but it will be bequeathed to one of his sons if one makes the club's senior side.[18][19]

International career[edit]

In 1986, Maldini was called up by his father Cesare to the Italian U-21 side, where he earned twelve caps and scored five goals in two years. With the Under-21 Italian side, Maldini came second behind Spain in the 1986 Championship, although Italy were eliminated in the Quarter Finals of the 1988 tournament. He made his Azzurri debut at the age of nineteen on 31 March 1988, in a 1–1 friendly draw against Yugoslavia, and made one appearance for Italy at the 1988 Olympics, where they finished in fourth place. Maldini featured in all of Italy's games at Euro 1988, where they reached the semi-finals, losing to the Soviet Union. He participated in his first World Cup in 1990, appearing in every match, which Italy managed to win, until losing out to Argentina on penalties, once again in the semi-finals. Italy eventually finished third, after defeating England 2-1 in the 3rd-4th Place final.

Maldini's first international goal came in his 44th career match, in a 2–0 friendly win over Mexico on 20 January 1993. Italy failed to qualify for Euro 1992, finishing second in their group, but Maldini was named vice-captain for Italy at the 1994 World Cup, playing in every match, and deputising for the injured Franco Baresi in matches against Mexico, Nigeria, Spain and Bulgaria, helping to lead Italy to the final, playing both as a centreback and as a fullback. Maldini helped Italy keep a clean sheet in the final against Brazil as the team eventually lost on penalties. As in 1990, Maldini was named in the Team of the Tournament for his performances, 32 years after his father received the same honour at the 1962 World Cup.

After Baresi's international retirement in 1994, Maldini was appointed the team's full-time captain. Euro 1996 would see Italy eliminated in the group stage, in a group which contained the two eventual finalists of the tournament, Germany and the Czech Republic. The 1998 World Cup would see them go out in the quarter-finals to hosts and eventual champions France, on penalties, for the third consecutive time in a World Cup. Italy did reach the final of Euro 2000, but lost once again to France in extra time. In all of the three European Championships in which Maldini participated, he was elected to be part of the team of the tournament for his performances.

Immediately after Italy were eliminated in the 2002 World Cup round of sixteen, by a golden goal, to co-hosts South Korea, Maldini retired from international football, as Italy's most capped player. He scored seven international goals, all coming in home games. He spent over half of his 16 years as an international as team captain, wearing the armband a record 74 times,[20] although he was unable to win a trophy with the national squad, despite reaching the final of both the World Cup and the European Championship.

In February 2009, Italian head coach Marcello Lippi declared his support for a testimonial match for Maldini, stating that it would give him a chance to play for the Azzurri for a final time.[21] Italian Football Federation offered him a place in the line-up in a friendly match against Northern Ireland. However, Maldini rejected the offer, saying that he wanted to part with football in an "official" match.[22]


Prior to his retirement, Maldini expressed that he would never be moving into a coaching career.[23][24] He was offered a position that would have reunited him with his former manager, Carlo Ancelotti, by joining Chelsea F.C. as a coach having reportedly met with Ancelotti and with Chelsea's owner, Roman Abramovich, to discuss such a possibility.[25] Ancelotti later announced that Maldini had turned down his offer to become part of Chelsea's coaching staff.[26]

Style of play[edit]

Although he played as a left back for much of his career, Maldini was naturally right footed, and began playing for a Milan as a right back. He later became an ambidextrous player, and was switched to the left back position by then manager Arrigo Sacchi, due to the presence of Tassotti on the right for Milan, as well as the emergence of the young right back Panucci.[27] This was also made possible due to Maldini's own tactical versatility, which also allowed him to have a long and successful professional footballing career, both with Milan and the national side.[28]

Maldini was renowned for his technical ability, athleticism, sliding tackles, stamina, and pacy energetic forward runs as a left-back.[29] He was also an excellent crosser of the ball, and had the unique capacity to be an effective attacking threat, scoring and assisting several goals throughout his career, as well as being an attentive defender.[30] However, in the final few years of his career, as he lost speed, he was moved to a centre-back position, where he also excelled, relying on his experience, tactical ability, consistency, positioning and timing to win the ball.[31] As a centreback in his later career, Maldini was particularly renowned for his marking, awareness, his ability to read the game,[32] and his ability anticipate players and attacking plays.[33] Despite being a precise tackler and an imposing defensive presence, he often avoided committing to challenges when he deemed them unnecessary,[34] preferring to restrict the offensive play of his opponents through his positioning and marking.[35] Maldini was also known for his aerial ability,[36] his strength, tackling and man-marking, as well as his tactical knowledge, his vision and his ability to begin plays from the backline, which allowed him to be considered one of the greatest and most complete defenders of all time.[37] Apart from his successful national and club careers, Maldini was also able to win many individual trophies, due to his consistent performances.


I always found it very difficult when I came up against Paolo Maldini. He was the best defender I faced over the course of my career. He definitely deserved to win the award [FIFA World Player of the Year] several times over.


Maldini is considered to have been one of the greatest defenders of all time, and has been described as an icon and gentleman of the game. He has been known for his calm and correct behaviour on the pitch, preferring elegance and intelligence to physicality and aggression when defending, and only having picked up a single red card throughout his footballing career, in a friendly match.[39][40] In a 2002 FIFA poll, Maldini was selected as a defender in the FIFA World Cup Dream Team.[41]

He was the first defender ever shortlisted for the FIFA World Player of the Year award, finishing second in 1995.[42] He was also twice elected as a finalist for the Ballon d'Or, in 1994 and in 2003, where he finished third on both occasions. In addition to his team success, he also won several individual accolades and awards, due to his performances and his reputation as one of the best defenders in the game. He has won the UEFA Defender of the year, the Serie A defender of the year, the Bravo Award and the World Soccer Player of the Year Award. He has also been elected as part of the UEFA Team of the Year, the FIFPro World XI, the World Cup Team of the Tournament and the European Championship Team of the Tournament during his career. Maldini was a symbol of his club and the Italian national football team for sometime.[43][44] He was also known for his great consistency, versatility and longevity throughout his career, breaking into the Milan and Italian starting lineup as a teenager, and remaining their throughout the rest of his career, until he retired at the age of 41.[45]

Throughout his career, Maldini was also considered to be a leader, both for Milan and for the Italian national side. He was renowned for his vocal, commanding presence on the pitch, and for his awareness, communication and organisational skills, helping to motivate his team mates and ensuring they remained in position.[46] He has played in over 1000 professional matches during his 25 seasons at Milan, and he is currently the record appearance holder in Serie A, and for Milan in all competitions. Maldini has also appeared in a record of eight Champion's League finals, and is the record appearance holder in all UEFA club competitions.[47] With 126 caps during the 16 years he played for Italy, he was the record appearance holder for the national team, until he was overtaken by Fabio Cannavaro in 2009, and by Gianluigi Buffon in 2013. He has obtained the record number of caps for Italy as captain, wearing the armband on 74 occasions.[48]

Personal life[edit]

Maldini has been married to Venezuelan former model Adriana Fossa since 1994.[49][50] The couple have two sons, Christian (born 14 June 1996) and Daniel (born 11 October 2001),[51] who both have already been signed by Maldini's former club Milan and currently play in the youth teams.[52][53]

In 2003, he lifted the European Cup/Champions League as club captain exactly 40 years after his father Cesare accomplished the same feat for the same side. The only other father-son pairs to have done so are Manuel Sanchis Martínez and Manuel Sanchís Hontiyuelo of Real Madrid, and Carles and Sergio Busquets of Barcelona.

Career statistics[edit]



Team Season Serie A Coppa Italia European
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Milan 1984–85 1 0 1 0
1985–86 27 0 6 0 6 0 1 0 40 0
1986–87 29 1 7 0 13 0 37 1
1987–88 26 2 1 0 2 0 29 2
1988–89 26 0 7 0 7 0 40 0
1989–90 30 1 6 0 8 0 3 0 47 1
1990–91 26 4 3 0 4 0 2 0 35 4
1991–92 31 3 7 1 38 4
1992–93 31 2 8 0 10 1 1 0 50 3
1993–94 30 1 2 0 10 1 4 0 46 2
1994–95 29 2 1 0 11 0 2 0 43 2
1995–96 30 3 3 0 8 0 41 3
1996–97 26 1 3 0 6 0 1 0 36 1
1997–98 30 0 7 0 37 0
1998–99 31 1 2 0 33 1
1999–00 27 1 4 0 6 0 1 0 38 1
2000–01 31 1 4 0 14 0 49 1
2001–02 15 0 4 0 19 0
2002–03 29 2 1 0 19 0 49 2
2003–04 30 0 9 0 3 0 42 0
2004–05 33 0 13 1 1 0 47 1
2005–06 14 2 9 0 23 2
2006–07 18 1 9 0 27 1
2007–08 17 1 4 0 2 0 23 1
2008–09 30 0 2 0 32 0
Career Total 647 29 72 1 161 3 22 0 902 33

1European competitions include the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup
2Other tournaments include the Supercoppa Italiana, UEFA Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup and FIFA Club World Cup
3Play-off for UEFA Cup admission



Italy national team
Year Apps Goals
1988 10 0
1989 7 0
1990 11 0
1991 8 0
1992 7 0
1993 5 2
1994 12 0
1995 7 1
1996 7 0
1997 11 2
1998 11 1
1999 7 1
2000 11 0
2001 7 0
2002 5 0
Total 126 7

International goals[edit]

# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1. 20 January 1993 Florence, Italy  Mexico 2–0 Win Friendly
2. 24 March 1993 Palermo, Italy  Malta 6–1 Win FIFA World Cup 1994 Qualification
3. 11 November 1995 Bari, Italy  Ukraine 3–1 Win UEFA Euro 1996 Qualification
4. 29 March 1997 Trieste, Italy  Moldova 3–0 Win FIFA World Cup 1998 Qualification
5. 30 April 1997 Naples, Italy  Poland 3–0 Win FIFA World Cup 1998 Qualification
6. 22 April 1998 Parma, Italy  Paraguay 3–1 Win Friendly
7. 5 June 1999 Bologna, Italy  Wales 4–0 Win UEFA Euro 2000 Qualification





National team[edit]




Ufficiale OMRI BAR.svg
4th Class / Officer: Ufficiale Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana:[58] 2000
Cavaliere OMRI BAR.svg
5th Class / Knight: Cavaliere Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana:[59] 1991


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Preceded by
Younis Mahmoud
La Gazzetta dello Sport's Facchetti Award
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Franco Baresi
A.C. Milan Captain
Succeeded by
Massimo Ambrosini
Preceded by
Franco Baresi
Italy Captain
Succeeded by
Fabio Cannavaro
Preceded by
Carles Puyol
UEFA Club Defender of the Year
Succeeded by