Friday, January 30, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Marcello Lippi Backs’s 'Maldini For Italy' Campaign

The World Cup-winning Italy coach is backing's campaign to see Paolo Maldini play one last time for the Azzurri before finally hanging up his boots...

Earlier this week launched an ambitious campaign calling for Paolo Maldini to be handed one final cap for his country, an international swansong in Italy's friendly against Brazil on February 10.

The response by readers has been simply incredible and, in just 48 hours, more than 6,000 people have lent their support to the campaign. A poll on the subject also showed that 92 per cent of you were in favour of Maldini playing against the Selecao next month.

Your staggering response enabled us to contact Marcello Lippi himself, and the World Cup-winning coach has admitted that seeing Maldini in the famous Azzurri colours is still possible in the near future. The 60-year-old says he is prepared to consider proposals to bring back the legendary defender into the Giro Azzurro one last time as a final farewell to a glittering career.

Lippi exclusively told that it is possible Italy fans around the world will get the chance to see 'Il Capitano' once again, agreeing that our campaign to see the legend play for La Nazionale is what Maldini deserves. However, he unfortunately conceded that it may be too late for this to happen immediately during the game with Brazil.

"We will consider something like this when Maldini makes his decision to retire and, if it is possible then we will do it," said Lippi. "We will think of something, but at the moment it is impossible.

"The game against Brazil is less than two weeks away and I am sure you can understand that something like this cannot be done in such a short space of time. I have great respect for Maldini as he has been a great player and a great professional.

"Also, Maldini has not made his retirement from football at the end of this season official, and we don't know yet whether he will take this decision. He could do, but I don't know whether he will or he won't just yet."

Maldini retired from international football after the 2002 World Cup defeat to South Korea, having racked up a record 126 caps, and he then twice resisted calls to return, first for Euro 2004, and then for the victorious 2006 World Cup campaign, masterminded by Lippi himself.

"Maldini has already given his international farewell to the Italian national team four years ago," the ex-Juventus boss continued.

"He is one of the greatest players the game has ever seen, but he did say goodbye from the international stage and I spoke with him about this.

"He told me that he was not interested in playing again for the national team and so it would be difficult to turn this around.

"However, something like this is possible, but first he has to announce his retirement and then we will see what happens and see if it is possible to do.

"Then we would have to see if he wanted to do it. Maldini would have to like the idea first. It would be down to him.

"Also, we would have to talk with the Italian Football Federation and so there are many things to take into account.

"But before doing so, the most important thing first is that he officially waves goodbye to the game. When he does this then we will talk again."

So it appears that the chances of Paolo Maldini turning out for Italy against Brazil on February 10 are slim, but thanks to the overwhelming response of all you readers, we now have the support of the second most important man in making it happen. Now all we need is for the 40-year-old legend himself to answer the call in order for the world to witness a dream farewell for one of the greatest footballers of all time.

Salvatore Landolina & Carlo Garganese,