When you think of defending, your footballing brain tends to think of getting stuck into a good, hard, old-fashioned tackle. But, this one-club man, Maldini- who spent his entire career at AC Milan — averaged only 0.56 challenges per game during his career.
Bewildering much? Read on.
The top defenders in the Premier League (for instance) have been making 4-5 tackles in the course of 90 minutes— hardly massive numbers, but it’s nearly 10 times more than Maldini ever needed.
To read the game like Maldini did, to break up the play like he did and start an attack with his ability to pass the ball without ever needing to tackle like he did, his ability to be in the right place, at the right time is something lacking in the modern day version of the beautiful game.
Maldini was known for his calm manner on the pitch and his ability to read the game, preferring elegance and intelligence to physicality and aggression when defending, and only received a Single Red Card throughout his entire career.
It’s astounding to think that Maldini achieved what he did, without ever really needing to lunge in.
It’s something we may never see on a football pitch again.
And look what he achieved in the game:
- 902 appearances for AC Milan
- 126 international caps for Italy
- 7 Serie A Titles/Scudetto
- 5 Champions League Trophies
- 5 European Super Cups
- 5 Supercoppa Italiana
- 2 Intercontinental Cups
- 1 Copa Italia
- 1 FIFA Club World Cup
Evidently, his record as a footballer is almost unsurpassable — particularly by a fellow defender.
In addition to his team success, he also won several individual accolades and awards.
- Paolo Cesare Maldini was the First Defender ever to be shortlisted for the FIFA World Player of the Year award, finishing second (behind George Weah) in 1995.
- Maldini was also twice elected as a finalist for the Ballon D’or, in 1994 and in 2003, where he finished third on both occasions.
- He won the UEFA EURO All Time XI (2016), World Soccer Greatest XI of All Time (2013), UEFA Champions League Achievement (2009), FIFA Order of Merit (2008) UEFA Defender of the year (2007), the Serie A defender of the year (2004), the World Soccer Player of the Year Award (1994), the Bravo Award (1989).
- Alongside pieces of silverware, Maldini also holds the record for the fastest goal ever to be scored in a Champions League Final. He opened the scoring for Milan with just 52 seconds into the game against Liverpool on an eventful night in Istanbul.
Here is a glimpse of the prowess of The Five Time European Cup Winner as his Serie A counterparts shed some light over his legacy-
- “Maldini was the best and toughest defender I ever faced. He had everything: he was a complete defender, who was strong, intelligent, and an excellent man-marker.”
- “He was one of the best defenders in Champions League history, but what was so impressive about him is that when he was on the ball he didn’t look like a defender, but like an elegant midfield player.”
- “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.”
Although he played as a left back for most of his career, Maldini was naturally right footed, and began playing for Milan as a right back. Maldini was renowned for his technical ability, athleticism, sliding tackles, stamina, and fast energetic forward runs as a left-back. He was also an excellent crosser of the ball, and was an effective attacking threat, scoring and assisting several goals throughout his career.
In the final few years of his career, as he lost speed, he was moved to a Centre-Back position, where he excelled in relying on his experience, tactical ability, positioning and timing to win the ball. Despite being a precise tackler and an imposing defensive presence, he often avoided committing to challenges when he deemed them unnecessary, preferring to restrict the offensive play of his opponents through sheer positioning and marking.
He played for 14 years for the Italian national team, making his debut in 1988 before retiring in 2002 with 126 caps (a record which was only bettered by Cannavaro in 2009 and Buffon in 2013).
Maldini captained Italy for 8 years, and held the record for appearances made as Italy’s captain, wearing the armband 74 times (until he was once again overtaken by Cannavaro, in 2010).
He was renowned for his consistency, versatility and longevity, breaking into the Milan starting lineup as a teenager and remaining there throughout his career until he retired at the age of 41 becoming only the second player (after Matt Le Tissier) to win Atletico Bilbao’s coveted One Club Man Award.
- Real Madrid – 11
- Milan – 7
- Paolo Maldini – 5
- Barcelona – 5
- Bayern Munich – 5
- Liverpool – 5
- Ajax – 4
- Inter – 3
- Manchester United – 3
- Juventus – 2
- Benfica – 2
- Nottingham Forrest – 2
- Porto – 2
- Chelsea – 1
- Arsenal – Big effin’ ZERO
Paolo Cesare Maldini- They don’t make them like him, anymore. Sighs
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Thank you for reading.