Maldini discusses illustrious career, what Milan means, Inter’s secret and being a director

By Euan Burns -

Former AC Milan defender and technical director Paolo Maldini has taken part in a long interview in which he discusses the future of his career, what Inter are doing right and what the Rossoneri means to him. 

Speaking to Radio Serie A (via, Maldini opened up on a number of important topics, starting with what football means to him and how it has been passed down to his children.

“Football has always been present. Milan has always been the team of my city, the environment where I grew up and for me it is something that goes beyond support and work. It has always been like this and will always be like this relationship that exists goes beyond the years I spent in this great team and it will be the same for my children,” Maldini explained.

It was put to Maldini that he is the guardian of being a Milan fan, that he embodies what it means. He tried to play down the idea, but did explain what the club means to him and the ways that he is still linked today.

“I don’t know, others can say that. Football and Milan have certainly taught me a lot in terms of values ​​and principles and when you work for this club you have to take this into account because it goes beyond the result. When we talk about a story that goes back over a century, it needs to be known and studied. I’m happy with 20 years, but my story starts in the 1950s with my dad and is still going on today because Daniel [Maldini] is still under contract,” Maldini said.

As he mentions, his son Daniel Maldini is still on the books at Milan but could join Monza permanently this summer after what has been a promising loan spell.

On his son’s path in football, he said: “Unfortunately for Daniel it is a destiny from which there is no escape. They were in love with this sport and in the early years the thing you want to do as a boy is to have fun and when there are so many expectations they get lost a little. He knew having seen what I was up against, they had fun and they do everything with passion. It’s democratic and only those who have values ​​like me and my father can move forward.”

Rival fans sometimes like to point out Maldini’s past as a Juventus fan, but he explained what caused the idea and how things eventually changed.

“I liked football, I knew about my dad’s past and I understood what he had done, but the first competition I saw as a football lover was the ’78 World Cup which was practically Juventus plus Antognoni. So I followed Juventus as if it were the national team, but then I auditioned for Milan and that’s where my story began,” he said.

Celebrating success

“Recently, during the pandemic, I set up a stage with the medals I had in my drawers. First and second year of Serie A I made a collection of beautiful shirts. Then I stopped and I don’t even know why. At the beginning I was 17 and I didn’t know if it would go well, then when I understood it I gave away various memorabilia such as Maradona’s, Platini’s shirts…”

Being a footballer and a director

“I simply consider myself Paolo I thank the family I had, I met the right people. Even my last experience as a director made me appreciate the things I didn’t know. In football you think you know everything, but when you go to the other side you have a perspective completely different. Things that I said as a footballer, then when I moved on to director I would have liked to erase them.”

Being the fourth child

“Generally speaking, starting behind in the hierarchies in the family is always better, because the mistakes you make with the first children you don’t make with the second children. Then for me it was different because the first three were girls so I was the first boy and it wasn’t easy, I had to vent my energy. You lived a lot on the street in those days and you learn a lot of things and a lot of lessons, but I was good at managing. The street teaches you to keep your eyes open.”

Milano Da Bere

“It was a beautiful period because it was when I arrived in Serie A. Then it was an important period for life, it was a beautiful Milan to live in because you looked to the future with a smile. I met Armani, Versace and President Berlusconi who changed our lives.”

Milan as a city

“The Milanese feel perfect for Milan because it lets you live and walk. It is not a city that you see and say wow how beautiful. It is not a big city, it has to be discovered, it makes you fall in love little by little. I see in Milan many characteristics that are mine. I am discreet and reserved and I see Milan in this. Then in Milan I found my family and the chance to play in a team with the same ambitions as me. Without [Silvio] Berlusconi I would probably have gone elsewhere. My favourite place? Home. But I like to go to areas like Brera.”

The trial

“I remember well that you could only try out after the age of 10. Before that I had only played in the playground and at the oratory. I had never played 11-a-side on a regular pitch. I didn’t know, because at the gardens you played everywhere. I asked what position was available, they said ‘right wing’ and I said OK. At the end of the tryout they made me sign my card on the pitch. The first two years I played right wing, left wing alternately. Then around the age of 14 they moved me to full-back and when I turned 16 I made my first training camp with other boys with Liedholm. There was a lot of talent in that Primavera team, [Alessandro] Costacurta, [Giovanni] Stroppa, [Fabrizio] Ferron… That audition was the beginning of my story with AC Milan, until that moment there I was linked to Milan because of what my dad had done.”

Playing as a youngster

“I liked the role of winger, I liked dribbling and attacking. As long as you’re young you can develop everything, the first tactics I did in the first team, as a kid there was only 1-on-1 in attack and defence and if you don’t learn them in those years you don’t learn them any more. The street, the gardens, they taught me so much. The timing I had on the ball was due not only to personal characteristics, but also to all those bounces I saw on all those uneven pitches. There is always time to learn tactics, less and less technique, even in marking. Once I saw, when Daniel started playing and he was seven years old, for a year he was just dribbling and one-on-one. And I said to myself, ‘he’s clever, it has to be taught’. He enjoyed it, but so did the defender. That ability to not be afraid to hold the ball and be pressed is also fundamental for defenders.”

Niels Liedholm

“[Niels] Liedholm told me ‘Malda come in’, he asked me if I wanted to play on the right or left and I answered ‘as you wish’. The pitch was ugly, but for me it was magnificent. I am more attached inside to relationships with people rather than to the moments themselves. The beautiful thing is that you have to share joys and sorrows with other people. Liedholm taught me how to play football. He always told me that to play football you have to have fun.”

Today’s footballers

“There is crazy competition with others, so many try and 98% fail. It’s tough, but it’s also beautiful. Everyone in their own way, every footballer knows it’s passion and joy.”

What did football take away?

“It took away maybe a piece of my youth when I was a boy and never went out because I had to play. But you can’t say it took anything away from me. My discipline started there, it was my choice and it gave me so much. One thing it took away from me was my physical integrity. At 41 I played for three years with friends, but today kicking a ball hurts me, it could be very dangerous. Playing tennis doesn’t hurt me as much.”

Silvio Berlusconi

“He brought a modern and visionary idea not only of football but of the world. The first speech in the dining room at Milanello he told us that he wanted our team to play the most beautiful football in the world, the same at home and away, and that we would soon become world champions. From the following year, because the first one came in, everything changed. He took trainers, built facilities to compete with the top in the world. There is always so much mistrust for the entrepreneur who enters football. [Arrigo] Sacchi could and did create some doubt, but then we realised the great advantages.”

A frayed relationship with Berlusconi?

“His imprint is everywhere. I really liked his idea of trying to play well, trying to win and respecting the opponent. He used to say that if Milan doesn’t win, I’m happy for Inter to win. Of course there is rivalry, but the idea of being honest and getting to the result through sacrifice and complimenting an opponent if they are better than you is a lesson. That relationship never frayed, we made many jokes, I became friends with PierSilvio and he always treated me like a second father. When he was hospitalised he called me because he wanted to make some Milan-Monza exchanges and it was fun. Football accompanied him until the last moment and you can feel this and it is transmitted to everyone, environment, city, places and people.”

Arrigo Sacchi

“We made ourselves available to Sacchi, but it was very hard physically and mentally. There was knowledge, but still not enough. I was constantly overtraining for months then. We still had to calibrate. Young people have less stability of performance and there were a lot of ups and downs and inside you wonder if you were doing well or not. The adjustment slowly came. I would often arrive on Friday and say to myself ‘but how can I play on Sunday?’. All this, however, raised the level, we realised it after a month and a half, when we won in Verona feeling something different in our legs. There was no current against him, it was just hard to adapt.”

Winning with Milan

“Milan in those years had a great team and the best defence in the world ready and waiting. When you find such a demanding person who has to manage a group, it’s a project that has a deadline. When you live in such an obsessed way you don’t last long. Am I talking about [Antonio] Conte? No, but it’s the same for him, if you hear his players talk they tell you so.”

Fabio Capello

“He was a bench player. He was always telling you something to do on the pitch during training. He continued Sacchi’s work but slowed down the pace and we had 25 players of the highest level, but he added a minimum of practicality to a utopian concept like Sacchi’s. Liedholm, Sacchi, Capello in that order was lucky.”

The captaincy

“I had already been captain of the national team for three years and I was used to it. Doing it at AC Milan was something different and it was a difficult time for the club, but it was good. I spoke little, I was very reserved, but the role imposes it and you have to learn it.”

The trophies

“They are all beautiful, certainly the first one as a 20-year-old. The luck though is that they were won in 20 years. The one in Manchester after nine years that we didn’t win was the most coveted as captain.”

Carlo Ancelotti

“The first thing we said to each other was: ‘What should I call you?’ and then it was all natural. Carlo is thought to be the calmest person in the world and he is. But he’s not really like that, before matches he’d often sit next to me and tell me he was very nervous but he’d look at me and calm down.”

The strongest player

“As moral strength and defensive characteristics, Franco Baresi was a crazy player. He was perfect. Then Marco van Basten who was incredible. Then many players arrived at less than idyllic times, but they were very strong like Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.”

Best opponent 

“Inter’s Ronaldo was something impossible. I liked to do what he says to the opponent: one against one come on, but with him you couldn’t do it. He was big, fast, technical, very difficult.”

The chance of leaving Milan

“There were no offers rejected that I regret, at most there were delicate moments within my club. Difficult to say no to Real Madrid? Difficult if you are not happy at AC Milan, but there was nothing better than Milan.”

Losing finals

“How can I say that the Golden Ball was something that certifies that I was the best? For me it’s not a regret. I never won the World Cup or the European Championship, those were the goals I set myself. Did I say I was the biggest loser in history? Yes, it was part of a bigger speech. I’ve lost nine finals in my history, and that’s a lot… Istanbul a regret? No, after Istanbul there is always Athens.”

2006 World Cup

“I played four World Cups, I don’t have a regret. [Marcello] Lippi came to talk to me and in that year with the knee problems I was struggling to cope with the double commitment. I had said no to [Giovanni] Trapattoni for the 2004 European Championship and it didn’t seem right to say yes to Lippi afterwards.”

Returning to Milan as a director

“They called me and when the opportunity came, it was a little earlier than I expected. When it came with Leonardo it was because I worked with someone who had the same ideals. Why did I choose this role? Because it was Milan. The job itself is quite different from what you expect and it took me about ten months. Either Milan or the national team or nothing? The rule applies to Italy because seeing myself in a club other than Milan, I can’t do it.”

A move to PSG?

“I never said no to PSG, there was this possibility and availability, I met Nasser Al Khelaifi twice, but then it never went ahead and it was fine like that. My first 10 months were a disaster, I would come home and I was not happy. Leonardo laughed and told me that I didn’t understand how important I was becoming.”

Not going to San Siro

“I don’t go to the stadium to watch Milan. For me it’s logical. I follow everything, I follow Milan and Monza, but it seems logical to me not to go to the stadium.”

Theo Hernandez and Rafael Leao

“When I see Milan’s left wing, well it’s a spectacle.”

Inter’s secrets to success

“Inter has a structure on the sporting side. There is a clear idea with long contracts. There is always little importance given to group management, it’s no coincidence that Napoli went so badly after [Luciano] Spalletti and [Cristiano] Giuntoli left. The players all think of them as machines, but they need someone to talk to them and tell them how things are.”

Tags AC Milan Paolo Maldini


  1. Maldini! Maldini !! Maldini!!! There is no way Furlani, moncada and co can possesss what this Legendary Milanese have to offer!…. These clowns can be bought with money but Maldini values transcend money….he says Milan , Italy or nothing! What a man!…. And what a people in affairs of Milan today who couldn’t even smell the pheromones…

    1. No one ever doubt his quality on the pitch, his character, values, moral, and loyalty to the club.

      It’s his abyssmal job as Director at the start of Cardinale era (and his bad relation with the club owner) that made Cardinale kick him out.

      1. Abysmal.
        Really really.

        Looks like different fans watch different Milan. Must be the geographical timing.

    2. They need to learn this from Maldini:

      “The players all think of them as machines, but they need someone to talk to them and tell them how things are.”

      1. This is very important.
        This season, aside from our tactical problems and many individual mistakes, I felt like the team simply crumbles when things aren’t going the way it wanted. In other words, when during a game it was evident that the plan A wasn’t working, aside from the absence of a plan B, you could feel that many players have already given up.
        You could tell that aside from very few occasions, there was no one to motivate the players to make a comeback, to hang on, to fight into the final whissle,… And that could be explained by the departure of Maldini and also Zlatan and perhaps even Tonali.

    3. The man is something else.
      A true milanese.

      Look at those his words “there is always distrust for an entrepreneur when they come into football”. But many want fans to fall and worship at the feet of the new management when they have not yet achieved or earned it as Berlusconi did.

      Oh well….
      Forza Milan

  2. People say Milan bigger than any play. But I loved Milan because of this legend.
    I believe legends make big names for their clubs.

  3. When Milan went to the semi-finals last year all the journalists rewind the historical story with Maldini. Without maldini no one looks at milan with full praise now. Cardinale messed it all up

  4. Interesting Interview. Two things stood out for me. One was the assessment of his kid (seemingly he’s missing something that both him and his father has) and the other was the views on the youth system.
    Ofc Maldini’s Heir would probably get irked by the 98% dont make it comment but hey, that’s how it works and take it from the legend, it’s also a beautiful thing 😁

  5. O Captain! My Captain!

    It is debatable whether Maldini did a great job, an ok job or a lousy job. It is not debatable what we won during his time.

    However what I’ve always seen was an unwavering man with strong character, loyalty, clear ideals and a strong desire to improve … and to me that is a failure of the ownership for not recognizing that such a man would be very useful to our club.

  6. no1 bigger than Milan not even him, but no1 more Milanista than him.
    Berlusconi is 1of great Milanista too but sometime it’s eclipsed by politics, media business & bunga”.
    Cardinale? just a newbie Milanista w/ bit more money who’s luckily to be the President, what he’ve done is still far away from 900 caps + 5 UCL + 7 serie A + other trophy’s that the el Capitano achieved

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