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Featured Image Credit: PA
AC Milan icon Paolo Maldini turns 53 today, 12 years after he retired from the Italian giants.
Maldini, who is now technical director of football at Milan, began his 25 year playing career at the football club in 1984 and went on to be considered as one of the greatest defender's to play the sport.
During his time at Milan, the one-club man was part of numerous successful teams, winning a colossal seven Serie A and five Champions Leagues.
On the international stage, Maldini made 126 appearances for Italy, however he was never able to win a trophy with his country.
Despite his club career lasting until 2009, he rejected his call-up to the national squad in 2006 which meant that he was unable to be part of the World Cup winning team.
His longevity and quality was recognised by his fellow players, coming just second to George Weah for FIFA World Player of the Year in 1995, and also being placed third in the Ballon d'Or ranking in 1994 and 2003.
Some Quotes on Paolo Maldini on the occasion of his Birthday,
A Thread. pic.twitter.com/PYZmk1ZBTE
- W ❀ˊˎ˗ (@W__Fcb) June 26, 2021
One of the other greatest ever Italian defenders to grace the game, Franco Baresi, spoke of his unbelievable talent: "We were team-mates for 15 years. We read each other's brain; moved as if we were one person. He could play in every defensive role - extraordinary. Playing with him was a pleasure and an honour."
Maldini's appreciation was not just bound to those who played alongside him, Jamie Carragher, Liverpool legend and Sky Sports pundit said: "It is outstanding what he has achieved at this level at his age.
"He is a world great, one of the best of his era. He has won the whole lot in his career, with five European Cups now. He will be remembered for a long time."
The former Brazil striker Ronaldo Luis Nazario, who is considered by many to be one of the greatest forwards to have every played, said: "Paolo Maldini is the best I've played against."
Since over a decade has passed since Maldini's retirement in 2009, he is still widely seen as one of the greatest players to have played and is etched into Milan and Italy history.
His father, Cesare Maldini, who played and managed for Milan himself said: "He's a real Rossonero. His soul belongs to Milan."