Paolo Maldini looked back over his lifetime at Milan with Arrigo Sacchi, Fabio Capello, Carlo Ancelotti and admiring Gennaro Gattuso.
The new director spoke at the Festival dello Sport event in Trento today and you can read the rest of his comments here.
“I started out playing as a striker. I was in love with the ball, evidently genetics made me seek it out as a friend,” said the son of Rossoneri legend Cesare Maldini.
Now Paolo’s sons Christian and Daniel are both on Milan’s books after coming through the youth academy, forming a new generation of Maldinis.
“I never sought out individual glory or personal prizes. Football is a team sport and you win with the team. I am satisfied with my career. The history of my family is tied to the Milan jersey, ever since the 1950s. When I retired, my son was already starting in the Rossoneri academy.
“I was born when my father had already hung up his boots. I was told all sorts of stories about him and I did feel the pressure, reading and hearing comments, but at the end of the day it all just added motivation.
“What I did learn from my father and I am trying to pass on to my children is that sport is made up of professionals who have to behave well, on and off the field. You cannot separate the person from the player.
“I hope that I’ll be remembered as a fair player. At times I could be very rough. Once at an awards ceremony with Diego Maradona, they showed a clip of an incredibly tough tackle. I went to Diego and apologised, saying I didn’t remember the incident.”
Maldini worked with some of the greatest tacticians in Milan history and won practically every club trophy.
“Sacchi was fundamental for us. He was ambitious, had so many ideas, was a revolutionary and arrived at Milan at the right time. He was almost maniacal in his search for perfection.
“The stress consumed him, as often happens with geniuses. Football evolves, but the basic principles remain.
“Capello was different to Sacchi, but a great manager and Coach. In the 1994 Champions League Final against Barcelona, he told us: ‘Get out there and we’ll certainly win.’
“He wasn’t as pressing as Sacchi, who still gives me nightmares! Before, during and after games, Sacchi was just non-stop hammering us, but also taught us so much.
“It was Nils Liedholm who really taught me how to play football. He should be recognised as the one who started that great Rossoneri era.”
Ancelotti went from Maldini’s teammate to his Coach, winning the Scudetto, two Champions League trophies, two European Super Cups, the Club World Cup, Italian Super Cup and Coppa Italia.
“It was a wonderful era with him. He was a former teammate, a friend, and by the age of 35 I was able to control my emotions better, so had the chance to enjoy every moment. I think Ancelotti will win a great deal at Napoli too, as he has already been able to transform the roles of fundamental players like Lorenzo Insigne and Marek Hamsik.”
Now Milan have Gattuso at the helm, another of Maldini’s old teammates.
“We’ll see what he manages to do. He has a great sense of belonging at Milan, which is what Leonardo and I tried to transmit to the squad over the last few months.
“In tactical terms, Rino has improved a lot, which is why we have total faith in him. He was courageous to come to Milan, he knows what he’s doing, knows how to deal with the players and mediate with the club too.”
Ancelotti’s era also included the infamous Champions League Final in Istanbul, when frittering away a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3 with Liverpool, losing on penalties.
“Perhaps along with the 1994 World Cup Final lost to Brazil on penalties, that was the worst moment of my career,” continued Maldini.
“Football gives and it takes away, but at the end you have to accept the result, especially when you’ve given your all. If you watch it back, it’s not true that we sat back on 3-0, as we still had plenty of chances at 3-3 too.
“The mood of a team can change on a tiny incident. If you are strong and have the mentality, you can overcome certain situations, and fortunately we did that.”
Although he will forever be remembered as one of the greatest defenders in the sport, Maldini never won a trophy with Italy in his 126 caps.
“I said no to the call-up in 2006 and they won. It was destiny, I guess. I still had a wonderful time, but the game I’d really like to play again would be against South Korea in the 2002 World Cup. I never got angry with referees, but that day it was frankly impossible not to.
“I let out the worst in me, helped also by the Spanish I had learned from my wife.”