Paolo Maldini on his ‘two roles’ as technical director and the hopes for his son Daniel

By Oliver Fisher -

Paolo Maldini has revealed that he feels a lot more stress as a technical director than he did as a player for AC Milan.

Having been handed the job formally last summer, the general consensus is that Maldini is learning and growing into an important role at the club of his heart.

He has overseen some impressive incoming operations such as the signings of Theo Hernandez and Ismael Bennacer, with the hope that there is more to come in the likes of Sandro Tonali and Brahim Diaz.

Maldini gave a long interview with The Athletic in an article which documents Milan’s meticulous way of going about getting back among Europe’s elite, something which the former captain touches on to begin with.

“Football teams have cycles. We’re lucky that our cycle lasted 25 years, reaching incredible heights during (Silvio) Berlusconi’s time as president,” he said.

“Every club has them. It’s the same for Manchester United, Real Madrid. All these big clubs put super teams together that won everything but they also experienced difficulty at one stage or another in their history.”

He then spoke about the differences between being a player and a director.

“In my role you have to think about 200 things. As a footballer, you only have to think about yourself but when you’re a captain you are responsible for other things outside your sphere too. The truth is, as a player, you train, play and go home. It’s hard work but it’s condensed into a short space of time.

“Coaching in particular has changed in the last 15 years. There was a time when the manager would turn up an hour before training and leave with the players. Now if there’s a session at five o’clock, he gets in at nine in the morning, prepares everything and goes home at nine at night.

“A technical director has two roles,” Maldini says. “I work at the office. The transfer window is open all year round. You meet agents and people who work in the game. Then there’s the sporting side to it all. You go watch training. We’re in close contact with the team. Then you go to the game.

“I’ve had eight days’ holiday this year. I was at the beach but our phones are the tools of our trade and you can always be reached. I tried to say for a few days: ‘I’ll come back to that. I’ll come back to that’. But then there’s this feeling inside.

“Unfortunately you can’t reproduce the adrenaline you feel out on the pitch. It’s part of the game, a fundamental component, and you know what, I’ve started to like it. What you’re trying to do is put a team together to reach certain objectives. It’s very exciting.”

Maldini then went on to discuss the impact that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has made since his return in the winter.

“We got what we expected. The team is very young and while it’s confident in some respects, it’s a bit insecure in others. His presence raised the level of competition at Milanello,” he said.

“In football there are things that evolve over time but some things are as true now as they were in the past. Competitiveness in training and its importance is one of these. It’s the only way to raise the general standard of performance in games and it’ll always be like that.

“Zlatan is a master at it. He never wants to lose, not even at cards. I was like that too. My wife used to make fun of me because when I played ping-pong with my kids instead of lose I’d… honestly it doesn’t matter what or who you’re playing. You have to be competitive. It’s your nature as a professional athlete.”

Finally, he went on to talk about Daniel Maldini and the hopes for the future regarding his son.

On the fact he is a forward, Paolo said: “It’s about time (laughs). Our family has spent a lifetime chasing after other players. Now we have someone who they’re going to have to chase.

“I can assure you that it’s harder running after the ball than to be chased with it. When you push up like I used to as a full-back you don’t feel anything. But when you have to track back…

“Look, we need to be clear about one thing. Mistakes are definitely going to be made and that goes for their papa too. What you try to do is give them the benefit of your experience. It’s quite similar to what they’re going through now but mistakes will be made. You just try to make as few as possible.

“I went through it before with my oldest son Christian who got into our under-19s. I remember his first game when he was eight years old. All the television cameras were there. I know this doesn’t do a kid any good.

“I also know my boys have always been very at peace with the choices they’ve made. It’s their decision to become footballers. It’s not something that’s been imposed on them.

“I remember being at peace with that decision too (when I was a boy). However I do remember burning up inside when I heard some of the things people said, making allusions to nepotism. These kinds of things should never be part of a young person’s development.

“Daniel seems very mature to me. He was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with me at Milanello and San Siro. He isn’t a stranger to this world, but he’s discovering the hard part, the sacrifices you have to make.”

Tags AC Milan Paolo Maldini