THE MALDINI DYNASTY

THE MALDINI DYNASTY

A number of players have left everlasting memories at the San Siro;  from Nils Liedholm and Gianni Rivera, to Ruud Gullit and Franco Baresi, many stars have adorned the famous red and black shirts. Yet, few have had the impact that father and son duo Cesare and Paolo Maldini have had on the club and supporters.

Cesare Maldini was an outstanding defender in his playing career, wearing the red and black shirts for over 12 years, making 347 appearances during this time.  As a player, he was an elegant and cultured defender; excellent in the air, but also a very good reader of the game.

Whilst at Milan, Cesare also turned out for the Italian national side, amassing 14 international caps from 1960 to 1963.  He lifted the European Cup in 1963 as captain.  When he retired from playing in 1967 whilst playing for Torino, many believed it was only a matter of time before Cesare moved into coaching. This was proved to be true and, only three years after he retired from playing, he took up a position as assistant manager at his beloved AC Milan.  He took the main job in 1972, replacing Nereo Rocco, and led AC Milan to a victory in the Coppa Italia and the Cup Winners Cup the following year. However, in 1974 Cesare was sacked as coach; replaced by Giovanni Trapattoni.

From Milan, he moved to Foggia, followed by Ternana and Parma, before becoming assistant coach to the Italian National side in 1980, working with Enzo Bearzot for 6 years. Together, they led the Azzurri to the World Cup title in 1982. 

Four years later, Maldini Snr would be back in management, taking charge of the Italian under 21 team, a position he held for 10 years.  Under his stewardship, Italy won the under 21 European Championships on three consecutive occasions. 

Perhaps his biggest achievement, though, and one that Italian football will always be in his debt for, is the development of young Italians who would go on to play such a key role in their country's future, including the 2006 World Cup triumph. Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro and Francesco Totti all played under Maldini Snr in the U21s. 

His success with the under 21 side was rewarded with the top job, replacing Arrigo Sacchi.  Italy endured a difficult qualifying campaign for the World Cup that year, but after qualifying the Italian press and the nation had high hopes for the tournament in France.

With son Paolo captaining the side, Italy progressed through to the quarter finals, unbeaten in the group stages, and faced eventual winners France in the quarter finals, finally succumbing to defeat to the hosts on penalties.

Cesare Maldini came under a lot of criticism from the press for being too cautious in his defensive his approach, and his seeming reluctance to play both Roberto Baggio and Alessandro Del Piero at the same time.  Maldini announced his resignation from his position.

After this difficult period, a return to Milan was on the cards, with a head scout agreed in 1999. Following the sacking of Albero Zaccheroni two years later, Cesare was asked to serve as interim manager of the club.  Later that year, Fatih Terim took over the role, but Cesare was asked to remain at the club in a support role capacity to the Turkish manager during his initial first few months in charge. 

In 2002, Cesare Maldini was named as the new national coach of Paraguay, an unpopular decision in the country with press believing that local managers should be given the role. Despite not even being fluent in Spanish, Maldini soon won them over, leading Paraguay in the World Cup to a second round finish. 

After the World Cup, Cesare Maldini retired from coaching, but returned to his beloved AC Milan as a talent scout, using his key eye for young players and also working as a football analyst on several sporting networks.  

Cesare Maldini sadly passed away this year.  His achievements were outstanding, both as a coach and a player, achieving great success in both roles. He will forever be remembered as an outstanding footballing man and one of the greatest Italians the game has ever seen.


Cesare’s son Paolo Maldini was a colossus defender; reading the game like few could.  When he played left back for many years in that legendary defence AC Milan had alongside Tassotti, Costacurta and Baresi, Maldini was the best left back in the world. When later in his career, he moved inside to play centre back, he was arguably the best centre back in the game. There were few like him. 

Like his father, Paolo was Milan through and through. making his debut for Milan against Udinese aged just 16 years old. The following season, Paolo was playing regularly at right-back but was eventually moved to left back and given the shirt number that he was to wear for more than two decades at the top level, number 3.

The first of seven league titles with Milan. was to come just two years into his professional career in a side in a side nicknamed “The Immortals”. They were a fantastic team; only conceding 14 goals all season.  The team dominated European football for years, winning multiple honours, including the 1993-94 season the European Cup win under that guidance of Fabio Capello.  AC Milan destroyed Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona 4-0 in a totally dominant display, goals coming from Massaro, Savicevic and Desailly.

Paolo became the first defender to ever win World Soccer’s annual World Player of the Year Award in 1994, and also in that year, Paolo placed third in the Ballan d’Or Award, a rarity for a defender.

Emulating his father, Paolo Maldini was named as captain of AC Milan in 1996.  During this period, Milan were not hitting the heights of previous years; players were ageing, Capello had left Milan and, as a result, the team failed for to qualify for Europe in 2 consecutive seasons.

However, in 2001, things began to change. Carlo Ancelotti, the ex-Milan player, was brought in to coach the team and their fortunes started to change. In 2003, AC Milan won the European Cup yet again, defeating Juventus on penalties in the first ever all-Italian final. Paolo, like Cesare, lifted the Cup as captain.

In 2005, Maldini's Milan were involved in one of the greatest European finals of all time against Liverpool. Milan led 3-0 at half-time with breathtaking football simply too much for Liverpool. Indeed, it was Paolo Maldini who scored the first goal with an excellent right-footed finish.  Liverpool fought back in the second-half and a shellshocked Milan were defeated on penalties.  It was a crushing blow.

Two years later, Milan were to get their revenge on Liverpool by beating them in the Champions League Final in Athens, Greece.  Once more, a Maldini lifted the trophy; Paolo was 37 years old, the oldest player to lift the trophy.  It marked Paolo's fifth European trophy and second as captain. Also that year, AC Milan won the FIFA World Club Cup, defeating Boca Juniors, becoming the first European club to lift the trophy.

Paolo Maldini made his 1,000th professional appearance in all competitions against Parma the following year.  In Europe, only Peter Shilton has made more appearances.  In the March, Paolo made his final appearance in the Champions League against Arsenal in the San Siro Stadium. 

His farewell came in May 2009, when the club retired his famous number 3 shirt. In true Maldini style, though, they announced that should one of his sons play for the senior team, the shirt would be passed onto them.

Paolo, made 647 appearances for Milan, the only club side he played for, plus 126 appearances for his beloved national side, 74 times as captain, including 4 World Cup Finals tournaments.

Upon his retirement, Paolo expressed an interest in going into coaching.  Carlo Ancelotti, fully aware of the man’s abilities offered him a coaching role at Chelsea, but Paolo turned down the offer.  Last year, he became joint owner of NASL club, Miami FC, with the hope that the club would be part of the MLS in the near future. 


Cesare and Paolo Maldini are footballing icons in Milan and understandably so. Their combined football resume is immense; 11 league titles won as players and 6 European trophies, as well as a multitude of other awards.

They are a true footballing family dynasty, one that appears to show no sign of ending.A Third Maldini, Paolo’s son, Christian, has captained AC Milan’s youth team, but is currently under contract with Italian side AC Reggiana, on loan at Maltese side Hamrun Spartans FC. Like his grandfather, and often his father, Christian is a full back. Although it remains unclear whether Christian will be able to follow in Paolo and Cesare's footsteps to wear the number 3 shirt for the AC Milan first team, but it is clear that the Maldini dynasty will live on. 

By Craig Muncey. Header image credit goes to Reza Vaziri.

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