21 of the best quotes on Paolo Maldini: ‘His soul belongs to Milan’

Serie A in the 1990s was a wonderful thing – but Paolo Maldini is one of the few players to say he conquered Italy’s top flight in three separate decades.

An undisputed icon for Milan and Italy, the defender – who shone as both a left-back and centre-back – lifted Serie A and the Champions League in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, while he went on to become the national team’s most capped player – a record which has since been surpassed.

It’s impossible to sum up a player with the longevity and significance of Maldini, so we’ve left it to the players who had the honour of appearing alongside him, and those that had the problem of facing him.

Franco Baresi

“He was very young, so I tried to give him some advice. But he needed very little; he was already a great player.”

Cesare Maldini

“He’s a real Rossonero. His soul belongs to Milan.”

Ruud Gullit

“Position for position one of the greatest players ever. But unlike certain other great full-backs, he wasn’t world class when just defending or just attacking – he could do both better than most and is an excellent centre-back too.”

Ray Wilkins

“Just an unbelievable athlete. If he wanted to play centre-forward, he could. He literally had it all.”

Brian Laudrup

“He simply never has a bad match. Very difficult to play against, a sublime passer and he’s scored a lot of goals too. Has an incredible physique and is the ultimate role-model. He’ll go down in the history books as perhaps the best left-back ever.”

Emmanuel Petit

“His record speaks for itself, both in terms of quality and longevity. Such a classy defender – so tough to get past – and someone it’s difficult not to admire.”

Marcel Desailly

“A real monster… I find it incredible he has never been World or European Footballer of the Year. Alongside Franco Baresi he was the best defender I’ve ever seen in my career.

“Although everybody tends to think of him just as a full-back, he could also play as a stopper.

“Most people remember that great Milan side of the late-80s for its attacking play and for the forward pair of Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten, but it was a team built on a very solid defence, and Maldini was the cornerstone.”

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Ronald Koeman

“There’s never been a better left-back in the game’s history. Two-footed, and at his peak, brilliant going forward.

“The night Milan annihilated Barcelona in the 1994 Champions League Final, he played centre-half, as Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta were both suspended, and looked like he’d played there all his life.”

Sir Alex Ferguson

“Maldini went through the entire 90 minutes without tackling. That is an art and he is the master of it. He is a great player.”

Alessandro Del Piero

“There are great players and there are world-class players. Then there are those who manage to go beyond that term. Paolo is the perfect example. He is the symbol of Milan.”

Andrea Pirlo

“Paolo Maldini is the best. A defender. A peerless defender. The best defender going. Both physically and mentally, he had everything, and the enjoyment he got from playing was as obvious at 40 years of age as it had been the day I first walked through the door at Milan.”


“Paolo Maldini is the best I’ve played against.”


“He was one of the best defenders in Champions League history, but what was so impressive about him is that when he was on the ball he didn’t look like a defender but like an elegant midfield player.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

“Maldini was the best and toughest defender I ever faced. He had everything: he was a complete defender, who was strong, intelligent, and an excellent man-marker.”

Sir Alex Ferguson

“When I think of the current generation, Lionel Messi is top-level. Kaka has impressed, Zinedine Zidane was brilliant but without a doubt, Paolo Maldini has been my favourite.”

David Villa

“He is one of the best players in the history of the game and he represents everything that’s good in football. And above all, he’s a winner.”

Andriy Shevchenko

“The most gifted and hard-working player I’ve ever seen. He was an excellent all-round footballer with true leadership virtues and the rare ability to be reliable in defence and creative in attack.”

Francesco Totti

“I haven’t seen a more determined, loyal player than him. The best captain the Azzurri have ever had.”

Steven Gerrard

“He is the definition of how a captain should be.”

Philippe Mexes

“He is the image of football in Italy, and the world. He’s never won the Ballon d’Or, but I would give him a hundred.”

Tommaso Pellizzari, Inter fan & author of anti-AC Milan book

“In 20 years of soccer, he never did something you remember as bad or ugly.”

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