Thierry Henry and Paolo Maldini’s awestruck exchange was pure football heritage
Two of the greatest players to ever do it, Thierry Henry and Paolo Maldini joined forces ahead of the Milan derby Champions League semi-final and gave us a pretty damn iconic exchange of words.
When an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, it’s normal to expect explosions. But in this case, what we got instead was a wholesome showing of appreciation between two of the very best.
Ahead of a Champions League semi-final that couldn’t really ooze out anymore football ‘eritage if it tried, it did just that. Maldini – who now serves as Milan’s technical director after a glistening career as a one-club-man for the Rossoneri – headed out to the side of the pitch at San Siro before kick-off and spoke to Henry, who was on punditry duties for CBS Sports Golazo.
Joined in the studio by the usual CBS suspects in the form of Jamie Carragher and Micah Richards, the two were like kids in a candy shop as Maldini and Henry began to reconnect. As were the rest of us.
The man who epitomised flair, technical ability, skill, grace – Va Va Voom – throughout the noughties in conversation with his opposite number. A man who made defending look like more than an art form; like something you could genuinely hang in The Louvre.
Henry wasted no time in recalling one of his most memorable experiences against the devilishly handsome Italian brute, harking back to the 1998 World Cup.
On home soil, the French forward was brought on as a substitute in the quarter-final against Italy.
“When I realised I was coming on – and playing on the right – I suddenly got scared because of what you represented, the defender that you were,” He admitted. Fair play to him – refreshingly honest.
Didn’t have much of a choice though. What forward wouldn’t be shaken to the core after being tasked with trying to make a mockery out of Maldini?
“For me, you epitomise what defending is about, and the human being is even better than the player if that can be possible,”
Oh stop it Thierry, you charmer. Football is meant to be a clash of the titans, but you’re making it all romantic.
Rather hilariously, the 2003 Ballon d’Or runner up finished with the following admission: “For me, you epitomise what defending is about, and the human being is even better than the player if that can be possible,”
Maldini stood there, looking all humble and majestic as he ever does. But he knew Thierry was spot on. Maldini was the man. Still is. Might not lace them up anymore, but he’d still lock anyone up over 90 minutes. No question.
The pair would unfortunately only play in the same division for half a season in 1999, with Henry failing to settle at Juventus and quickly signing for Arsenal that summer. Reuniting with Arsene Wenger from his Monaco days, he blossomed into one of the most fearsome forwards on the planet.
Perhaps he can accredit some of that to his experiences playing against Maldini in the years before.
Milan could’ve done with Il Capitano on the night against Inter, with calamitous defending throughout the first half ensuring they lost the first leg 2-0.