‘Siempre Maldini’, headlined La Gazzetta dello Sport last weekend. ‘Forever Maldini’. The reason was the opening goal of 19-year-old Daniel Maldini during his debut in the AC Milan base in the league match at Spezia.
The grandson and son of Cesare and Paolo Maldini respectively followed in the footsteps of his father, the current technical director who looked on approvingly in the grandstand in La Spezia. Grandpa Cesare, who attended many of Daniel’s youth matches, passed away in 2016 at the age of 84. “The loudest applause came from above, Cesare saw from his cloud that it was good,” wrote the same La Gazetta dello Sport.
‘Il Maldinasty’, as other newspapers headlined. Three right-footed players with almost the same height, above average for Italians: between 1.83 and 1.87 meters. Even more characteristic of the three Maldinis: their grey-blue eyes. Paolo in particular was loved by the female because of his handsome appearance tifosi. Daniel, who bears strong resemblance to his father, can probably wet his chest.
Three generations in Milan’s famous red and black shirt, it has never been seen before and is quite rare anyway. The three Koemannen (the late Martin, son Ronald and grandson Ronald) are the exception that proves the rule in the Netherlands. Although grandfather Martin (GVAV) was not a top player and grandson Ronald junior (Telstar) is not a top keeper either.
No, then the three Maldinis. Cesare won as captain of the rossoneria four national titles and in 1963 the European Cup 1. As a trainer, he won the European Cup 2 with Milan in 1973. He played 25 international matches and was later national coach of the Italian national team with which he stranded in the quarter-finals at the 1998 World Cup. He also qualified for the knockout phase of a final round with Paraguay in 2002. In retrospect, he had already celebrated his peak as a trainer in 1982. Then, as assistant to national coach Enzo Bearzot, he won with the Azzurri the world title. As national coach of Young Italy, he became European champion in the 1990s.
Cesare Maldini was “a strong, robust defender”, says David Endt, besides being a jack-of-all-trades at Ajax, a connoisseur of Italian football. “I had a spectacular action photo of Cesare on the wall in my nursery,” says Endt, who is also a supporter of fellow townsman Inter.
Unlike Paolo and Daniel, Cesare was not a native Milanese, he also played for several professional clubs. Cesare grew up in Trieste, “where the people are known for being tough and honest”, according to Endt, “exactly as Cesare played football”. He later played for Torino for another year.
It was close to whether Paolo had also played football in Turin. He was still a teenager when Juventus carefully inquired with his father. Did his son want a contract with the ‘Old Lady’? Cesare did not accept the offer, incidentally without informing the still very young Paolo about this.
Paolo made his debut for AC Milan in 1985 at the age of 16. At halftime at Udinese, the Swedish trainer Nils Liedholm is said to have asked: “Paolo, in which position do you want to play?” He shrugged. Liedholm: „Is the left good, Paolo? Are you enjoying yourself?!”
Nearly a quarter of a century later, at the age of 40, he said goodbye in San Siro. He played the record number of 901 games in the first team. Captain for many years, always wearing number 3, traditionally reserved for the left back.
In tribute to Il Capitano the shirt number remained in the dressing room after his goodbye. Even then it was whispered that a third member of the family was coming who might wear jersey number 3.
Daniel made his midfield debut last week – wearing number 27. David Endt: „I don’t think he wants to carry the weight of his father’s number 3. He already feels enough pressure. Moreover, he is not a left back.”
Endt says that he happened to see the youngest Maldini play a few years ago during a youth international match between the Netherlands and Italy in Katwijk. „I had a triumphant feeling, the circle was complete, I have seen Paolo play football dozens of times. What struck me? His insightful ability, he knows exactly what he is doing with the ball and why he is doing it.”
Perfect sliding tackles
Endt gets really excited on the phone when Paolo comes up. „He always came close when Milan played against Ajax. And bullied me when things went bad with Inter.” Another anecdote follows: „My son once participated in a youth tournament in which he happened to wear a Milan shirt. I had that photo on the wall in my office, Paolo couldn’t believe his eyes.”
Read alsoThis farewell story about Paolo Maldini
Paolo’s honors list is even more impressive than that of his father. Five times the European Cup 1 or Champions League, three World Cups, five European Super Cups, seven league titles, one national cup. With the national team, he played the (meanwhile improved) record number of 126 international matches. Vice-chairman Adriano Galliani said at his farewell about the former teammate of the Dutch Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Marco van Basten: “Paolo is not the signboard of Milan, he is Milan.”
Paolo was and remained of impeccable behavior, just like his father for that matter. Both did not correspond to the stereotypical image of the mean, rock-hard Italian defender. Paolo caused a furore as a left back and only became a central defender much later. He solved almost anything playing football, was renowned for his perfectly timed sliding tackles. And he was a good header, scored quite often for a defender, partly thanks to an enormous jumping power. After retiring as a player in 2009, he promised never to become a coach. “When I saw how my father changed when he was a trainer… All that stress, all that pressure. No, that’s not for me.”
So no trainer, but the 53-year-old Paolo has become technical director of AC Milan. And now also an unpaid adviser to his son who still lives at home, who briefly said something about his father to a regional channel after his debut against Spezia last week. “He is demanding, but in a good way. He encourages me, gives me advice and above all emphasizes that I must remain calm.”