Paolo Maldini still can’t believe Milan lost the 2005 Champions League Final to Liverpool. “We dominated for 110 minutes out of 120,” but got their revenge in 2007.
The 2005 Final in Istanbul remains a nightmare for Rossoneri supporters, as their team somehow went from dominating 3-0 to 3-3 in the space of six minutes, eventually losing in a penalty shoot-out.
“I’ve lost a World Cup Final, I’ve lost a European Championship Final at the last second, so I’d say I’ve had my share of disappointments,” Maldini told DAZN.
“In my career, I’ve lost three very painful Champions League Finals, but the one in Istanbul was the worst of all, because I thought it was my last. Managing to see it out with a goal and a victory would’ve been marvellous.
“As it happened, destiny gave me another opportunity to play a Final two years later.”
That was also against Liverpool, but Milan did not make the same mistake twice and won the trophy in Athens.
“The word Liverpool still makes me think of the first Final, though. We were 3-0 up, I scored after 40 seconds, we dominated for 110 minutes out of 120, but were still unable to win. It reminds me of how strange football can be.
“It took me a year to watch that Final again and that’s when I realised just how well we’d played. We dominated Liverpool for 90 per cent of the match.
“It showed the strength of that Milan squad that we were able to reach another Final only two years later. If we had lost to Liverpool again, that really would’ve been difficult to get over. Carlo Ancelotti contributed so much to that, because he always managed to shield the team from worries and focus on positive sensations.
“We all contributed to a rough path towards that Final. Clarence Seedorf stepped up in decisive moments, Pippo Inzaghi scored in the difficult situations, Andrea Pirlo never lost his calm, while I was the one who from January onwards was constantly telling everyone we could do it. Sometimes, you really can convince yourself.
“Playing the 2007 Final in Athens was a gamble, because my knee was not in good shape, but I knew it was my last chance to win a Champions League and did everything to be there.
“In fact, after two days of celebrations, I went to Belgium for surgery. After waking up from the anaesthetic, I kept asking if we had won or lost that game. I saw it as the end of my career, because I had more intense years after that, but it was never the same.”
Maldini has now returned to Milan after many years away to act as director with his former teammate Leonardo, and Gennaro Gattuso is on the bench as Coach, all hoping to pass on the Rossoneri DNA.
“Milan have always been a team of highs and lows. We went to Serie B, but we also reached heights that no other side has managed to graze.
“I prefer to have that mentality, where you can get everything wrong and touch rock bottom before bouncing back to the very top.”