Paolo is one of Italy’s greatest-ever footballers. His ability to read the game combined with his massive talent made him a permanent fixture in the Italian national team’s starting eleven for over two decades. He was primarily known for his positioning as a defender rather than his tackling. He made an average of one tackle every two games and positioned himself well so as to avoid making that tackle.
Maldini played as a left or central defender, being adept with either foot although naturally right footed. He spent all 25 seasons of his career at Serie A club Milan, before retiring at the age of 41 in 2009, becoming a symbol and a legend of the club. During that period, he won the Champions League five times, as well as seven Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, five Supercoppa Italiana, five European Super Cups, two Intercontinental Cups. He played for 14 years for the Italian national team, making his debut in 1988 before retiring in 2002 with 126 caps and four World Cup participations.
Paolo played at a world class level for his entire career spanning 2 and a half decades, and won the Best Defender trophy at the UEFA Club Football Awards at the age of 39. He came second to George Weah for the FIFA World Player of the Year Award in 1995, the closest a defender had ever reached to winning the award at the time. He was also the Milan and Italy captain for many years and was considered a leader amongst leaders by fellow footballers, leading to the nickname “Il Capitano” (the Captain). Paolo’s father Cesare formerly played for and captained Milan, and is a successful national U-21 manager.
In 1986, Maldini was called up by his father Cesare to the Italian U-21 side, where he earned twelve caps and scored five goals in two years. He made his Azzurri debut at the age of nineteen on 31 March 1988, in a 1–1 friendly draw against Yugoslavia, and made one appearance for Italy at the 1988 Olympics. Maldini featured in all four of Italy’s games at Euro 1988, and participated in his first World Cup in 1990, where Italy lost to Argentina in the semifinals on penalties.
After Italy were eliminated in the 2002 World Cup round of sixteen, Maldini retired trophyless from international competition as Italy’s most capped player. He scored seven international goals, all coming in home games. He spent over half of his 16 years as an international as team captain, wearing the armband a record 74 times.
In 2003, he lifted the European Cup/Champions League as club captain exactly 40 years after his father Cesare accomplished the same feat for the same side. The only other father-son pairs to have done so are Manuel Sanchis Martínez and Manuel Sanchís Hontiyuelo(won it with Real Madrid), and Carles and Sergio Busquets of FC Barcelona.
An all-time footballing great, Paolo Maldini is a top motivational speaker.