Paolo Maldini may officially be the technical director at AC Milan and therefore the man responsible for the transfer market, but he does not shy away from mentoring players either.
Milan ended their 2021-22 Scudetto winning campaign with an almost unbelievable defensive record, keeping 9 clean sheets in the final 11 league games of the season, conceding just twice in that stretch of games.
Pierre Kalulu and Fikayo Tomori may only have a combined age of 45, but they are now the bedrock of a defensive department that – under Stefano Pioli – prides itself on playing with aggression, tenacity and confidence.
Maldini’s words and his work have clearly had a big hand in that. During an article in The Athletic, it is revealed that the former captain gave some advice to Kalulu when he signed for the club, around his 20th birthday.
“For the first six months I want you to watch and learn. You’re in the country where defending is king. Memorise all you can. Sooner or later, your chance will come,” he told the Frenchman, who was yet to make a senior appearance in his career.
Tomori was another centre-back who arrived under Maldini’s orders as a promising player but somewhat of an unknown quantity in Serie A given his emergence was in the English Championship.
He remembers his most meaningful conversation with Maldini. “It was probably last March  so when I was still on loan [from Chelsea] and we were talking about how I was finding it, what he felt I could improve on, how he thought things were going for me.
“At that point I was still on loan, so to have him still showing an interest in me, telling me what I could do better was… well, coming from him it’s a whole different story.”
Now, Milan can enjoy having one of the youngest and brightest centre-back pairings in the league if not in Europe, with further margins for growth.