On this day in 1985 Milan fans witnessed the start of one exraordinary career.
Winning Europe’s biggest competition five times, seven Serie A scudetti, one Coppa Italia and one World Club Cup would read as stellar achievements in any club’s record books but for one player to win all those medals and more over 25 seasons is quite an achievement.
It was Paolo Maldini’s first game in A.C. Milan’s red and black as a half time substitute against Udinese, the first of over 900 appearances for the rossoneri.
Maldini was only 16 years old at the time and despite not appearing again before the end of the season, he was the first-choice left back the following season and onwards until the end of his career, 25 seasons later.
His career statistics are mind-boggling as he holds Serie A’s all-time appearances record (647 games), the record for the most appearances in the Champions League final (8), the fastest goal-scorer (51 seconds) and oldest goal-scorer in an European Cup final and over 125 European club and international appearances.
Despite being a huge name in the game for over two decades, Maldini was never in the newspapers for the wrong reasons and never courted fame off the pitch.
Maldini also managed to step out of the shadow cast by his father, Cesare, a successful player with Milan during the 1950s and 60s and the father and son’s careers weaved together in two unique ways.
Paolo played as captain under his father’s management of the national side between 1996 and 1998, and Paolo lifted the Champions League trophy as captain in 2003, exactly 40 years since his father picked up the same trophy as a European Cup-winning captain for Milan.
Perhaps the one empty space on his exceptionally full mantelpiece would be for a major international trophy, although he came close to filling the gap in the 1994 World Cup Final and the Euro 2000 final.
Maldini played a total of 126 games for Italy, 74 of those appearances as captain.
He scored the last of his seven international goals in Bologna in June 1999 during a 4-0 win against Wales in qualification for Euro 2000.
It was 10 years between that match and his retirement in May 2009 when he played his final game for Milan and with the end of his career, his famous number 3 shirt was also retired, unless one of his sons inherits the shirt some time in the future.