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Serie A Legends: Paolo Maldini, AC Milan’s prodigal son

Paolo Maldini, AC Milan
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On the day of his 51 birthday, we remember defender Paolo Maldini as one of the most successful players of all-time and the best defender in history.

When one thinks about the best defenders in football history, Paolo Maldini incredible career at AC Milan has to be one of the first names that come to mind.

The Italian defender was bred as a centre-back from the very start of his career, but he quickly evolved to become one of the best full-backs in Italian football history.

Young Paolo started his run at his home club of AC Milan with the objective to follow in his father’s footsteps, Cesare Maldini made history with the club while wearing the number ‘3’ jersey.

The son quickly surpassed his father, he made his debut with AC Milan at the tender age of 16 against Udinese back in 1985.

From that moment forward, Paolo proved he was extremely talented and it only took him two years to find his place in the club.

Manager Arrigo Sacchi came to the club with revolutionary ideas, he quickly spotted Paolo as one of the players with the biggest untapped potential he ever saw.

The very first trophy he won for the club was during the 1987-88 season under the Italian manager, it was only one of seven Serie A titles that he went on to win during his long career with the club.

Young Paolo was only another component of a star-studded squad that made history during the second half of the ’80s, they managed to end Diego Maradona’s reign at Napoli.

Paolo’s first five years in Serie A were arguably some of the most challenging of his career, he had some unforgettable evenings marking Maradona.

Alongside him were other great players such as Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta, or Mauro Tassotti.

But Paolo was by far the most talented defender of them all, he was one of the few who survived from that golden generation that also had some impressive foreign players up front.

By the time that Sacchi left the institution, Maldini moved to a position of more power inside the squad as one of the team’s captains.

His time during the ’90s saw him win five of his 7 Serie A titles as one of the team’s leaders, he also faced against some pretty incredible players during that time.

Paolo was also an integral part of that 1994 Italy squad that reached the World Cup final, but he lost the game against Brazil in the penalty shootout.

This competition was where Maldini had to switch from his left-back position to a centre-back role due to Baresi and Tassotti’s injuries.

In the end, Paolo made it to the World Cup’s best XI as his father did before him back in the 1962 edition of the tournament.

This major heartbreak didn’t stop Maldini from dominating Serie A with his club, he won two more Scudetto titles before the end of the decade.

Paolo Maldini’s veteran years.

After such an impressive career already, one would think that Paolo Maldini’s life as a professional was more than complete.

However, the man still went on to be an integral part of the AC Milan squad that won two Champions League trophies in the new millennium.

This squad consisted of a base of players led by him, Clarence Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo, Kaka, and Filippo Inzaghi.

But Paolo was the absolute leader of this impressive squad that reached three finals during the first decade of the new century.

Maldini was just recognized as the best defender in football history by more than 30,000 followers on SPORTBible.

The man is right up there as one of the best in several polls throughout history from different publications.

In this particular voting, Maldini defeated players such as Carles Puyol, Sergio Ramos, Fabio Cannavaro, Franz Beckenbauer, Franco Baresi, and Alessandro Nesta.

Italian football always prides itself for having some of the best defenders in football history, but Paolo Maldini is arguably at the very top of that list amongst all of his compatriots.

We celebrate Paolo Maldini’s birthday by honoring his incredible career, we also salute him as one of the most faithful players who ever lived due to his unconditional love for AC Milan.

What’s your fondest memory about Paolo Maldini? Please share your opinion in the comment section down below.