Quotes on: Paolo Maldini

They say you can either be a master of one trade, or a jack of many, a dabbler in different arts who does not achieve true excellence in any. Paolo Maldini was that from that unique and rarefied breed of players who dabbled in many disciplines, and achieved mastery in them all. You simply cannot find a more complete defender than him. A ferocious tackler and the master of the perfectly-time sliding tackle, Maldini was also such an astute reader of the game that his positioning allowed him to go whole games without having to make a tackle, and yet he never looked out of place, not even when he retired at the age of 40. For a player who was naturally right-footed, and tried out for Milan on the right wing, before training himself to become two-footed and playing at left-back for 24 years to be described as anything other than a complete footballing specimen is unthinkable.

And to think of his longevity! He played 902 games for Milan, winning 7 Serie A titles, and achieving the astonishing feat of playing in 8 European Cup/UEFA Champions League finals, winning 5 (2 as captain), the first and last separated by 18 years. He succeeded the legendary Franco Baresi, a team-mate and mentor during his formative years, as captain at both club and national level, and was for a time Italy’s most-capped player, and remains the player to have played the most minutes at World Cup finals. He is one of those rare players whose legacy can never be tainted, who Wherever you look, Maldini is universally admired, and will forever be remembered as the symbol of AC Milan. There is a strong argument to be made that very few, if any, footballers, or even athletes of any kind, have defined a club, institution, or city the way Paolo Maldini has Milan and the Rossoneri.

Maldini played in the eras of Maradona and Messi, and faced everyone in between. The likes of Zidane and Ronaldo name him among their toughest opponents.
Maldini played in the eras of Maradona and Messi, and faced everyone in between. The likes of Zidane and Ronaldo name him among their toughest opponents.

Here are some quotes by icons from the history of AC Milan and Italian football, and a few of the thousands of opponents and admirers Maldini has collected over the decades, that allude to his greatness.

“He was very young, so I tried to give him some advice. But he needed very little; he was already a great player.” Franco Baresi, on Maldini’s early days at Milan

“It was immediately obvious that here was a top class player. Even at 17, he had a strong character, and was eager to learn.” — Marco Tardelli

“His notable qualities were his physical strength and his running. Playing at full-back, he managed to make the left wing his own, and made everything look so easy in his own unique way.” — Filippo Galli

“When he got up the field, he didn’t just kick the ball anywhere, he crossed it perfectly to a team-mate. So he had this great talent, great balance, and great technique. As a result, he was the complete player.” — Alessandro Altobelli

“You’re talking about a symbol, you’re talking about a player who represents an era.” — Alessandro Altobelli

“His association with the club (AC Milan) is a fairy-tale, really.” — Demetrio Albertini

“He flies the flag for his club like very few captains can.” — Demetrio Albertini

“He’s a real Rossonero. His soul belongs to Milan.” — Cesare Maldini

“At international level, I think Paolo has been one of the all-time greats. [ . . . ] he’s known all over the world for his ability, his bravery, and the way he handles himself.” — Cesare Maldini

“[ . . . ] the difference between normal players and world-class players (is) Paolo Maldini managed to win the Champions League at nearly 39 years old because he is an incredible athlete and an exemplary professional.” Franco Baresi

“We were team-mates for 15 years. We read each other’s brain; moved as if we were one person. He could play in every defensive role – extraordinary. Playing with him was a pleasure and an honour.” — Franco Baresi

“I passed the baton to Paolo Maldini, who, after I retired, played for another 12 years at an incredibly high level, conducting himself in an exemplary manner on the field, as a true captain, but also off it. We can, therefore, say that the transition was completely painless, as I left the captain’s armband in very good hands.” — Franco Baresi

“The most gifted and hard-working player I’ve ever seen. He was an excellent all-round footballer with true leadership virtues and the rare ability to be reliable in defence and creative in attack.” — Andriy Shevchenko

“He is one of the best players in the history of the game and he represents everything that’s good in football. And above all, he’s a winner.” — David Villa

“He’s done it all. A stylish centre-half or left-back, who could play football but wasn’t afraid to put in a tackle either. [ . . . ] His reading of the game, timing of the tackle and composure set him apart from the rest.” — Denis Irwin

“I’ve played against Maldini a couple of times for England, including the 0-0 draw in Rome which saw us through to the 1998 World Cup, and he definitely lives up to his reputation. He’s good going forward, but more importantly a great defender. I’ve never seen him ripped apart by a winger.” — Teddy Sheringham

“Maldini was the best and toughest defender I ever faced. He had everything: he was a complete defender, who was strong, intelligent, and an excellent man-marker.” — Zlatan Ibrahimovic

“Played against him for Madrid and Brazil, and he always showed so much composure as a defender. The sort of composure you want to be playing alongside.” — Roberto Carlos

” [ . . . ] he simply never has a bad match. Very difficult to play against, a sublime passer and he’s scored a lot of goals too. Has an incredible physique and is the ultimate role-model. He’ll go down in the history books as perhaps the best left-back ever.” — Brian Laudrup

“Paolo Maldini was the best I’ve faced. He had pace and read the game so well.” — Paul Merson

“Just an incredibly cool customer. He was always very comfortable on the ball, like a good midfielder. [ . . . ] very rarely do you get a truly fine defender who can actually step out with the ball into midfield.” — John Barnes

“His record speaks for itself, both in terms of quality and longevity. Such a classy defender – so tough to get past – and someone it’s difficult not to admire.” — Emmanuel Petit

“Paolo Maldini is the best I’ve played against.” Ronaldo (Luis Nazario de Lima)

“He was one of the best defenders in Champions League history, but what was so impressive about him is that when he was on the ball he didn’t look like a defender, but like an elegant midfield player.” Ronaldinho


“(He had) too many skills. It is impossible not to be amazed by how he made it all look effortless, especially when you get to play with him.” — Ronaldinho

“A real monster. [ . . . ] I find it incredible he has never been World or European Footballer of the Year. Alongside Franco Baresi he was the best defender I’ve ever seen in my career. Although everybody tends to think of him just as a full-back, he could also play as a stopper. Most people remember that great Milan side of the late-’80s for its attacking play and for the forward pair of Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten, but it was a team built on a very solid defence, and Maldini was the cornerstone.” Marcel Desailly

“He managed to play for 24 years in a top club, AC Milan, was never substituted, almost never injured. He built up the professionalism of football, the things that people sometimes don’t know, the diet, the sleeping, the psychological part, the stretching. Psychologically, he had a high level commitment and preparation. He was ready for anything, for normal life, for interviews, media, for branding, for sponsors, he was ready on the pitch, he combined all the elements that a soccer player needs.” — Marcel Desailly

“Simply the best left-sided player I have ever played against or seen. The complete defender, Italy’s most capped player and captain, and he’s played in eight Champions League finals – which says it all, really.” — Les Ferdinand

“Position for position one of the greatest players ever[ . . . ] But unlike certain other great full-backs, he wasn’t world class when just defending or just attacking – he could do both better than most and is an excellent centre-back too.” — Ruud Gullit

“Paolo Maldini, in my mind, is still the 18-year-old guy I first played with when I came to Milan but he is still going at 39. I’m not surprised because even as a kid he stood out.” — Ruud Gullit (2007)

“There’s never been a better left-back in the game’s history. Two-footed, and at his peak, brilliant going forward. The night Milan annihilated Barcelona in the 1994 Champions League Final, he played centre-half, as Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta were both suspended, and looked like he’d played there all his life.” — Ronald Koeman

“(He had) a lot of experience, and was very good with young players, and would help new players when he joined the team. He was a great person as well, his personality was very good to work with.” — Jaap Stam

“One of the most respected footballers of all time, both on and off the field. A strong defender, either on the left or at centre-back, but also excellent going forward [ . . . ]. At his best, he had great speed, was an excellent passer and even weighed in with his share of goals. The man has played at the top level for AC Milan for 24 years – you’ve got to admire that! And he’s always solved problems on the field through his footballing skills, never by being dirty.” — Jaap Stam

“I played with him for a season at Milan when he was just 17 years old, and even then you could tell that he was something special. He was just so mature and composed on the ball. He was so quick, and he could play anywhere, on the flanks and in the centre.” — Ray Wilkins

“(He was) just an unbelievable athlete. If he wanted to play centre-forward, he could. He literally had it all.” — Ray Wilkins

To think that Maldini has lifted the European Cup or the UEFA Champions League as many times as Liverpool and Barcelona, and more times than Manchester United and Ajax.
To think that Maldini has lifted the European Cup or the UEFA Champions League as many times as Liverpool and Barcelona, and more times than Manchester United and Ajax.


“It’s easy to take him for granted but he’s a legend in his own lifetime.” — Jamie Carragher

“He oozed class. He could use his left foot, right foot and was comfortable playing anywhere in the back line. It was his anticipation which marked him as such a talented defender – he hardly ever had to go in with a robust challenge because he could intercept passes with ease. He was technically proficient in possession. To be world champion and and five-time European Cup winner is phenomenal and to play more than 600 league games for one club says it all.” — Martin Keown

“Just look at his trophy cabinet! To play for a team like that for as long as he did at the highest level says it all. Great left foot, and while he has maybe lost a yard as time has gone on, defenders like that never get done for pace because they’re so intelligent.” — Michael Owen

“He is the image of football in Italy, and the world. He’s never won the Balon D’Or, but I would give him a hundred.” — Philippe Mexes

“In Paolo Maldini’s last six months, I watched him play and it was an amazing thing. Even at the end of his career, you saw his positioning sense was perfect. You looked at the defender of the other team and thought – ‘this cannot be normal’, a player like that end his career. So I learned a lot in terms of positioning, the right time to run, the right time to do a cover, understand what the opposing player, when he has the ball, what he probably will do, and to prevent these moves.” — Thiago Silva

“A legend, and not many can say they’ve played for one of the world’s top teams for as long as he has. A great pro, a leader and a real all-rounder who is good in the air, quick to support attacks and a tight marker. One of the best defenders of all time.” — Albert Ferrer

“I was lucky enough to be able to play against Maldini. Different class; he was quick, he was good with both his right and left feet. He could play in any team anywhere in the world.” — Gus Poyet

“He is always very elegant on the pitch, often going forward  to support attack and he has scored some important goals in big games for AC Milan as well as for Italy. He’s a real role model for defenders coming through today.” — Gheorghe Hagi

“An amazing player, technically excellent [ . . . ] I love the Italian defenders and the zonal defence system, and Paolo was very good at it. When I was at Arsenal with George Graham in charge, we watched hours and hours of tapes of Maldini.” — Tony Adams

“He was 6′

“In twenty years of soccer, he never did something you remember as bad or ugly.” — Tommaso Pellizzari, a fan of Inter Milan who wrote No Milan, a book against AC Milan

“He’s a machine, physically and mentally he has everything.” — Andrea Pirlo

“A defender who could read the game like nobody else, so intelligent and always so calm on the ball. One of the true greats, for both Italy and Milan.” — Andrea Pirlo

More than anyone in the history of the club, Maldini is synonymous with AC Milan. He is the symbol, heart, and soul of the Rossoneri.
More than anyone in the history of the club, Maldini is synonymous with AC Milan. He is the symbol, heart, and soul of the Rossoneri.

“Paolo Maldini is the best. A defender. A peerless defender. The best defender going. Both physically and mentally, he had everything, and the enjoyment he got from playing was as obvious at 40 years of age as it had been the day I first walked through the door at Milan. His passion is an example and an inspiration, a compass that I’ll carry with me not just for the rest of my playing days, but for the rest of my life.” — Andrea Pirlo

“Maldini is the symbol of Milan. He brings continuity and he has represented the antique and the modern.” — Gianni Rivera

“When I think of the current generation, Lionel Messi is top-level. 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.” — Sir Alex Ferguson

“I watched Milan in their quarter-final, second leg against Bayern Munich and Maldini went through the entire 90 minutes without tackling. That is an art and he is the master of it. He is a great player.” — Sir Alex Ferguson, during the 2006-07 season

“There are great players and there are world-class players. Then there are those who manage to go beyond that term. Paolo is the perfect example. He is the symbol of Milan.” — Alessandro  del Piero


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