Thursday February 18 2021
Maldini: 'Belgrade changed Milan history'

Paolo Maldini looks back over the infamous foggy night in Belgrade in 1988 as Milan face Red Star today and admits he’s not sure how they’ll react to the Spezia defeat.

The Europa League Round of 32 first leg tie kicks off at 17.55 GMT, click here for the line-ups and LIVEBLOG.

Milan have a lot of history at the Marakana in Belgrade, above all the night their game here was interrupted by fog in 1988 when they were 2-1 down on aggregate and had Pietro Paolo Virdis sent off.

Back then, games didn’t resume from where they left off, but had to start all over again the next day.

“I was injured in 2006, but it felt like a week that time rather than two days in Belgrade. It was an extraordinary experience and probably changed the history of Milan,” the director told Sky Sport Italia.

“With all due respect, we played very badly against Spezia and they did very well, so we 100 per cent deserved the defeat. Having said that, we cannot ruin all the good work done throughout this season and the one before due to one bad game.

“We’ll see how the team is doing psychological. It’s hard to tell, because the week of training up to the Spezia match was at high intensity and focus, yet the results were negative.

“We’ve never complained about the fixture list being so packed, we’re used to playing every three days and hope for the best Milan today.”

Maldini and his former colleague Zvonimir Boban are seeing many of their decisions backed by facts in the current campaign.

“I didn’t have many doubts last season either, but the work I did with Zvone took a little time to come to fruition. It is a very young squad and it’s natural that it would take a while to develop.”

Among the masterstrokes for Maldini on the transfer market, there was also Theo Hernandez.

“Everyone has their own characteristics. Theo Hernandez is a great strength for this team, we have to hold him back a little bit, or he’d constantly be pushing forward, but the improvements he’s made over the last year have been incredible.

“The way we build out from the back, I find that the full-backs are the players who have the most space to run into and that is an important part of our approach.”

The coach of Red Star Belgrade is Dejan Stankovic, the former Inter and Lazio midfielder, so an old friend for Maldini.

“He has always been a fair, fun and likeable opponent, I also saw his son playing in goal for the Inter youth team against Milan.”