This day in football history
On 20 January 1985, 16-year old defender Paolo Maldini made his first professional appearance, coming on as a second-half substitute for AC Milan. He would go on to become the club’s all-time appearance leader with 902.
Maldini was following in the footsteps of his father, Cesare, who played defense at Milan from 1954 to 1966, winning four Serie A titles and the 1963 European Cup. Paolo was born in 1968 and joined the Milan youth team at the age of 10. By 1985, he had earned a spot on the bench and then, in a match against Udinese, he took the pitch for the first time, coming on for the second half.
The match ended in a draw and was Maldini’s only appearance that season. But he became an established starter at left back the next season, making a total of 40 appearances in all competitions. In his 25 seasons with the Rossoneri, they won seven Scudettos and five European Cup/Champions League titles.
Although Maldini maintained an incredibly high performance level for his entire career, his annus miribilis came in 1993–94. That season, Milan won both Serie A and the Champions League, while Maldini advanced to the World Cup Final with Italy, losing to Brazil on penalties. For his performance, World Soccer Magazine named him the 1994 World Player of the Year, the first time the award went to a defender.