Sunday, May 31, 2009

Calcio Debate: 10 Memorable Paolo Maldini Quotes

'Il Capitano' burst onto the Milan scene back in 1985 and it was not long before he starting conquering Calcio and becoming a legend in his own right.

He will bow out after the game against Fiorentina – his 902nd appearance for his beloved side. Maldini won seven Scudetti with Milan, five European Cups, a World Club Cup, two Intercontinental Cups, five European Super Cups, one Coppa Italia and five Italian Super Cups.

With such a flawless list of honours, it's little wonder as to why he is regarded as the best of the best by many of fellow professionals, both past and present.

10: Former Arsenal striker Paul Merson, who was a nightmare for many defenders around the world, admits he used to struggle when facing Maldini.

“The best player I ever played against was Paolo Maldini. We [Arsenal] played against Milan in the European Supercup [in 1995]. Maldini marked me and I didn’t even get a kick of the ball all game. He was just unbelievable,” said Merson.

9: Gianni Rivera, who was banging in the goals for Milan before Maldini was born, feels the Italian defender is the heart and soul of the club.

“Maldini is the symbol of Milan. He brings continuity and he has represented the antique and the modern,” said the former Rossoneri playmaker, known as the Golden Boy of Italian football.

8: Sticking with gold, Roma's Philippe Mexes believes Maldini should have won the Ballon d'Or during his glorious career.

Mexes said, "I give my compliments to him. I'd like to see everyone stand up for him, to applaud him because he is the image of football in Italy and the world. He's never won the Ballon d'Or, but I would give him a hundred."

7: Maldini played alongside many other legends for Italy, including Roberto Baggio and Franco Baresi. Dejan Savicevic, who played with all three at the club, believes the number 3 should have lifted a World Cup.

“I was upset for Paolo, especially in 1994 also with Baggio and Baresi, as they went so close to winning the World Cup. Maldini came so close to it. I also felt for him in Istanbul [2005 Champions League final],” said Savicevic.

6: Savicevic played on the right wing for Milan – a job which David Beckham does now. The English midfielder is honoured to have played with the great man as he heaps praise on him.

"The greatest thing about this experience has been taking part in Maldini's career. He is a great player, a great captain and a great man," said Beckham.

"I had only met him as an opponent before, so it was wonderful working by his side in the final six months of his career.”

5: They may have had their one-to-one battles on the pitch but Maldini and Alessandro Del Piero are great friends off it and this is reflected in the Juve captain's kind words.

“You really are number one. There are great players, and world-class players and then there are those players who go beyond that. Paolo is the perfect example of all of this,” said Pinturicchio.

4: Another world-class player who wears the Rossoneri jersey is Kaka. The Brazilian has written history with Milan since his arrival in 2003, inspired by his captain, naturally.

“I want to write history like Paolo Maldini. He is an example for me he is always the first in everything. He has won everything there is to win.”

3: You are right Kaka, the defender has won plenty, just like Italy coach Marcello Lippi, who knows a great player when he sees one, and he is ready to give Maldini an Italy farewell match.

"I respect Maldini greatly and he is a great player and a great professional," said Lippi.

"He is one of the greatest players that I have ever seen. I have spoken with him over his decision to leave the national squad.

“He told me he was no longer interested in playing for the national team, but I believe an initiative [Azzurri farewell match] of this nature is possible."

2: One Italian legend who played in an Italy farewell match in 2004 is Roberto Baggio. The former Milan star played with Maldini for club and country and he is hoping to work alongside the defender once again.

“I want to tell Paolo that new doors begin to open. I travelled a long way with him for Italy and Milan and I used to observe his seriousness and dedication. He has given everything. Thank you Paolo. I hope I work with him again.”

1: Not many have had the luxury of working alongside Maldini, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is one football great who fits into that category. Nevertheless, the Scot has summed up the Italian defender's qualities best.

"When I think of the current generation, Lionel Messi is top-level,” said Ferguson

"And, although he has never taken my breath away, Kaka has impressed, Zinedine Zidane was brilliant but without a doubt, Paolo Maldini has been my favourite.

"He has a wonderful presence, competitive spirit, athleticism, and although not the world's greatest technically, he has influenced all the Milan teams during his wonderfully successful era."

An influence in every sense, and for all the right reasons. Great words from top men for an even bigger man, and although words are easily forgotten, Maldini will always be remembered...

Ciao Paolo and Grazie!

Salvatore Landolina,