Italy mourns Cesare Maldini

by on April 3, 2016

Cesare Maldini, the former AC Milan legend and Italy national team coach – the first Italian captain to lift the European Champion Clubs’ Cup – has passed away at the age of 84.

Italian football is in mourning following the death of former AC Milan legend and Italy coach Cesare Maldini, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 84.

Maldini was the first Italian to lift the European Champion Clubs’ Cup as captain in 1963, when Milan defeated Benfica 2-1 in the final at Wembley Stadium. Forty years later, his son Paolo would raise the UEFA Champions League trophy as Milan captain – one of his five triumphs in the competition – on English soil once more, after a penalty shootout win against Juventus in Manchester.

An extremely classy defender, Maldini played 347 games for Milan and 14 times for Italy, and won the Italian domestic title four times. “AC Milan sends its condolences following the passing of Rossoneri great Cesare Maldini,” the club wrote. “Cesare skippered the club to its first European Cup triumph in 1963 at Wembley, and the loss of such a key figure in [the club’s] history has left everyone at AC Milan moved and saddened.”

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He also served the club as coach in two different spells, and took on several other official roles as well. As father of Paolo Maldini, he followed Milan in several of their subsequent European triumphs. “There is a photo when we landed back from Barcelona after the first European Cup triumph in the Silvio Berlusconi era in 1989,” said former Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi.

“Milan always wanted to keep their past legends, especially in crucial moments of their history. That day, [Cesare] Maldini was with us, he was one of us, and you cannot erase such memories.”

Maldini was also Italy’s coach at Under-21 level, winning the European title a record three successive times from 1992 to 1996. He then took the senior squad to the 1998 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals. “He was a fantastic footballer and a great coach,” Sacchi continued. “Nobody will ever forget what he did with Italy’s U21 team.”

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Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Carlo Tavecchio paid a warm tribute. “After becoming the first Italian player to lift the European Cup,” he said, “Cesare Maldini made a great contribution to Italian football as coach, leading by example with his style and professionalism to nurture a long list of Italian talents. He was the personification of the spirit that an association’s coach should have.”

“He was my captain,” said another Milan legend, Gianni Rivera. “Alongside [coach] Nereo Rocco they were two real characters, they were very funny. Our Milan side was very entertaining.”

“A great, respectable person is leaving us, first of all,” said Milan great of the 1980s and 1990s, Franco Baresi. “He was also a true legend, and a fantastic captain.” Pierino Prati, who scored a hat-trick for Milan in their 1969 Champion Clubs’ Cup final triumph against Ajax, added: “He had great professionalism and an incredible elegance for the game of football. We lose a great person, a very nice person, who will be remembered not only as a great footballer.”

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