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Like Maldini



Fans were so excited this year to welcome Maldini back into the club. Finally, we could sleep at night. He represents the best of Milan and the best of all of us, and we knew our club would be safe in his hands. Because if it weren’t, he would be honest and tell us. Just like he was brutally honest about what he thought should be done when he wasn’t at the club. And he was always right, too. The fact that Galliani never listened to him or brought him back was one of the most painful parts of being a Milan fan in the post-Maldini era. Yet Maldini coming back didn’t solve all of our problems overnight. One of the reasons being that the players and fans haven’t followed his example. It’s hard to have a Maldini-esque Milan when we are not all willing to be a little more like Maldini.

Everyone wants to be like Maldini

There are so many good things that have happened this year, even if fans are frustrated right now thinking that our Champions League dreams may be all in vain. There are definitely people at the club who follow Maldini’s example in one or more ways. For example, Gattuso is refreshingly and brutally honest. Having played alongside Maldini, with Paolo being his captain, he had plenty of opportunities to learn decorum and class. He knows what to share with the media and what to keep in the dressing room, and his honesty commands respect, not ridicule.

Romagnoli has been given the task of being a vital defender and also captain at such a young age. For the most part, he has done an amazing job of both. While his inspiration may have been Nesta, he has the class both while tackling and while interacting with other players on the pitch that is also associated with Nesta’s captain, Maldini. He has been a leader on and off the pitch, speaking well to the media and calming his teammates in tense situations.

Only one of these three has not publicly disrespected the referees this season

However, there are so many ways in which we have lost our way this season as well. For example, Romagnoli getting sent off for dissent so many times. It’s clear that he has not learned from Maldini how to speak to a referee. Nor have his teammates been able to appropriately support him at those times, adding to his frustration. It seems as though all of our players could use some years being mentored under Maldini’s classy and calm presence, only they are all so young and it might take quite some time to figure things out.

Gattuso was always one to make the problems, not solve them, and despite initially galvanizing the squad, he lacks Maldini’s calming influence and ability to lead by example with class. As such, he lost his way a bit and lost the respect of the players. If only he had been more like Maldini, the discipline issues of the last few months would have been minimal, if any. Gattuso talks about how players used to be, but he forgets that in those days, they had a Maldini to look up to, and now they only have a Gattuso.

Two great sources of Milan Class

But the people who have most forgotten what it is to be like Maldini are the fans. We have all been through tremendous hell since Maldini left, really. But that is no excuse. If you’ll remember, Maldini had highs and lows, too. He was abused by his own Curva (and not just for his farewell match, either.) But he did not resort to abusing fellow fans or complaining about ref calls, especially after a win. Had he ever been a fan on social media, his account would have been honest, straightforward, and always kind. He would not have criticized players or constantly shared unrealistic expectations or have gone around talking about who was going to be the next coach while the current coach was still sweating blood and under contract. He has always been realistic, not overly optimistic or pessimistic, just real. And just 100% class.

The fact that he is not really on social media says a lot for his character in the first place. But if he were, he would never condone a majority of the tweets all of us fans make (including my own.) Because although he is a competitor and understands both the ups and downs of following a team as well as the fun of trolling rivals, he also understands that words matter. And what we say can impact others in ways we may not fully comprehend. A single tweet can be like a match that lights a fire, a fire that can even impact our team, their morale, and performances. He understands firsthand that public criticism of players damages more than just the player, it damages the mentality of the whole team. He knows that maintaining civility and respect amongst our club, other clubs, the referees, and more is more important than our “freedom of speech” or entitled bitching.

Even the Juve trolls feared/respected him

As we have seen, particularly in recent weeks, discipline matters very much. It impacts the results on the pitch as much or more as the actual performance does. It can help create a steel mentality, like Atalanta currently have, or it can cost us points and players to be available, like Milan have been dealing with. But Milan, the team, and the fans have a golden standard to look to for discipline both on the pitch and on social media: Paolo Maldini. And if we look to his stalwart and unmoving example, we can all be a little more like Maldini.


This post inspired by the music of David Bowie’s “Heroes”


Our next match is
Serie A Week 37
Milan vs. Frosinone
Sunday, May 19 • 18:00 CEST (12noon EDT)*
*Game time may change, as Milan have requested to play at the same time as Atalanta, 20:30 CET