First on our list is a player who's position (defence) is always overlooked when selecting 'players of the year'. Paolo Maldini was probably the greatest pure defender the world has ever seen and when receieving a rare player of the year award he said : "a particular matter of pride because defenders generally receive so much less attention from fans and the media than goalscorers. We are more in the engine room rather than taking the glory."
Maldini was a hugely respected, dignified and skillful player, very much a modern professional sportsman. His vision and ability to read the game were second to none, allowing him to position himself so well that despite his lack of pace in his later years, strikers still feared the prospect of facing a defence with Maldini at its centre.
He also possessed an extraordinary ability to both inspire and organise his team mates and defenders. His command of the game is such that opponents find themselves playing the game at the pace Maldini sets, which generally is very slow. The inability of faster English teams to cope with the Maldini Effect is well documented.
Whilst lacking international silverwear, Maldini more than made up for it at club level. He spent all 25 seasons of his career at AC Milan, before retiring at the age of 41 in 2009, becoming a symbol and a legend of the club.
Honours: He won the Champions League five times, as well as seven Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, five Supercoppa Italiana, five European Super Cups and two Intercontinental Cups. He played for 14 years for the Italian national team, making his debut in 1988 before retiring in 2002 with 126 caps and four World Cup participations.
|Full name||Paolo Cesare Maldini|
|Date of birth||26 June 1968|
|Place of birth||Milan, Italy|
|Height||1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)|