AC Milan and Maldini are synonymous. This is the tale of dreams and an impenetrable dynasty that is the stuff of legends.
When you think of the name Maldini, you don’t think of Wembley. You don’t think of the old twin towers and the rain trodden turf. Or the Queen and cheering middle-aged Englishmen.
But Cesare Maldini would always remember Wembley. It was the battleground where his dreams came true.
On the ancient turf, having fought through a gruelling battle, Cesare emerged victorious.
With an infectious grin rarely found on the granite headed figure, Cesare embraced his teammates. He was relieved. One after another in a moment of liberating glory he hugged them on his way to the podium. There were screams and cheers. His pulse raced, and he still felt the beads of sweat running down his face mingling with tears of joy.
Cesare had imagined this moment from the day he was born. He had imagined it playing on the streets of Triesta chasing rag balls with his mates. He had imagine it when he signed for AC Milan. He had imagine it the day before in his London hotel room. A gripping tantalising dream.
The moment. The dream. It was for real. There were no more imaging it. He could actually touch it. The European Cup. It was his. His to hold. His to lift. His to treasure.
His son, Paolo, grew up with tales of his father’s dreams. He played on the streets of Milan. He’d kick balls about as a toddler on the turf of the San Siro. He dreamt too. In his bedroom. At school. On his way to training. On matchdays watching his beloved AC Milan.
The European Cup.
One day he would lift it. He wanted it more than anything in the world.
They would whisper things about him. Things like he’s only at Milan because of his name. They’d give him strange looks.
But Paolo didn’t care. He had a dream. Paolo knew he was good enough. He had listened to the tales of his father. He grew up on the bedtime stories of Wembley and Paolo wanted to write tales of his own.
40 years after his father’s triumph, another English cauldron, Old Trafford, laid the stage for Paolo’s battlefield. It was the age old enemy, Juventus who stood in his tracks. It made Paolo even more hungry. He fought for his dream like a gladiator. He’d jump in front of every ball. Chase down Del Piero and Trezeguet deep into the brisk Manchester night.
Paolo’s valiant efforts kept Juventus at bay.
But in the dreaded penalty shootout he was helpless. He watched as his teammates missed one after another. He’d breathe a sigh of relief when Juventus did the same. As Nesta’s strike nestled into the back of the net Paolo felt his pulse rising. Montero had missed. Del Piero scored. But it was to no avail. Milan’s Ukrainian dynamo, Andrij Shevchenko, buried his spot kick and Paolo collapsed on the turf. He felt the hugs and screams in his ear just like how his father had described.
When he lifted the glistening trophy inside the Theatre of Dreams, Paolo felt the same relief and joy. His dream had come true. A Maldini had conquered on English soil once more.
His son, Daniel, grew up on the road. From Manchester, Istanbul and Athens. Champions League medals were basically his toys.
Like his grandfather and father. Daniel dreamed too. Wearing his father’s winners medals he’d dream staring at himself in the mirror. He’d dream in the stands at Athens and he’d dream inside the San Siro.
He’d hear the whispers too. It wasn’t his talent but the surname which made him come through. But like Paolo he didn’t listen to the whispers. And in the winter of 2020, Daniel made another Maldini chapter begin to unfold.
Now it’s Daniel’s turn to make sure the dynasty endures. He has the Maldini blood and there is no doubt the 18 year old will do everything in his power to follow the dreams of his father and grandfather too.