Saturday, February 16, 2008

Maldini's Millennium

This evening at the Tardini Paolo Maldini could celebrate the 1,000th match of his professional career.

He made his debut on January 20, 1985 and between Italy and Milan in all official competition has so far notched up 999 appearances.

“Serginho always asks me how many nights I have spent in a pre-match ritiro. The answer is really quite a lot…” smiled the living legend.

“My other view of this milestone is that I have been fortunate to avoid serious injuries, to play in a great club, to be pushed by an enormous passion for the sport and having always had fun.”

In his 23 years at the top, Maldini has won six different games with a 6-0 scoreline, though of course one in particular stands out.

“The derby we played with Inter as the home team. I remember the sight of the scoreboard at San Siro and my father’s face, as he was on the bench. It wasn’t a great season, but the derby gave us all such joy.

“Having said that, it’s not always enjoyable to win by such a big margin. We respected Inter in that game. It is not right to stop when you are 2-0 or 3-0 up, but at the end of the day you do feel a little sorry if a team is beaten so heavily.”

It is that kind of attitude to the sport that has seen Maldini respected by teammates and opponents alike.

“I hope my legacy will be one of absolute respect for the sport and opposition. This respect has been recognised by the fans, as I have never been insulted or jeered in any particular fashion.

“I did not create a personality or character that is separate from how I am in real life and this was appreciated by fans.”

Il Capitano has already said he won’t follow in his father’s footsteps by becoming a Coach after his retirement in June, aged 40.

Recent reports suggest he could take over as the main director for the Milan youth teams, which include his son, Christian.

“I have not yet spoken to the club, but I don’t think that will be my path. I have not set a meeting either. I hope I can keep proving my sense of belonging to Milan.

“That does not mean we have to work together at all times, but if it did happen I would be very happy.”

Channel 4