Baresi/MaldiniThe Milan Wall
Franco Baresi (born 8 May 1960 in Travagliato, Italy) and Paolo Maldini (born 26 June 1968 in Milan, Italy) are AC Milan legends, and widely renowned as two of game’s greatest ever defenders. Both players spent their entire professional careers at Milan, many of them together. Baresi put in 20 years from 1977 to 1997 playing 719 times, whilst Maldini served them for an unprecedented 25 seasons between 1985 and 2009, making a staggering 900 appearances.
Baresi led the 'Rossoneri' for the best part of a decade and was at the heart of an impenetrable defence quartet, consisting of Baresi, Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and Mauro Tassotti. Considered by many as the greatest back four of all time, they were 'la consistenza' the consistency, solidity and the foundation for the Milan team that went on to be nicknamed 'Gli Immortali' ('The Immortals'). Their phenomenal domestic and international successes throughout the 1980's and 1990's cemented Milan’s reputation as a world class club. They hold 18 official UEFA and FIFA international titles, a record shared with Boca Juniors.
Baresi mentored Maldini and passed the leadership to his young defensive partner as his career began to follow a similar path to greatness. After winning his third Champions League and helping Italy to reach the 1994 World Cup final, Maldini became the first defender ever to win World Soccer magazine's annual World Player of the Year Award. During his acceptance speech, Maldini singled out his mentor Baresi as the player who 'really deserved to receive the sort of awards I have received'.
In addition to leading Milan throughout the most successful period in their history, both players were ever-presents for their country. Baresi featured in 3 World Cups, playing 81 times for the Azzuri, whilst Maldini became Italy's most capped player with an astonishing 126 appearances, featuring in 4 World Cups and spending over half of his 14 year international career wearing the captain's armband.
At the end of their careers, Milan honoured each player by retiring their respective shirt numbers (Baresi 6 and Maldini 3).
'The most ruthless monitoring of my entire career'.
Romário on Baresi after the 1994 World Cup final