When it comes to true Italian footballing godfathers, it’s hard to look any further than Paolo Maldini.
The colossal defender, who was the beating heart of the AC Milan rearguard for many a year, completely redefined the profession of defence, ushering in a staggering era of Italian stubbornness at the back.
Over the course of his storied career, Maldini made a staggering 900 appearances for his beloved Milan, winning the Scudetto seven times to go with his very tidy tally of five European Cups.
If ever someone was to be allowed to call themselves ‘Mr. Milan’, then Maldini would certainly be that man.
Towards the end of his career, he had not only established himself as one of the most respected defenders in Italy, but in the world, and this is all before we speak about how good a captain he was.
He was a natural-born leader, ready to bleed for his club in the pursuit of glory as he regularly put his body on the line to make sure the opposition attack was stopped.
The man was the living embodiment of what it meant to play for a club you love, leading by example week in, week out.
However, if ever you were in doubt over just how respected Maldini was, you need look no further than a clip of him confronting the infamous Gennaro Gattuso during a heated clash with Juventus.
Gattuso, typically, was getting caught up in the moment, pushing and shoving opponents who, unsurprisingly, he had found some reason to disagree with.
The clip then shifts to a close up of Maldini, with a face like thunder, giving a Gattuso a real earful in an attempt to calm him down and bring him back from the brink of the red mist.
Now we can’t confirm what was actually said, but the fact that Maldini took the proverbial bull by the horns and made him back down just goes to show what he meant to his teammates.
There were very few individuals who could talk that way to Gattuso – and even shove him – and get away with it but Maldini was clearly one of those men.
It might sound like a cliche, but they just don’t make them like Paolo anymore.