Thursday, June 04, 2009

In praise of...Paolo Maldini

A football legend retires

I was only 8 when Paolo Maldini made his professional debut aged 16. It was 1985 and the international press were already taking notice of AC Milan's new wonderkid. Imagine how long ago that was that one of Maldini's senior teammates at Milan was Ray Wilkins, a guy who's been assistant coach at Chelsea for something like a whole century.

Those were the days when players would stick with the same team for longer than just a year or two. Today you get people like Scott Sinclair who start their season at Charlton Athletic and end it at Birmingham City via a brief loan spell at Chrystal Palace. But even by yesterday's standards, Paolo Maldini's career is a spectacular achievement.

In spite of one lucrative offer after the other, he chose to spend his entire career at one club only: AC Milan. It was at San Siro that Maldini survived the biggest changes in the game: clubs turning into tycoon-owned profit machines, TV rights taking over, the Bosman rule and the radical changes in eligible foreign players, the adoption of those stupid 0-99 numbers, the growing athleticism of the game.

And yet, he always remained at the top - discreet and elegant, focused and professional. In spite of looks that could have landed him a Hollywood career, Maldini never went for the primadonna path. When you look at today's brats and their antics (Cristiano Ronaldo or Ashley Cole, to name but two), you appreciate the value of Maldini's composure.

The AC Milan star won everything he could have hoped for, including a staggering 5 Champions Leagues and 7 Serie A titles. He won 126 Italy caps (an all-time record), coming close to lifting the World Cup in 1994 when he lost on penalties to Brazil.

Now 41, Paolo Maldini is calling it a day. It's a reminder, perhaps that we shouldn't take familiar faces for granted. Bear that in mind next time you think Ferguson is a bit of one.

1 comment:

Blackbeard said...

Gareth Barry anyone? Two clubs with Champions' League football wanted him, and he went to Man City who finished 10th. So much for ambition. At least Villa will be in the UEFA (or Europa) next year...